By Peter Chia
It all started in 2005 when I visited a desolated area where the residents were squatters on land in an industrial zone. Most of the adults scavenged piles of garbage for plastics to sell to the nearby recycling factories. They earn $20-30 a month, below the poverty level. The air was heavily polluted from the smoke stacks. The few thousand people community had only one elementary school, which consists of one dark, dilapidated room. It was a school to 25 children and one teacher. She practically provided free education, as the pupils’ families could not even afford the $1.50 monthly fee. During the raining seasons, thick muddy water rises to the height of the children’s waists. I was moved by the enthusiasm of the kids to study and the determination of the teacher. I had to help!
That was the first school. I thought it was just a one-off project. Then a request came for a second school in another poor area. And another, and another. The HDI Foundation was incorporated to establish a more structured organization to educate poor children who cannot otherwise go to school.
Four experiences influenced me on HDI Foundation.
- My father had to borrow money for my education. After graduation, I was able to get a decent job. Upon reflection, if my dad had not believed in education, I would not be as successful as I am today. He inspired me to give the same opportunity to underprivileged children. “Education is a great equalizer.” I am a living proof. With education, children from poor families can break the cycle of poverty suffered by their families over many generations.
- In my business trips to some Asian countries, I saw extreme poverty. Beggars, poor families with children living in cardboard huts or under the bridges. Even school-aged children were on the streets begging during school hours. I questioned why this was happening, and the common answer was, “there are too many poor people to help and it is the government’s responsibility, not ours…” Do we close our eyes and ears to the sufferings? Like many kind-hearted individuals, I gave money. For several years, I gave cash donation to many charity organizations. Until I discovered some of the funds ended up in the caregivers’ pockets. Giving money to “dubious” social organizations does not help the poor. Disappointed, I sought alternatives.
- In 2000 my distributors had a noble vision of building an orphanage by the year 2010, which they named Visi 2010. The money contribution was deducted from their monthly earnings. Over time, I began to see and believe in their commitment to Visi 2010. In 2003, I donated the land at Batu Malang and the school construction was completed in 2007, 3 years ahead of schedule. It now houses and educates about 100 orphans. The complex is still being improved on each year. I am so proud of the young volunteers, led by Pak Julianto Eko Putra, who working from their hearts, built Yayasan Selamat Pagi and Kampung Kidz so that poor children can have a brighter future. The young volunteers inspired me to help poor children who cannot help themselves.
- In 2003, I had a series of unique experiences that changed my entire perspective in life. I changed the company’s policy and objectives. We no longer focused on Sales and Profits, but on “Loving and Caring for others.” Most of my business friends thought I was sick in the head. They predicted my businesses would collapse. After 10years, sales and profits continued to increase. The newly created culture had bonded the staff to work from their hearts. The company’s operations became more efficient. The staff are never happier and their productivity went up. It is the Power of Love!
From my own real life experiences, I feel HDI foundation must be built on a platform based on Love, and gather together people who want to eliminate inequalities in societies, anywhere in the world. The meaning of “No One Child Left Behind” has never been so profoundly heard and touched. The task will be long and hard, but together we can make a difference. It is a great success if each day, we see a smile, we hear a song from those children who would otherwise be abandoned. I believe that when our children become adults, equipped with soft skills of Love, Honesty, Sincerity and Integrity, they will be great assets to Society.