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Creating an enduring impact

Indonesian philanthropist Veronica Colondam wants to leave behind a legacy of a sustainable social enterprise.

"There should be no more youth denied education, and there should be no more youth without jobs. All youth should be able to be financially independent and, most importantly, improve their family welfare." - Veronica Colondam, CEO and founder, YCAB Foundation

VERONICA Colondam is not afraid to set the bar high when it comes to her philanthropic endeavours. The CEO and founder of Indonesia's YCAB Foundation wants the organisation's programmes to reach no less than five million young people in Indonesia by 2020.

YCAB is the abbreviation for the organisation's full name in Indonesian - Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa - which translates to "Loving The Nation's Children Foundation".

In an interview with The Business Times, Ms Colondam said: "YCAB hopes to transform the world of the people at the bottom of the pyramid. There should be no more youth denied education, and there should be no more youth without jobs. All youth should be able to be financially independent and, most importantly, improve their family welfare.

"How we do this? We hope to reach this end goal by focusing on youth development in the areas of education and economic empowerment," added Ms Colondam, who was on a panel that discussed educational philanthropy at the Credit Suisse Philanthropists Forum 2016 held in Singapore last week.

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In terms of education, the foundation provides youth with the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge, as well as to continue and finish their high-school equivalent education. YCAB also helps its beneficiaries get employed or become entrepreneurs by providing them with the necessary skills and capital.

Six years ago, it launched an innovative microfinance programme that loaned money to mothers on the condition that they kept their kids in school. Many are reluctant to do so otherwise as their children are often a source of income for the household.

Ms Colondam explained: "If we force the kids to go to school, we take away their daily income. So we need to replace them as income earners by giving small loans to the mothers of the children. Education and economic empowerment have to go hand in hand."

Launched six years ago, the microfinance scheme has helped around 80,000 women. Ms Colondam hopes this figure will reach 250,000 families by 2020.

She established YCAB Foundation in 1999 in Indonesia due to her concern for the increasing number of teens engaging in risky behaviour and the millions of youth who were dropping out of school. Her work with YCAB has garnered her many accolades, including being named one of Forbes magazine's 10 Most Inspiring Women in 2014 and Globe Asia's Most Powerful Women in Indonesia in 2015.

Beyond helping Indonesian youth, she also aims to make her foundation an enterprise that can sustain itself financially.

"As an organisation, YCAB's future aim is to leave behind a legacy as a sustainable social enterprise, as well as maintain its position on the global map. YCAB will always be the first non-profit of Indonesian origin that continues to perpetually bring impact to the world," Ms Colondam said.

One of the foundation's biggest challenges in this regard is finding a way to grow its various business units such that it can cover the cost of all of its programmes. Currently, YCAB has five companies and one cooperative under its wing to help generate income to sustain its programmes.

She advised budding philanthropists out there to "not reinvent the wheel", but rather "build on something that is clearly working out there and increase their capacity to escalate and accelerate their work".

"If you want to change the world, identify with like-minded organisations or individuals with the same cause and collaborate with them. They will be able to offer you advice that you cannot get from starting from scratch - experience, failures, connections or funding," she said.

"I believe the problem of poverty can be solved only when all of us unite and work together. Only then can we be stronger and more effective in achieving our goal."