Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Tience Sumartini : On the wings of a dream

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 04/01/2009 2:57 PM | People


Tience Sumartini is one of those lucky people who can build their businesses around their passion - in her case, flying.

Tience fell in love with flying when she was about 26. One day, in the late 1970s, she and her husband saw a glider in the sky. They followed the glider to where it landed, and asked the pilot for more information about gliding.

Later, with a group of friends, they set up a club and hired professional gliding instructors so they could learn in their free time.

So in the 1980s, when many housewives passed their time in malls or salons, Tience Sumartini hung out with her friends - mostly men - at Pelita Airport in Pondok Cabe, Tangerang.

"We really wanted to be pilots but we couldn't go to Curug flying school. Most of us had our own jobs and couldn't be locked up in a dormitory such as in Curug, so we hired instructors."

Tience did her first solo flight in a glider at Pondok Cabe in a schweizer aircraft. "I remember the instructors didn't tell us about it in advance so I was very nervous. But I did it anyway."

Two years after learning how to fly a glider, Tience went on to train to become a pilot of powered aircraft.

Her passion for flying also led her to learn how to make her own aircraft - she has built three planes - as well as set up a series of aviation-related businesses, such as PT ATS Buana Airtech, a company for aviation engine components. She also owns five private aircrafts, currently parked in Australia.

A busy schedule means Tience, now 55, has not flown for a while - her pilot license has expired - but her heart is still firmly within the aviation world.

So she did not hesitate when her colleagues and former Garuda Airways directors Robby Djohan and Wiradharma Oka asked her to join them in establishing a flying school in Bali.

"I had always dreamed about this flying school but it never happened because I was busy with a few businesses," she says. "I agreed to be part of it because I knew they were not only businessmen in aviation but also liked flying. Working with people who are passionate about what they are involved in means we speak the same language."

Tience, who is on the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's advisory board, says that despite a series of accidents and the current economic crisis, the aviation business climate remains strong because of the nature of the country and people's need to travel. Airlines have failed because of poor management, rather than decreasing demand, she says.

"Not all *airlines offering* cheap flights are managed badly but one should question why a flight is so cheap," she says. "The worse thing is if they cut down on maintenance, which is vital, to be able to win the price war."

Tience says that, according to world aviation data, the number of air travelers has been increasing: In 1998, six million people flew, while in 2007, 30 million did.

"We are as big as the US but we are archipelagic country," she says. "There is no choice if more and more people need to travel fast. They need to save time no matter what the price is. They can't spend days at sea."

Although there are several pilot schools in Indonesia, with about 140 pilots graduating each year, Tience believes the country "actually needs 400 pilots a year".

"Take for example Garuda Airlines, which is now in the process of purchasing 50 Boeing 737 new generation aircraft and 10 Boeing 777 aircraft. It will need more than 200 pilots."

The quality of pilot schools is another reason for her interest in setting up her own.

"What can we expect from schools that do not have their own runways and have only a limited number of airplanes and instructors?" she says. "The only thing they can do is to wait for their turn to use other people's runways, which of course lowers the quality of their training."

After about two years of preparation, the Bali International Flight Academy (BIFA) was opened in February. Twenty-one students have enrolled as the first batch of cadets, including one from the UK.

The academy offers the 16-week Private Pilot's License course, which qualifies graduates to fly a single engine aircraft in the noncommercial category, and the 48-week Commercial Pilot's License course, after which a pilot can fly professionally.

BIFA has its own training facilities at Letkol Wisnu Airfield, 65 kilometers west of Singaraja in Buleleng. The 7,000 square meter complex includes an aerodrome, a training center, a hangar, a dormitory and the latest generation of Frasca 142 flight simulators, which meet the US Federal Aviation Administration standard.

The academy, which is certified under the directorate general of civil aviation and the International Civil Aviation Organization, has a fleet of five Cessnas; 10 more will be provided by the end of the year.

The school hopes to gain international recognition immediately.

