Everyone can make the world a better place. It does not require a change or shift in life and schedule. It requires a shift in perspective. Even our most mundane skills can help the less fortunate, whether by managing a balance sheet or teaching. (Photos courtesy of Su meg ha Rao )

Profiles in Volunteering Show Time as Greatest Gift


JANUARY 05, 2015

It is fashionable these days to complain about lack of time and rant about being overworked to friends, family or anyone who is willing to listen. Social media has even made ranting trendy. One can easily join in globally trending complaints by using a hashtag like #mondaymorningblues or #workingweekend.

Most of us are certainly guilty of this, and with so many whining online, it is easy to say that misery does love company. However, there are a few who refuse to be miserable and find time to do some-thing more meaningful and inspiring. Even in their busy lives, they find time for the less fortunate and help make their lives better.

Ryan Rahadian has a full time job with an advertising agency, but even with his chaotic schedule, he manages to run an initiative called "Fruit Troopers." Ryan, like many others, used to set aside a certain proportion of his salary for charity, but he wanted to do more. So in true advertising style, Ryan undertook research with a community of street dwellers.

"I asked them a simple question: What is your favorite fruit? "I was surprised when none of them could answer easily," Ryan said. "It's not that they hate fruits, but instead consider them fancy. If they have money, they only buy chicken or rice. Fruits never feature on their list. But our body requires essen-tial fibers from fruits, which these people are deprived of, so I decided to help."

Ryan started Fruit Troopers a few months ago. He and his friends contribute Rp 150,000 ($11) every month to distribute fruit among the less fortunate. Thomas Oentoro and Karina Sumantri wear two hats as coaches at one of Jakar-ta's popular fitness centers, Crossfit Senayan. There, they have been actively using fitness as a means to help local charities like Rachel House and Habitat for Humanity raise funds for those in need.

According to Karina Sumantri "Cross-Fit is very community-focused, not only in working out, but also in giving back. CrossFit encourages affiliates to participate in charity workouts to raise funds."

Thomas Onetoro heard from his friend Lynna Chandra that she was in need of funding for Rachel House. "I immediately turned to my fellow CrossFitters and threw out the idea of how we should and can help," Thomas said. "That led us to the creation of Reps for Relief, a charity workout where, with each exercise repetition, you raise money. We got a great turnout with more than 40 athletes participating and Rp 450 million collected at the end."

Both Karina and Thomas believe that "giving back to society" should be a personal goal for everyone. Allocating time for charity is akin to spending time with family and friends, committing time for exercise or even work. We all have time. It's a matter of priorities.

When Nicola Menda moved to Jakarta two years ago, she did not speak a word of Bahasa Indonesia, nor did she know any-one in the field of social work. An agronomist by profession, Nicola not only took time out to learn the language, but also reached out to local charities asking for volunteering opportunities.

In the last two years, she hasn't let work come in way of helping those in need, and has volunteered with Yayasan Usaha Mulia, Rumah Baca FWE, Mary's Cancer Kiddies, Kampus Diakonia Modern and Yayasan Pita Kuning. Through these roles she has been an English teacher, an accountant and even a civic volunteer helpingwith Jakarta's clean-up drive.

"Volunteering to me came naturally since ifs been a childhood dream to get into social service," Nicola says. "I never fully explored it up until moving to Jakarta, because I always felt that I couldn't make enough time for it. I'm now of the opinion that if you love some-thing enough for it to inspire you, time is just an excuse."

Ryan, Thomas, Karina and Nicola were not given the gift of extra time; the sea of traffic in Jakarta did not part for them, nor did their professions become any less demanding. Ryan used research, a skill he learned in advertising, to identify a need and find a solution. Thomas and Karina used Crossfit and its structure of bringing peo-ple together to raise money. Nicola didn't let language barriers or fears of acclimatizing to a new country stand in the way of her helping people.

Everyone can make the world a better place. It does not require a change or shift in life and schedule. It requires a shift in perspective. Even our most mundane skills can help the less fortunate, whether by managing the balance sheet for a charity or using your language skills to teach kids who are excited to learn. Make time, give time: It's more valuable and satisfying than just merely contributing money.

So are you ready to find time to take the first step today?