Interviews

Impact In Numbers

Key Insights

Impact Interview is our initiative where we explore the stories of changemakers and the initiatives they have developed to support sustainable development in Indonesia. This time, we spoke with Wenda Gumulya (Bu Wenda), Co-Founder and Board Chair at Hoshizora Foundation.

Can you tell us more about what Hoshizora Foundation does and what the problem that your organization is tackling?

So Hoshizora Foundation is a non-profit focusing on providing education aids for children in Indonesia. Our NGO is quite unique because at the moment we’re focusing on what we call the ecosystem concept to provide education aids.
We began offering scholarships when I was a student in Japan, along with some friends. We were donating approximately 1,000 yen (around $10) each month to help send several children in Indonesia to school. Our primary focus at the time was on supporting local street children whom we knew were unable to attend school.
We donated in the first, second, and third months, observing how effectively this helped the children attend school. As we shared our initiative with others, it expanded from supporting 5 children to 10, then 50, 100, and now thousands of kids are able to go to school through a similar scholarship program.
In our journey spanning over a decade, we’ve realized that a scholarship alone may not suffice to ensure a child completes their education and becomes a contributing member of society. Along the way, we discovered the necessity of an ecosystem to support each child comprehensively. That’s why we provide assistance to teachers, schools, parents, and the community.

Supporting a child's education is just not about providing scholarship alone How have you suppported their learning ecosystem, i.e the teachers and the parents as well? How has that impacted the students who actually benefit from your scholarship?

So the scholarship program itself actually comprises two components. The first one is giving financial support for the students to go to school. In many areas in Indonesia, the basic education usually is free. 
However, there are actually surrounding fees like buying books, uniforms or if they live in remote areas, they need to have the transport fee to go to school, and you can imagine in an archipelago like Indonesia from one little island to another island it’s so expensive.
These scholarships actually help the students to fulfill all these needs to enable them to go to school.
We also provide capacity building as part of our ecosystem. This includes offering training and social skills development programs, discussing their aspirations, and helping them understand their future opportunities. Additionally, we ensure proper monitoring of how the scholarship money and educational aid are used. We want to ensure there is no misuse of the donation funds, and it’s crucial to have an external party to assess their motivations and monitor their school activities.
That’s where we start involving the teachers. We have hundreds of teachers across Indonesia, known as koordinator wilayah or area coordinators. These local teachers volunteer to oversee several children, ensuring their well-being. We also engage with the children’s guardians, whether they are parents, grandparents, or other caregivers.
This is essential because education extends beyond school and into the home. Often, the decision-makers regarding a child’s education are the parents, whose opinions are crucial, particularly in decisions about high school or higher education, especially for girls.
Therefore, we hold parent meetings and seminars to discuss educational programs and emphasize the importance of education. These three components—teachers, guardians, and students—are closely interconnected.
Additionally, we engage extensively with schools, including local teachers and some headmasters, who assist us in implementing these programs.

There are also the typical trade-off of pursuing education for working, particularly in rural areas. How do you convince those beneficiaries to actually pursue education as opposed to looking in the short term of getting that job?

At the beginning, I’ll be very honest, it wasn’t easy. People in rural areas often believe that even if their child finishes high school, their job prospects will remain the same—working in the fields, becoming a fisherman, or selling vegetables in the market. This was their initial mindset.
However, we began to show them real success stories from their own communities—people from their village, nearby villages, or even their island. Over the past 10 years with Hoshizora, we’ve had students who completed school and even university.
We brought these graduates back to their communities to demonstrate to parents that these kids went through the program and now have successful careers, whether working well, starting businesses, or becoming medical professionals who contribute to the village.
This is the change we want to see. We have to show parents that it’s possible. They need to dream big, but we also need to provide concrete examples and practical steps to achieve those dreams.

To this day, can you tell us how many students you supported, how many teachers and schools you're involved with currently?

There are more than 3,000 students, ranging from elementary school until the university level. Then we have more than 1300+ alumni, alumni means people who had our scholarship and they already graduated now. We have nearly 200 local area coordinators, teachers that actually work with us.
We cover around 26 provinces all over Indonesia as well – we have many kids coming from the tip of Sumatra in Aceh until Papua, until Borneo, in East Nusa Tenggara,in Halmahera so it’s all over Indonesia at the moment.
We support children based more on their needs and potential. When I say needs based, it means that we would like to actually help those who are underprivileged and really need the help to progress their education. We also want to see the potential of the students as well -that’s why when we wanna give scholarships we do have a process to actually select our scholarship recipients.
The other thing that we’ve seen as well, is we want to make sure we have confidence that the scholarship program can work. That’s why before we go to a village or an area we usually have assessment of students as well as the areas and whether we have the support and the local area teachers, we usually want to make sure at least we have someone connected to that particular scholarship recipient so that that monitoring is actually happening as well.