"I believe in less than 10 years we will able to attract students from all around the world to enroll in the academy," Tience says. "We must prove that we can sell more than just maids to the world. We can also sell pilots."

How the stars stay in shape

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Wed, 04/01/2009 12:57 PM | Body & Soul
Stay in shape: Actress and director Lola Amaria goes to a gym, practices yoga and consumes balanced diet to stay in good shape. JP/Berto WedhatamaStay in shape: Actress and director Lola Amaria goes to a gym, practices yoga and consumes balanced diet to stay in good shape. JP/Berto Wedhatama
We might forget it sometimes, but celebrities are human too. Like the rest of us, they have to work hard to stay in shape, even as daily pressures, professional requirements and advancing years work against them.
And even though they have different strategies for staying fit and healthy, a common theme emerges – that no matter how busy you are, you should always find time to look after yourself.
Actress and director Lola Amaria, who once had to pile on six kilograms for a role, stays in shape through regular gym workouts, yoga and a balanced diet.
Lola joined a gym near her house in Bintaro, and tries to get there for a workout at least two or three times a week. But even if her busy schedule makes getting to the gym impossible, the Ca Bau Kan star still makes sure she does some kind of exercise every day.
“It doesn’t have to be excessive physical activity,” says Lola, who shifted her extra weight by jogging daily for six months. “A brisk half-hour walk every day will keep you healthy.”
The actress also finds yoga an important part of her routine. She learned yoga about five years ago and still practices it regularly. “It’s good for stress release,” she says. “Initially I was helped by an instructor but now I do it by myself at home.”
Yoga, she says, makes her more relaxed during the everyday life, “especially you get stuck in a traffic jam”.
Getting the recommended amount of sleep is generally out of the question for the busy filmmaker, so she naps when she can. “I try to sleep at least six hours a day but it’s quite impossible, so what I do is I have a little sleep in between, in the breaks.”
And when it comes to what she puts in her mouth, Lola admits she is very strict, and rarely touches greasy food or junk food. “If possible, eat fruit and fresh vegetables at least once each day,” she says.
She points out that vitamins and supplements are helpful for people living in a polluted city, but adds that even those who have no faith in supplements can do themselves a favor by consuming fresh and healthy food and drinking lots of water.
“Nutrients are not only from capsules,” she says. “We can get them in fresh water or fresh food.”
Actor and presenter Ferdy Hassan is one of the many celebrities who work with professional personal trainers to stay in shape.
As he entered his 30s, Ferdy noticed something common to pretty much everyone: His body was changing, and he needed to take action.
“I realized that as I’m getting older, it’s not as easy to control my weight,” Ferdy says. “That’s why I need a trainer.”
The 36-year-old, who never fails go to the gym at least twice a week, has followed a regime for two years, in which his trainer helps him with complete body training and dietary advice.
Ferdy had joined a gym in high school but then quit. He didn’t give it another go until his weight exceeded 90 kilograms. It took him four months of tailored workouts to lose 10 kilograms.
“I have tried many ways to lose weight but the gym is the most effective. After doing exercise, we can focus better on other things,” he says.
“We often can’t be bothered to exercise but believe me, you will feel so much better if you do it. There are lots of good effects. It’s also a life investment for us.”
In short, he says, “If you love your family, then do your exercise.”
He also finds reflexology beneficial, calling a massage therapist to his house in the Blok M area in South Jakarta about once a week. “All the reflections of our physical health are in our feet,” he says. “When you are getting [a massage], you fall asleep and when you wake up, you feel much more relaxed and refreshed.”
Ferdy does not worry so much about his diet, but when he feels he has been eating too much fatty food, he makes an effort to balance his diet, although that doesn’t stop his love of eating.
“I’m Sundanese and I like to try anything,” he says.
Similarly worried by the way his weight crept up with the years, actor and presenter Farhan also hired a personal trainer almost two years ago, shocked into action when the scales tipped 95 kilograms.
It took him about a year to get into the habit of doing jogging, weightlifting and crunches for 30 to 60 minutes a day.
“I needed a trainer at the beginning but now I do it myself,” says the star, who believes that when we’re young we can do whatever we want, but have to “pay everything back
after 30”.
The first thing that needs to be paid back, he says, is our diet. “I rarely eat rice at the moment,” he says. “I skip carbohydrates, sugars and meat. My friends say I’m like a goat that eats lots of vegetables but fortunately I never get constipated anymore.”
As part of his new healthy lifestyle, the 39-year-old also skips alcohol and cigarettes and always gets to bed early. “I only bergadang [stay up late] if I really have to,” he says.
But the gym and other forms of indoor exercise are not for everyone. Jazz singer Syaharani prefers to head for the great outdoors to stay fit and healthy.
Courtesy of QueenfireworksCourtesy of Queenfireworks
“Fitness is boring,” the 37-year-old says baldly. “Our space is limited and we repeat our movements like ironing.”
A brisk early morning walk is Syaharani’s favorite fitness habit. Three to four times a week, she heads out in the early hours for a walk around her housing complex in Bintaro, South Jakarta.
When she finds time in her busy schedule – about once every two or three months – Syaharani and her friends get together to go hiking or trekking, most recently in Curug Panjang in West Java.
Also beneficial to her health, she says, is meditation, which she learned years ago when she lived in Bali. “I do it as much as possible because it’s simple but it clears your mind. Mediation and stretching the body … make us relax because they maximize the oxygen in our body.”
Syaharani says that when she moved from Bali to Jakarta in 1995, she stopped meditating, and noticed big changes in her daily life.
“I was trying to work out why I got tired and bored so easily,” she says. “Then I took up mediation again and I felt better. Mediation is good and it works for people in all sorts of professions, especially for a singer like me.” She now wants to learn more about yoga.
Syaharani likes to eat but she recognizes the importance of staying in control.

