Jakarta. It was a leap of faith for Valentina Suhendra, a director at professional services company KPMG, when she took out a loan to start her first charity Yayasan Kechara Indonesia four years ago.
“When I started YKI, I did not have enough money. So I borrowed [Rp] 70 million [$5,195],” she said, reminiscing.
When it was time to pay off the loan in 2012, one of her friends and a volunteer at YKI, Shio Wei Hau, suggested a mountain hike as a way to raise funds. Hau decided on a solo climb of Mt. Peclet in France.
“I’d made up my mind to go climbing anyway that year, so why not do it for a worthwhile cause? Basically I paid for the trip to France but I also told people I was doing it for charity. So we got people to sponsor my hike, people who wanted to give something back to society, and I gave the money to Kechara,” Hau said.
YKI has come a long way since its early days distributing less than 20 packets of food at weekends in 2010. Nowadays it has enough regular donors to hand out around 400 food packets every weekend in areas such as Kota Bambu Utara and Petamburan in West Jakarta, and Cipete in South Jakarta.
“We started out with food distribution for the needy because my spiritual guru Tsem Rinpoche had asked me to set it up,” Valentina said.
As a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, she trusted her guru’s guiding hand. Rinpoche also introduced her to the practice of Dorje Shugden, an ancient Tibetan protection deity.
“Dorje Shugden plays a big role in my life. So when in January 2011, Rinpoche asked me to establish YKI, he advised me to rely on Dorje Shugden and he also said if my motivation was pure, I would get help.”
On the other hand, the deity has become a controversial figure in Tibetan Buddhism since the Dalai Lama spoke against his practice in 1996. But for devotees like Valentina, Shugden has inspired her to do nothing but good.
“I believe people should be allowed to practice their religion and faith as they see fit as long as it does not harm others. This is not the time nor place to discriminate against people based on their belief. That is what we are trying to demonstrate with YKI motto – compassion knows no barrier.”
YKI also runs other charity projects in addition to food distribution, such as education sponsorships for students in Jakarta and providing stationery, spectacles and even school uniforms for the underprivileged.
Evalia Meilviyani Madjid, daughter-in-law of the late prominent Muslim intellectual Dr. Nurcholish Madjid, is a great supporter of YKI.
“I’ve been a regular donor since Valentina started YKI. I’m pleased and proud of the way the charity is organized along professional and transparent lines,” Evalia said.
Valentina explained that accountability is an important part of YKI’s operation.
“We always keep our donors informed on what their funds are used for. We also hire professional auditors to look into our finances. ”
Evalia professed she was beyond satisfied that YKI never takes into account the gender, belief or ethnicity of the people it helps.
“I’m aware YKI was founded by a Tibetan Buddhist but I know this doesn’t affect the way Kechara operates. I participate in the school sponsorship program and I get regular reports and updates on the students I sponsor,” she explained.
Riki, 22, and Nizar Winarsin Aswin, 21, are university students studying in Jakarta who have been sponsored by the foundation since they were in high school. The two are currently finishing their tertiary education while also working at YKI as staff members.
“I was in the second year at State Senior High School 19 and I had accumulated quite a sum in unpaid school fees. So when I was asked if I’d let Kechara pay for my education, I leapt at the chance. I was living with my sister and she was so thrilled,” Riki said.
Nizar’s experience with YKI is similar to Riki’s. When asked what it was like to work for YKI he replied, “The experience has been a positive one for me. Imagine being able to earn money and to feel spiritually gratified, knowing that we are helping so many people.”
Another YKI regular donor, Hyang Augustiana, who also sits on YKI’s working committee said: “I am a practicing Muslim but I feel very comfortable working with Kechara. It was always my dream to be involved with a charity.”
In 2014, Kechara was awarded a prize by the municipal government of West Jakarta for its contribution to society.
Emayati, head of the Palmerah district’s social department in Wests Jakarta said that she had been working with YKI on a number of projects.
“I understand Kechara’s activities are spread across Jakarta but in Palmerah they are our partner in helping out with Kampung Boncos, which is a notorious area where drug dealers and addicts live,” she said.
“Kechara has also sponsored a playground with the theme of a herbal garden for the children Palmerah. They also pay for several adult residents there to participate in the Kejar Paket C initiative,” she added, referring to a government schooling program aimed at adults who missed out on formal education.
Asked what YKI’s next big project was, Valentina said, “We’re doing the annual mountain hike again between Aug. 15 and 17 on Mt. Agung in Bali.
“We have seven participants for the climb, including myself, all of whom will get their respective sponsors. We would welcome more people to sponsor us for this event.”
Yayasan Kechara Indonesia
Tel: (021) 536 0966
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