Talk to us more about your flagship program, the Kakak and Adik Bintang.

The Kakak Bintang and Adik Bintang actually was born when we were in universities.
At that time the kids that we helped were very like elementary school kids and high school kids. But we were also kids ourselves – we were like teenagers and like students at that time So we started with that word Kakak and Adik Bintang because we think we’re a little bit older than the kids at the time so we call ourselves Kakak. Kakak in Indonesian means older sibling and then we call the kids that we help Adik, that Adik means like younger siblings.
We like the idea of kakak and adik because it has this familiarity between the older siblings and the younger siblings, that the older siblings actually become the role model and then help the younger siblings, which in our country Indonesia is a very common culture to have that familiarity inside the family.
We want the scholarship program to not only just give financial support but also the guidance. with these childrens, I still remember we write letters to the kids in Indonesia. We actually call them, we send them like books and school bags, pencil cases and then actually motivational support.
It still continues until today. 10+ years after, our flagship program is still Kakak Bintang and Adik Bintang – we want to actually preserve that spirit of the mentorships from someone who’s more experienced to someone who is actually pursuing their journey.
We still have the program for Kakak Bintang to write letters to their Adik Bintang Hoshizora. By the way, that scholarship program that we have, is now also digitized, so we have a very personalized portal for the donor to actually see the letters and the pictures from the Adik Bintang. We do this because we want Kakak Bintang to actually feel that they’re close enough but at the same time still protecting the privacy of the kids that we actually help.
So far,we’ve been receiving a lot of support from Kakak Bintang saying oh, I really feel I’m part of my Adik Bintang journey. We also invited the Kakak Bintang to the graduation of the Adik Bintang.

The world around us is changing so fast, we have new things like AI and digital literacy and how do you adjust this program so that people that are receiving your scholarship can also not fall behind me in these trends?

When we actually do our capacity building, they’re packaged like extracurricular activities. We do have specialists in the team who’s actually building and developing the curriculum which is then tied with impact assessment. We look to refresh that every certain period.
What we thought was relevant 10 years back, might not be able to be implemented today and that’s why that curriculum refresh is actually very important.
We know that we cannot do it ourselves right because we have to focus on our core activities and at the same time, also to look after many of our scholarship recipients. So we also have partners and these partners help us to deliver training and capacity building programs. We pick and choose the ones that actually align with our values and the ones that actually we really need based on the core curriculum So again, the word ecosystem and partnership is very important.

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and it takes the whole world and the whole country to actually educate the children in the country and we believe in that

I noticed that you keep mentioning the word impact assessment. What is the impact assessment process for Hoshizora? What do you measure yourself against and what methodologies and frameworks do you use when trying to assess that impact?

There are, on a high level, two ways to do it the way we do it in Hoshizora.
The first one is to actually see the outcome first – the easiest way is actually to have a survey, you have a pre-activity survey and post-activity survey to actually see the outcome. We also have interviews and focus groups to see how we are doing That’s the short term thing that is quite achievable for us and I’m pretty sure many NGOs are doing it as well.
In addition to that outcome measurement, we do have this impact measurement.
Here’s an example -our scholarship program is actually helping kids or students since they were in elementary school, until they finish high school and if they’re actually good enough obviously until they finish university. So it’s a long journey so we would like to actually see the impact of our program, the scholarships and the capacity building and the impact of this ecosystem support around them.
So it’s starting with are there any behavior changes? What about the dropout rates?
So we actually do continuous impact assessment through data – usually through surveys, through interviews and then we have parameters to measure against. These parameters are not just something we change every now and then.
Our long-term aspiration is actually to have these young adults actually possessing positive traits like, resilience for example. They’re actually having aspirations, they have these, willingness to actually contribute back to the community. So all these aspirations, all these traits we map it into our curriculum and then we have certain parameters on how to measure the behaviors and the result in the outcome which will then actually show you that in one year, this is the impact in three years, this is the impact in five years so it’s a very long term process.
In the process we use all this theory of change, the social return of investment and making sure we actually claim the impact that we make, we don’t overclaim it. We don’t want to have any social impact washing in it.
It’s a lot of effort in it and I’m not alone – obviously I’m very lucky throughout this couple of years I have past and current Hoshizora staff who have been actually building this system properly.