“I always remind myself that eating is not only for enjoyment but also for the needs of the body,” she says. “If in a week I have been having too much fatty food, I will balance it by having fresh fruit and vegetables.”
The singer especially likes mushrooms and broccoli because they are high in antioxidants and easy to prepare. “I always buy them when I go to the supermarket or ask for them if I go to a restaurant.”
For Syaharani, who has a medical checkup at least once a year, the first step in keeping healthy is stress management. “Stress contributes a lot to health problems,” she says. “Everybody has their own way of dealing with stress but they have to do it immediately.”
The second step is to do light exercise and the third is eating properly, she says. “Never skip breakfast because when you busy in the day, you will forget everything.”
Too many people lead lives that are out of balance, she says – overeating and under-exercising, often because they are under stress and use food as comfort.
The most common mistake, according to Syaharani, is focusing on appearance rather than on health.
“In fact, the important thing is your behavior: Stay active, eat right and feel good today,” she says. “The results will follow.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Franki Raden: Building cultural bridges

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Tue, 03/31/2009 11:29 AM | People

JP/R. Berto WedhatamaJP/R. Berto Wedhatama

Franki Raden knows what it’s like to see the world from the other side.

With extensive experience and more than 16 years studying and lecturing around the world, he has earned the authority to judge the social engineering of Indonesia’s art and culture.

He agrees that the country’s indigenous art and culture have been abused by the state for propaganda about our heritage, but he does not agree that foreign scholars and artists should be permitted to exploit or study that heritage without contributing anything to its preservation.
“After all this time, we are so proud of our traditional art and cultural richness, we talk about it all the time, everywhere, but we do nothing about it,” Franki says.

“On the other hand, many scholars and foreign artists come here to learn about us. Some take their material from our culture and built their portfolio and work without even mentioning Indonesia.”

Concerned that the country’s art and culture were being undervalued by Indonesians and exploited by outsiders, Franki and his colleague Serrano Sianturi founded the Sacred Bridge Foundation in Jakarta in 1998.

“My concern is with empowering people who have been living with their culture for hundreds of years. It’s so ironic if these people have tremendous expertise but they can’t make a living out it,” he says.

