Happy Hearts Fund (HHF) was founded in 2006 by supermodel Petra Nemcova to help children affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. HHF started rebuilding schools in Yogyakarta after the devastating earthquake in 2006.
In 2013, HHF launched its first international chapter, Happy Hearts Indonesia (Yayasan Hati Gembira Indonesia) to support the reconstruction of more schools affected by natural disasters around the country.
Alistair Speirs from Now! Jakarta recently met Sylvia Beiwinkler, CEO of Happy Hearts Indonesia, and was very impressed with the work they are doing. This interview is the result of their meeting.
What brought you to Indonesia?
I came to Jogjakarta in 1999 as part of my studies in Cultural Anthropology, and stayed for two years. During that time I already fell in love with Indonesia but had to go back to finish my studies in Munich. By that time I had already married my Indonesian husband and we stayed seven years in Germany and had two children before returning to Bali in 2008.
What did you do in Bali after your return?
I worked in the hospitality industry managing Uma Sapna Villas and Kendra Gallery, two very successful venues in Seminyak.
What made you decide to get into the challenge of charitable work?
I wanted to move on from Bali and to experience a faster paced life. I liked it but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the next twenty years! At that time Happy Hearts Indonesia had already started operation and they asked me if I wanted to run it as CEO.
Tell us about Happy Hearts Indonesia and what it has achieved so far ?
Happy Hearts Indonesia is a nonprofit foundation, registered since March 2013 as Yayasan Hati Gembira Indonesia. Our mission is to rebuild schools and provide education for children in less- developed areas in Indonesia.
In 2016, with the need of a better education and the goal to eradicate poverty, Happy Hearts Indonesia expanded its support to Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) to rebuild schools in underprivileged communities. Last year, in response to the earthquake that hit Lombok in 2018, we have expanded our support to Lombok, Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTB), to rebuild schools affected by the earthquake.
Since its first operation in 2006 Happy Hearts has successfully rebuilt a total of 190 schools in Indonesia. Our school rebuilding program has positively impacted more than 60,000 children to date.
Since 2013, we have significantly developed our programs in Indonesia. Not only have we become one of the major school rebuilding foundations in the country, but we are also the largest one in the East Nusa Tenggara region. Our 5-year post-construction development plan includes teacher and management training, disaster readiness and WASH training. Since 2018 we have added the construction of libraries and provide literacy enhancing programs to stimulate an increase in reading and writing amongst students and adults.
What do you attribute your success to?
HHI were serious in their intent but didn’t want it struggling as a ‘day-to-day’ charity always looking for funds. That’s where I was useful with my background in cultural anthropology and corporate experience.
At the beginning we didn’t know how big it could become because the background was on rebuilding schools after natural disasters but when we decided to also rebuild schools in less developed areas in East Indonesia the potential became almost unlimited.
What made you choose the east of Indonesia as your focus?
We went to Nusa Tenggara Timur because it is one of the poorest areas in Indonesia, which I’m sure tourists visiting the wonderful area of Labuan Bajo do not know, and the schools there are mostly poorly built and in very bad condition, so were ready for our assistance.
Our target is to completely rebuild 200 schools and to ensure they operate well for five years after renovation, so we always put a reserve in to ensure the teachers continue to be trained and motivated. When we have completed these we hope to move on to other areas such as Papua and Maluku. But we are not ready to go there yet.
What is your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge because of the remoteness of the areas, is access, which makes everything we do difficult and expensive. Also the quality of building materials in NTT is not good and we have to ensure the buildings and their foundations are earthquake proof. Prices tend to increase without warning and many areas have no water of electricity which means we need to work from gensets. There are many challenges!
What are your hopes for the future of HHI?
Well we always need funding, we do a lot of Corporate CSR but it’s good to have more awareness of what we are achieving, so that companies who generally want to invest on the future of Indonesia through better education know that we are the right partner!
Note: Happy Hearts is open to working with any company who wants to help their efforts through donations of money or relevant materials, but are also open to individuals to donate monthly through their ‘Change Maker Community’ Program.
For more details see www.happyheartsindonesia.org