Interview with Chandra: Changing Hearts at Mentari Dunia

Chandra ( far right) with the kids and volunteers at Mentari Dunia

We sat down to have a chat with Chandra, one of our development managers about his passion and charity work at Mentari Dunia!

We heard a that you are a co-founder for an orphanage in Batam. Can you share us more about the story?

It all started back when I was in Taiwan having a chit-chat with some friends and they posed the question “ What will you do when you go back to Indonesia?”. I wanted to give back to society and the goal was to help kids with poor family background. I wanted to be involved in their education to have a better chance to change and to pay it forward for the next generation.

After that, I came back to Singapore and after life became stable after 2-3years I remembered what I had wanted to achieve and decided it was time to start. At the time my goal was to just choose 1 orphanage in Batam and provide whatever I can as long as it is for a child’s education. I did just that and met my co-founder while fundraising, we made a trip to the orphanage but realized that organization and fund processing was messy.

We hatched upon the idea of setting up an orphanage by ourselves so we can have better control of the funds and operations of the orphanage. We started off with 7 kids of ages 8-10 who we flew in from the most eastern part of Indonesia known as Papua.

These children were living in an orphanage there and their parents are still around it’s just that they have so many kids that they often prefer to send their own kids to an orphanage that can provide for them and send them to school. Of course we got permission from their parents to fly them to live in Batam, I wanted to set up the orphanage in Batam instead of Papua due to the better standard of education.

How do you help the children to grow? 

In the beginning my only concern was education, whatever I can help in relation to this I did my best.

Now that they can speak and read fluent Indonesian, I try to spend more time building relationships with them as I feel it’s hard for them to live away from their hometown.

I don’t believe education and material goods is enough to make people successful. I also focus on helping to shape their moral character and overall wellbeing. Hopefully helping them to talk more about their feelings can also help me to cultivate their behavior and values.

The kids also go to church every weekend. Now we have 15 and are at maximum capacity as these kids also need attention and privacy. I feel that the quality of attention we can provide will drop if we increase the numbers.

What is the meaning for you to run this program?

To me the meaning is to bring a positive impact to other people’s lives. I want to have the opportunity to create a better future for them and hopefully in the end they can pay it forward to the next generation.

As a Christian, there is a parable in the Bible that says you will actually meet God when you help others by giving others something to eat when they are hungry, something to drink when they are thirsty, inviting strangers in when they need help and looking after those who are sick. The work I do makes me feel this is the real meaning of serving God by bringing impact to other people rather than serving only in Church.

I also get a lot of satisfaction. Although my schedule is packed and I am very tired, somehow when I go there I feel more refreshed and rested. Probably because I enjoy it a lot I feel happy and not burdened.

Who takes care of kids most days?

I have 3 people who work there- a caretaker to look after the home, his wife who ensures they study. I expect the kids to help out with the chores so the last person supervises that and also helps to cook. 

Where does funding come from?

It’s between me and my co-founder. She happens to be a business woman and is very savvy with connections for fundraising opportunities. We also have the support of donations from Indonesians.

What challenges did you face in setting up the home?

Finding the right people who care for the kids is hard. We need people who have the qualifications to ensure that the kids can all reach their full potential.

The kids themselves mostly fine. They lacked knowledge in Papua, so when they moved to Batam they are really excited to learn compared to the kids from Batam. They willingly ask to learn for things and their eagerness is very high. It’s alot easier to move from there since they already have a passion to learn.

How do you manage your busy schedule?

My co-founder has her own business and prefers to go on weekdays whereas I go on weekends.  I try to dedicate at least Saturday unless I have to fly off for work or if I have more pressing issues to attend to. Sometimes I stay overnight to spend Sunday there too.

Every quarter we also try to bring them swimming or something to release their energy so they are less bored.

Does your family support you in this doing this?

As I have yet to start a family my mother was concerned about my future financially though she is still supportive. My siblings know that I have plans instead of jumping straight into it.  My wife is actually part of the founding members for this orphanage. Before we got married she already knew this was one of my passions in life and she is okay with that. There are sacrifices in the sense that this commitment means our chances of ever moving to another country are slimmer. She often goes with me on Saturdays, sometimes if I can’t go she still goes on her own.

What do you find most challenging and what keeps you going?

There is one very special hyperactive kid who came from a difficult background and he only likes fun. In that sense, if studying is fun he is also fine with it but as well all know studying isn’t always fun and sometimes he would run away from the school and come back much later. He isn’t a bad kid and he’s always the first one to greet guests and to make friends with them.

Recently it’s getting better after I sat down with him to talk and understand his situation so at least now he doesn’t run away from school, he still sleeps in class sometimes but at least we see a positive change. The real challenge is to get to their emotions to really understanding and from there can bring them to a better state.

What did you feel when the kids can grow and become better through this opportunity?

Mixed feelings. Sometimes I do question myself if I am doing the right thing and the best option for the kid or is it just my assumptions. Of course you feel happy when you see improvements but at the same time some you feel sad because some kids miss home and their parents. We found out that though their parents knew they were going, they did not inform the kids. Unfortunately the distance is too far and the cost is too high to allow them to travel back to Papua. We try our best to manage this by getting them to call home. I hope in the future we have the opportunity to fly them there for awhile or even to fly their parents to Batam so at least they can have a connection with their parents.

What are your hopes and expectations for them when they grow up?

 I hope they can sustain themselves, they will leave the home when polytechnic/university is finish and you have the necessary skills. The best is if they can pay it forward and help create opportunities for those less fortunate than them to help others create a better future.

How do you discipline the children?

Most of them are well behaved I think the challenge is not so much to discipline them but how to get the trust then they really listen after that.  The kids call me “kakak” which means ‘older brother’ I wouldn’t say they are afraid of me and I often play with them but they still respect me and listen when I say something, they know there are expectations and boundaries.

Can you recall any moment where you feel very touched and emotional?

Seeing them grow and become more open can speak, read, understand and when I reflect back I feel I am doing good for them. Other time is when playing with them which is quite fun. It’s simple things like playing catch that can make them very happy and seeing them smile or when they hug you.

As you know, we also have T.Care program in our company. What would you tell someone who is thinking about about volunteering but hasn’t made that first step?

People usually feel satisfied if they receive something from others but when you give your time, energy, attention, resources to society you will feel a different level of satisfaction. For my work at the home, to a child your presence is already quite important for them, you can see it in their smiles and it will change their heart, you feel a different level of happiness.

Want to help? You can follow the Mentari Dunia Facebook group or check out their website to see how you can contribute. Those who wish to volunteer can also approach Chandra directly 🙂


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