“Why is it people who study computers for five years can make a living out of their expertise but not these people?”

The foundation has attracted the attention of many people concerned about the preservation of world culture, including Japanese national living treasure Tsutomu Yamashita, who become chairman of the advisory board of the organization, and the former director of Unesco Jakarta, Stephen C. Hill, who is a member of the advisory board.

Franki, whose real name is Franki Suryadarma Notosudirdjo, is an ethnomusicologist, composer, cultural critic and multimedia artist who has received numerous awards and fellowships from prestigious research and arts institutes including the Social Sciences and Research Council (SSRC), The Ford Foundation, The Henry Luce Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, The Arts Council of Jakarta (DKJ) and The Indonesian Film Festival (FFI).

Franki finished his studies in his music composition at the Jakarta Art Institute (IKJ) in 1986. Two years later, he became a visiting artist in New York sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. He later studied composition with Chou Wen-Chung at Columbia University and Stephen Dembski at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his PhD in 2001.

His research has always focused on issues at the intersection of the arts, religion, the media and politics in Asia, as well as colonial arts and culture in Indonesia, and Asian-American contemporary arts. He spent two years researching jazz in the Afro-American community in Chicago, as well as teaching in the Fine Arts Cultural Studies program, at the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University in the UK and the Visual and Performing Arts program at the University of Toronto in Canada.

His studio work, which demonstrates his strong interest in combining elements from both Western and non-Western cultures, has been performed in Indonesia, Japan and the United States.

After years overseas, Franki decided to bring his family back to Indonesia, stopping for one year at the National University of Singapore, where he was a lecturer on studies in Asian Art and Popular Culture in Southeast Asia.

During his 10 years of back and forth to Jakarta running the Sacred Bridge Foundation, Franki and his colleagues designed and organized numerous events on a global scale, such as the legendary Sacred Rhythm Festival in Bali and Kyoto, the Interfaith Music Clinic and Concert at Borobudur Temple, and Cultural Healing for the Tsunami Survivors in Aceh.

The foundation’s programs, all of which take an interdisciplinary approach, are based on four domains: Intercultural dialogue, cultural education for children, preservation of indigenous arts and capacity building.

Franki believes Indonesia has great potential to contribute to world music but that no significant steps have been made.

“It takes the whole continent of Africa to have a variety of music heritages but it only takes one country, Indonesia, to have a thousand musical traditions. Why shouldn’t we do something?” he says.

“We don’t want to just be hired as an instructor if one of our original instruments is taken by a foreign artist or institution.”

Franki said his long-term goal is to bridge groups or cultures around the world to bring about a better future. “Indigenous cultures everywhere are a huge repository for cultural values and civilization, but they have been neglected everywhere.”

The best way to approach these cultures as an ethnomusicologist, says Franki, is to become an insider and work with people to empower their culture. He himself once lived in a Dayak community in Tanjung Manis, East Kalimantan, to reinvent their long-defunct mouth organ, which was generally used in rituals.

“We are not going to represent anybody or any culture, because every representation has its own bias and that’s very dangerous.”

But, he adds, indigenous peoples should not be left to deal with these problems on their own.

“They won’t be able to solve their own problems because it has become too complicated, requiring a multidisciplinary approach. They need people who understand their problems, understand how the system works and help empower them,” he says. “Government
can play a role here. They can think of a system where the economy is integrated with art and culture.”

Mining the world's musical riches

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 03/31/2009 3:23 PM | Features

On the move: Musicians practice during a rehearsal session of the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic held at the National Gallery Jakarta in 2008. Eighteen people from various musical backgrounds, both traditional and modern, gathered for a few days to find new possibilities for musical practice. Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge FoundationOn the move: Musicians practice during a rehearsal session of the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic held at the National Gallery Jakarta in 2008. Eighteen people from various musical backgrounds, both traditional and modern, gathered for a few days to find new possibilities for musical practice. (Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge Foundation)

In a world stuck in a musical rut, the rich traditions of Asia - especially Indonesia - could provide fresh ideas, with one group of musical experts setting out to make that happen.