Other than the team, what do you attribute the success of Hoshizora to be able to grow to the scale that it's able to support so many childrens across Indonesia today?

It’s a lot of effort in it and I’m not alone – obviously I’m very lucky throughout this couple of years I have past and current Hoshizora staff who have been actually building this system properly.
I guess there are a couple of things that help us stick together. Number one, I’m very proud of my co-founders that we stick together until today.
We’ve been friends for many many years you can imagine We were actually students in Japan having lunch in our beautiful cafeterias and then we actually put money on the table.
We said we want to do it, we stick together until today even though we live in different countries now.
It’s amazing that the same spirit, the spirit to give back is there and that spirit of giving back is always the one that we tell to people who are partnering with us, who are actually now helping Hoshizora.
Number two obviously as we scale up , again, the ecosystem concept is very important. We cannot do it alone, the co founders , it’s like we’re barely five people. We do it up to this level but when we want to scale up and make it bigger we need more people and we need more network we have to build ecosystem and that’s where that ecosystem concept that we’ve been actually implementing have been really helping us in doing that.
Number three is basically adaptability and agility. We really felt these things in many different ways. So the first one was when the tsunami happened in 2011 in Japan. At the time Hoshizora was at its early stage, we had a lot of donors who couldn’t support us anymore from Japan because of the tsunami.
Of course, we have to have that empathy as well in Japan because it was a devastating situation for them at the time – so we had to actually think about what’s next for our kids in Indonesia. Then the second one was during COVID. it was not easy at all for us for angle Be it from an operational perspective, or even supporting the kids in remote areas. If you’ve been to remote areas, where there’s no internet or electricity – some kids went to school for three months. That part was really hard to make sure the kids were staying in school and not just getting married at the age of 14 and 15.
But that adaptability, agility, I remember our team said oh maybe we should do education this way,we should actually localize education. The way we teach mathematics should actually be very local, not just using a textbook for everything. I’ve seen my team really work hard to overcome these challenges.

Do you have any recollection of like your most memorable experiences during your time in Hoshizora Foundation and how those kids are today from where they were when you supported them?

So many of them actually. I have to be honest right, out of these thousands of students, not all of them went to university. But then, the way we measure success in life is not always by having a master’s degree or having a PhD or even working for a very fancy company.
Success comes in many different forms right and going back to the basic in Hoshizora we believe in the core values, in the good traits of facilitating the growth of the students so that when they come out from school or university, they actually possess these values.
From this perspective, I’ve seen many inspiring stories and examples. Students complete their education and return to give back. For instance, one student became a veterinarian to help animals in their village, saying, “We don’t have a vet in my village. When cows and chickens get sick, it’s very hard, and it’s devastating to see the farmers struggle.” Others pursued business degrees and returned, saying, “I want to be a donor myself,” and also expressed a desire to mentor children in rural areas.
We also have several women, who were scholarship recipients, say, “I’ve seen how Hoshizora works. I want to help more people. I want to join.” It’s amazing to see them now collaborating with partners. One of them even works in our education division, showing great empathy for the children because she’s been in their shoes.
I’ve seen many cases like these, and I’m very thankful for them. I don’t recall anyone who doesn’t want to give back and be a role model. I believe that is the true success story.

If people want to support your organization, what kind of support do you need?

There are many ways to do it, our flagship programs Kakak Bintang and Adik Bintang are still there so people still donate $10 a month to send one kid to elementary school.
Obviously when the child goes to high school, the amount is a little bit higher so people can be individual donors like that. Some people can donation ad-hoc, they do maybe once a year, twice a year, three times a year and there’s no minimum donation.
Some corporates actually donate in in the format of scholarship as well as programs. Some corporates also donate in the format of goods In the past the World Bank and the foreign minister of Indonesia, they donate like PCs, tablets and laptops.

That $10 donation which is roughly 100,000 rupiah today. How does that 100,000 rupiah translate to what is put into the program and so on?

For that 100,000 rupiah (which is for elementary school), the concept is to ensure 100% of the benefit goes directly to the children.
What does this mean? At least 80% of the funds are used to support their education, whether it’s for books, transportation to school, or other necessities. We include this in our curriculum to teach the children financial responsibility. For younger children, we ask parents to manage the expenses. As they grow older, we require the children to log their expenses and keep receipts to ensure the money is used for educational purposes.
The remaining 20% is allocated to capacity-building programs. We have a curriculum that provides training, whether virtually or on-site.

If people want to learn more about Hoshizora and support the organization, where can they find you?

Learn more about Hoshizora by clicking their social links below
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