Project Sukacita V: The Climb Towards Better Education in Indonesia with SMU Tanoto Scholars

By Jessica Chandra, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

Jessica Chandra is a Tanoto Foundation Scholar who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business Management, Finance (International Trading) degree at the SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business.


My three years as an undergraduate at SMU has been full of new experiences. But one key aspect of the journey to date has been my involvement in Project Sukacita—a student-led community service project supported by the Tanoto Foundation, aimed at helping the less-advantaged communities in Pangkalan Kerinci, Indonesia.

Having been devoted to this project for the past three years, the recent Project Sukacita V in December 2016, allowed me the opportunity take on the role as a mentor to the project leader. What’s motivated me to go back to Pangkalan Kerinci time and again for the project is largely the sincere warmth that I’ve received through my interactions with the locals.


Jessica Chandra at Project Sukacita


Through the various activities we had on Project Sukacita V, it was wonderful to see the smiles of the local children and their eagerness to learn and participate in the activities. Even though we’d spent a mere five days with them, they had come to fully trust us in just the first two days, and eventually grew more attached to us as the days went by. For me, it was satisfying and rewarding whenever we managed to put a smile on their faces.

One of the most thought-provoking experiences I took from this trip was the realisation of just how significant a family’s background is to a child’s growth. As we carried out the children’s developmental assessments, we noticed that many of them fell behind in the norms that they were supposed to exhibit for their age. For example, it struck me that many still did not know the proper way of holding a pen or to trace shapes.

One child, however, stood out from the rest. Her developmental abilities had surpassed those of children her age, and she was way more responsive than her peers. This particular girl turned out to be a daughter of the local teacher, which perhaps explained why she had an edge over her peers. It got me to think about how guidance from parents or even nannies can greatly affect the development of children and even their motivation to learn new things.


Jessica Chandra at Project Sukacita


This further emphasised the importance of proper education for these children in order for them to be on the same level as their peers when they eventually enroll into primary school.

All in all, I believe there is still a lot to be done to truly improve the quality of life of the locals in Pangkalan Kerinci. Project Sukacita serves as a good avenue to make an impact towards this movement, but on a larger scale, its influences are still limited in many areas. My hope for Project Sukacita is to keep improving in order to tailor to the needs of the locals as best as it can and ultimately create a meaningful impact on their lives.

Project Sukacita will always be a reminder to myself and my fellow Indonesian peers who are receiving a prestigious education in Singapore, that there is still a long way to go for the betterment of Indonesian education; and that we all should strive to contribute positively towards this climb.

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