Ethnomusicologist Franki Raden, who has spent more than 16 years studying and teaching world music both in Indonesia and abroad, says the world is waiting for a feed from Asia, especially from Indonesia, as artists in North America and Europe stagnate, regurgitating similar ideas in their work.

"Indonesia should make a larger contribution to world art and cultural heritage," Franki said.

He points out that Indonesian artists and musicians rarely come up with new work based on the country's tradition heritage, and that any such work rarely attracts international attention.

Only a few artists now in Europe or North America have been able to produce relatively new, interesting and original ideas and work, he said, adding that critics who have recognized and spoken out about this stagnation tend to be alienated by the larger community, "especially in Europe, with its old establishment, *where* new ideas are not easily accepted."

Indonesia, he said, should stand up and be heard on this point. "We should come up with something original but which has a global impact."

But this issue, he added, is too complicated and too big in scope to be managed by a few concerned parties.

"It is impossible to let it become the concern of a few countries or people only. We need collaboration between people who realize the importance of reformation in the musical world."

The concern about the lack of innovation in music, said Franki, began sporadically in the 1970s, but getting people together to come up with a solution was not easy.

But neither is it impossible.

Involving children: Children learn Saman, a traditional Acehnese dance, during an event for the cultural and psychological healing of tsunami survivors at an art center in Gampong Pande in Kuta Raja, Banda Aceh. The program, called “Rising Above the Tsunami”, was held by the Sacred Bridge Foundation in 2006. Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge FoundationInvolving children: Children learn Saman, a traditional Acehnese dance, during an event for the cultural and psychological healing of tsunami survivors at an art center in Gampong Pande in Kuta Raja, Banda Aceh. The program, called “Rising Above the Tsunami”, was held by the Sacred Bridge Foundation in 2006. (Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge Foundation)

The Sacred Bridge Foundation, which Franki established in 1998, is setting out to address the issue by holding a workshop and musical clinic with the aim of providing directives for musicians of the 21st century.

"Gaung: 21st Century Global Music Education", to be held at the Bali Classic Center in Ubud from April 23 to May 2, will bring together internationally renowned experts in music and music-related sciences and technologies.

During the 10-day program, the experts will share and discuss their work, visions and experiences, ranging across topics such as musical and spiritual practice, acoustic science and technology, and creative musical thinking.

Among the facilitators and gurus involved in the workshop are percussionist/composer Stomu Yamash'ta, French composer Jean Claude Eloy, acoustician and scientist Yoshio Yamasaki, jazz-rock pioneer Larry Coryell, Zen Buddhist monk Yamada Sosho, Sufi maestro Marzuki Hasan and Kejawen spiritual guru Sumarah.

Franki Raden said the workshop and the clinic would focus on music, but approach it from the perspective of multiple disciplines, such as "the science of music, performance of music, the business side or cultural economics of music and even the ritualistic side of music."

"We are trying to combine the very advanced side, which is science, and the spiritual side of music," he said. "As far as I know, this is something very new."

Training ground: Musicians practice during a rehearsal session of the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic held at the   National Gallery Jakarta last year. Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge FoundationTraining ground: Musicians practice during a rehearsal session of the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic held at the National Gallery Jakarta last year. (Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge Foundation)

As well as classroom sessions, field work and self-exploration, the musicians will rehearse for concerts to be held. The concerts will be performed by different groups of participants as a means of exploring new combinations, based on technical capability, musical orientation and interest.

The performances will be presented as works in progress, with live audiences invited to provide direct feedback.

Ubud in Gianyar was chosen as the venue because of Bali's long contribution to the development of modern music, starting with performances at Europe's 1931 World Exhibition - most of the musicians who participated in the exhibition came from Ubud.

Franki said that many foreign artists who drew on Indonesia's musical heritage or collaborated with local artists produced phenomenal work although "some did not even mention Indonesia as the source of their work", he added.

