“Every person should have the opportunity to realize his or her full potential." A quote by Sukanto Tanoto and Tinah Bingei Tanoto, two business leaders and philanthropists who founded Tanoto Foundation.
The main focus of Tanoto Foundation is to become the centre of excellence in poverty alleviation through Education, Empowerment, and Enhancement. Both Sukanto Tanoto and Tinah Bingei Tanoto believe that people have the rights for education and to live life to the fullest. Fortunately, their tremendous vision had been successfully descended to their children, a legacy of their own blood.
Belinda Tanoto said that her father did not have the opportunity to complete his high school due to social and economical constraints then. Gratefully, the fate has changed for the next generation of the Tanoto family. Belinda herself managed to get a Magna Cum Laude in Finance and Political Science from University of Pennsylvania. A truly big achievement in her life, and for her family as well.
Being asked about her feeling right now, Belinda truly reflects her current conditions as a gift, as well as motivation.
"I feel very lucky and fortunate that my siblings and I got the opportunity to go to one of the best schools. As I mentioned before, my parents did not get that chance, but they've been working really hard to make it happen to us," said Belinda. "For me this is truly a gift. Knowing how challenging their life was, I am motivated to address the issue of education and poverty in Indonesia. And Tanoto Foundation provides the mechanism and venue for that.”
As a Member of the Board of Trustees for the Tanoto Foundation, Belinda has been following her parents footstep to strive within her philanthropist works in between her busy schedule as a key figure in RGE's palm oil business. According to Belinda, her role within the Foundation ranges from setting up the vision as well as identifying the strategy in collaboration with her professional team.
From JakartaGlobe's eyewitness, it is obviously clear that the Foundation has a unique approach that differentiates the organization from the others. During her visit at BKB PAUD RIANG, an Early Childhood Education Center in Sungai Bambu, North Jakarta, it is fascinating to see Belinda’s interaction with the Center’s students. After listening to Belinda reading a story from a children’s story book, the children loudly and enthusiastically answered her questions. During the same occasion, Belinda also talked with the students’ parents to seek feedback in the hope for better improvement.
"As you see today, we've always believed on the importance of getting direct feedback from the beneficiaries of our programs. We often visit PAUDs to see what goes on on the ground. You cannot just sit in the office, formulating ideas without even going out and experiencing the reality itself," Belinda said while sitting among the children.
Furthermore, Belinda also points out that the Foundation has a strong believe in partnership and collaboration with various parties. "We understand that, like other issues that affect the community, poverty and education have their own complexities. In a world like this, we cannot work alone. With need to get together and solve the issue as a whole," said Belinda.
The conversation gets even more interesting when discussing the nature of business and philanthropic work. Belinda who also drives trading and business development activities of RGE's downstream palm oil business, Apical Group, shares an interesting insight about the way she connects business and social work.
"I believe both business and philanthropic activities are good vehicle for social values. Companies must be good for the community and the country, and they have to address the social needs. Foundations such as Tanoto Foundation could work together with the Government and the private sector by identifying the needs as well as the gaps that exist in meeting those needs. For example, based on their own work on the ground, foundations could share their lessons learned with the Government and private sectors and have the work replicated by other institutions. To not reinvent the wheel, we need to collaborate with various sectors," explained Belinda in such a passionate voice.
Poverty and education has become a major issue throughout the years, that even the Government itself is facing difficulties to overcome the situation. Despite of being discouraged by the condition, Belinda provides her thought with a rather optimistic tone.
"Yes, it has been a big issue throughout the year. But you cannot just sit down and do nothing about it. We believe in the power of change and optimism is very important. Poverty and Education issue is a multi-dimensional problem that requires the involvement of many parties. We cannot drastically end poverty, but we have the capacity to reduce it," Belinda said optimistically.
The last visit of the day was the BKB PAUD BOUGENVILLE 11, another Early Childhood Education Center in Rorotan, North Jakarta. Interestingly, the school was inaugurated by Governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahja Purnama in December 2014. Tanoto Foundation support for the Center includes building the classrooms and training the teachers on topics such as creative teaching methodology and leadership. When Belinda visited the Center, the teachers were in the middle of a creative teaching workshop. She sat among the teachers and listened to the different ways these teachers used to make their teaching activities more interesting for the students..
"These teachers, although they might be faced by challenges in their daily lifes, they are very passionate to teach. This truly important since we have to be optimistic in pursuing our dream and potential," said Belinda ending the conversation.
By: The Jakarta Globe