This post is part of a series that highlights Microsoft employees in Asia Pacific who are providing their expertise and time to NGO organisations, creating a positive impact in their local community, and inspiring others along the way.
Dashing out a slideshow presentation on the computer or editing a video on a smartphone may sound complicated, but are second nature to Louis Sudarso, who lives and breathes technology as Microsoft Indonesia’s Enterprise Marketing Communication Manager.
But one thing floored him recently. Asked to do a show-and-tell in February at an under-resourced elementary school in West Java, Indonesia, he remarked, “I know how to present to business executives, but not first-graders!”
Louis had signed up as a volunteer with nonprofit organisation Indonesia Mengajar, which was started in 2009 to fill a shortfall in the number of qualified teachers in Indonesia. The organisation trains young Indonesians to teach in remote, impoverished provinces.
The particular programme Louis joined deploys young professional volunteers to disadvantaged communities, where students have limited contact with the formal economy sector and its working experts. Not being able to see how the knowledge and skill sets acquired in school are applied in the broader economy, many students tend to question the relevance of their studies. At the same time, young working professionals from large cities tend to feel disconnected from those living in rural areas.
On this trip, Louis travelled with 12 other volunteers from various cities such as Jakarta, Cirebon and Bandung.
He observed, “The social, cultural and economic landscape of Bandung is so different from that of Jakarta where I live. Just as I had a hard time conceptualising what lives are really like here, the children in this area must find it difficult to understand what it is like to work and live in a city like Jakarta. I think that hearing from the volunteers about our careers and where we live, the children can really open up their horizons.”
Despite Louis’ initial anxiety, the children took to him so well that by the end of his sharing session, some of them declared they wanted to grow up and be just like him. Bolstered by this experience, Louis hopes to continue volunteering, and even contributing to other causes such as wildlife conservation.
“I used to take my knowledge for granted. Now, I see it as a skill set that required time to acquire—a price that another may not be able to afford, essential as it may be. If simply sharing my knowledge can help one child shape his or her life options, then I am happy to continue doing that,” declared Louis.