One such internationally acclaimed work is Robert Wilson's visionary piece I La Galigo, a dramatic work inspired by an epic poem of the Bugis people of South Sulawesi.

I La Galigo has been performed in famous theaters around the world, from its world premiere at Theatres on the Bay in Singapore in March 2004 to its last production at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan, Italy, in February 2008.

It was also performed at Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, Teatro Espa*ol in Madrid, Les Nuits de Fourviere Rhone France in Lyon, the Teatro Alighieri in Ravenna, Italy, NY State Theater in New York, Teater Tanah Airku in Jakarta and Melbourne's State Theatre.

I La Galigo features a cast of 50 Indonesian performers, with the music researched and composed by Indonesian Rahayu Supanggah. The project was by a team of scholars, from Sulawesi and abroad, who advised on the development of the epic for the theater.

"So far, the people who have drawn on Indonesian heritage have not been Indonesian," said Franki. "This is because we don't see ourselves from the outside so we never know what our position is."

No one can predict the final output of the workshop and clinic, said Franki, but it is expected to alter participants' perspectives and deliver new ways of performing music, or even a new instrument.

"It doesn't have to be a mainstream at all. What is considered mainstream now might have been alternative once," he said. "We are initiating a new thing so we do not expect it to be popular straightaway."

AMONG THOSE AT THE WORKSHOP

Stomu Yamash'ta will speak on musical synthesis, including about the spiritual, scientific and technological foundations of music.

During his career, Stomu has experimented with various musical genres including rock, jazz, avant-garde experimental and world music. In the 1970s, he founded a super group called "Go" in Europe; the other members were Al Di Meola, Klaus Schultz, Michel Reeve and Steve Winwood. In the 1980s, he developed a stone-chime orchestra called Sanukit. Since then, he has devoted his life to practicing Zen Buddhism.

Composer Jean Claude Eloy will speak on possible directions for music in the 21st century in the context of East-West cultural encounters. In the 1970s, Eloy co-founded an electronic music studio called Xemamu. Much of his work has been inspired by Asian philosophy and culture, and his orchestral pieces have been performed extensively in Europe and beyond.

Yoshio Yamasaki will be speaking on the development of music and technology, as well as new and future directions in music

Yamasaki is known as the inventor of the 16 and 1 bit digital portable recorder. A professor in physics at the Global Information and Technology Institute at Waseda University in Japan, he has been active in research in the field of music and acoustics.

John H.G. Soe: Nobody's child, everybody's man

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , JAKARTA | Wed, 03/25/2009 1:59 PM | People

Some blame their parents for their misfortunes, others blame God. But John H.G. Soe has never blamed anyone for mistreating him, or for the polio that shaped his life.

It was because of this polio that his parents abandoned him at a hospital in Medan when he was four months old. The nurses took care of him for a few years, before sending him to a Catholic orphanage in the same city.

But when he was in the third grade, renovations to the dormitory meant families had to take the children home. No one came for John, who was then called “Kong”; he was nobody’s child.

“Not only that day, but every school holiday, other children were picked up by their family, but nobody ever asked me even to go outside the orphanage’s dormitory …,” John told The Jakarta Post.

A nun found his parents, but his mother rejected him, but the nuns couldn’t take him back because of the renovations.

“I was crying because I felt more comfortable with the nuns. I had no feelings whatsoever for my parents.”

He spent “a very bitter week” with his family. They kept him in the small backyard and he was not allowed to play with his sisters and brothers. He slept on the floor where the others had beds, and was fed differently.

“I was given rice and a bit of vegetables while my brothers and sisters got chicken or duck,” John recalled. He also remembers an occasion when he was dragged to the back of the house when a guest asked who he was.

After 10 days, his brother took him back to the orphanage. The nuns, shocked at his condition, never sent him back to his parents again.

In 1973, Dutch-Italian businessman Ted de Ponti, a Singapore-based Rotarian and former Red Cross volunteer, visiting one of the nuns at the orphanage, said he wanted to adopt an orphan who was “really abandoned but academically bright”.

