Editor's Note: This article was first published on April Dialog. Dr Tony Whitten is Regional Director, Asia Pacific, Fauna & Flora International (FFI). FFI is RER’s technical partner, managing key elements of the...
Editor’s Note: This article is contributed by Desiree Tay, a Year 2 NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine student and a first-time Project Sukacita participant.
When I first received the Tanoto Foundation Scholarship, I did not expect to find myself on a plane to Pangkalan Kerinci, Indonesia, some eight months later.
As a new scholar, I had the privilege of being part of Project Sukacita 2018, a student-organised and student-led community service project, supported by the Foundation. I’m grateful that I was given the opportunity, through this project, to not only pay forward some of the generosity I’ve received, but also learn from the local community – their values, their hopes, and their way of life.
These are the two lessons I’ve learnt from the trip.
Empowering the Local Community
This year, the team organized a health screening for the children and their parents. At the end of it, parents were educated on the importance of nutrition, among other topics. They were then given a lunchbox for their children, with the compartments for recommended food group servings portioned out. The team conceived this idea with the hope that parents, armed with new knowledge and a practical way of applying it, would be self-empowered to make a change in their children’s diet.
While it may be too soon to see the fruits of this initiative, it heartened me to see the parents excited to receive these lunchboxes, and actively taking the first small steps towards a healthier lifestyle.
These thoughts reminded me of our trip to the RGE Technology Centre two days before. We learned about April’s “Fire Free Village Programme”, and how the company moved away from just surveillance to collaboration with the locals, equipping them with skills to fire-fight, and providing them incentives to move away from using burning as a land management tool.
These experiences affirmed my belief in the power of self-empowerment, a principle I hope to be guided by in the years to come.
Gratitude: The Heartbeat of Project Sukacita
During another health screening back in Singapore, someone shared with me this: “Everyone should help others. If you’re rich, you must remember those who are not where you are. If you’re poor, you must remember where you came from.”
This is an ideal I’ve pondered over for a long time, and I have seen how Mr Sukanto Tanoto and his wife’s desire to give back is being realised through the Foundation’s programmes. While we were planning and executing Project Sukacita, we were given many opportunities to learn about the Founder and Chairman of RGE, how he grew his business and started the Foundation, and how the Foundation helps various communities in Indonesia. This was something we saw firsthand as we interacted with the locals in Kerinci.
Knowing this encourages me – that all good things start from a humble vision and if one has the heart for something, one should set out to do it.
To conclude, it is my hope that the team will continue to develop this project and make it more relevant year after year. Moreover, I wish that compassion and gratitude will always be at the core of every delivery of Project Sukacita.
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Tanoto Foundation was founded by RGE Chairman Sukanto Tanoto and his wife Tinah Bingei Tanoto. It provides scholarships and supports medical research in Singapore for diseases prevalent in Asia.