“I want him to be someone,” he said.

The obvious choice was the boy who was crippled by polio, a boy who had never had anyone visit him, but was so clever he could repair his friend’s broken radio. “I remember it was Sunday June 13th. The nuns said ‘an uncle’ would come and meet me to adopt me.”

John put on his best clothes and dragged himself to the parlor to wait. “I felt so happy when he hugged me. He took me to the shop to buy me my first new clothes ever and a Timex watch, and held a dinner at a restaurant where he introduced me as his son to his friends.”

De Ponti covered all the boy’s expenses and visited him regularly, before arranging for John to be taken to Singapore for surgery.

When the nuns got papers from John’s parents for the passport, he finally learned his birthday — June 17, 1959 — the names of his parents and his eight siblings, and his own birth name: Soe Hian Ghe.

In December 1973, De Ponti brought the boy to Singapore. The Rotary Club had decided to pay for the operations and Rotarians in Zevennar, the Netherlands, sponsored the trip.

He underwent four operations; after eight months in the hospital, his right leg, which was bent like a bow, began to improve. His ankles started to function, and now he can even drive a car.

After the first operation, The Strait Times ran a story about him, including a picture of him munching chocolates. The chocolate company, pleased with the free advertising, sent him dozens of boxes of chocolates, which he sent to his friends in the orphanage in Medan.

Everything was done at no cost — even Singapore Airlines provided a return trip for free. The money Rotary had committed for his operations now went to his education.

A month after the final operation, John returned to school in Medan. As he was 14 years old and had a disability, only a girl’s school would accept him. “Only two of us were boys, we both had polio.”

He later studied architecture in Singapore and interior design in London. He planned to return to Singapore but because of the 1985 economic crisis, his foster father advised him to go to Jakarta instead.

The first thing he did was to look up his family, who had moved to the Indonesian capital. His mother was still cold to him. “I told them that I only wanted to make a family bond and had no intention of making them feel bad.”

A year later, his family asked for forgiveness. John felt the request was unnecessary. “The past is the past, let’s look to the future,” he said.

John soon began his career in an architecture firm, and within five years had set up his own architecture and interior design company, which he still runs.

He married in 1988 and has two children. Ted de Ponti died in 1990, two month after John’s first child was born.

“I still remember he was very happy when my son was born. My son was like a first grandson to him,” John said. “Ted gave me confidence and love. He changed everything in my life.”

Because of the help Rotary gave him, John wanted to become a Rotarian, a dream realized when a client recommended him for membership in 2003.

Since he was indicted in 2004, he has held several important positions, including club secretary and club president; he is now the assistant governor for the Jakarta region.

He was been active in Rotary’s fight against polio, especially during the joint Rotary–Health Ministry campaign for the national immunization program in 2005 and 2006.

Looking back, John has no regrets or bitterness.

“I always think there is always someone who is experiencing something worse than me,” he said. “Everything is a blessing in disguise. I wouldn’t be what I am today if my parents did not leave me at that hospital.”

Comments (5)

Emmiwaty L (not verified) — Fri, 03/27/2009 - 12:39pm

Happy to hear you r doing well
Keep it up!
greetings to the family
All the best for the future.

We are all born for a purpose."Becoming the Best Version of Yourself".
The life story inspires us.
Cheers & God bless.

I've worked with John in his position as Assistant Governor of Rotary Indonesia for the Jakarta area. He is dedicated, committed, and enthusiastic. I didn't know any of this about him. My respect and regard for him, which was already high, has magnified. Good on ya' John! Thanks for sharing this inspirational story!

I've met John (A.G. John, as they call him in Rotary Club)twice in Rotary Club regular weekly meeting. I'm not a member, I was only a guess of The Club President. John is a very kind and good man. His story is very inspiring. Although I'm about 9 years older then him but I respect him so much. Kep up the good work A.G. John.

that is truly inspiring...
thanks for sharing :)

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