Chris Peterson’s language skills in Bahasa could use some work, he admits. That doesn’t stop him from telling a good story, though.
At an event in May at an elementary school in Sambungrejo, Tuban, East Java, Indonesia, Peterson gave a motivational speech to the students encouraging them to chase their dreams. He connected with the students in a way that was both humorous and inspiring.
“I wanted to get them to enjoy what I had to say,” said Peterson, country lead – Indonesia. “I thought they’d be more likely to understand the message that way. If I tripped over my words a bit, all the better. That’s why I have a translator.”
The motivational speech that day was part of a larger effort by the Monsanto Indonesia team to help the mostly resource-poor local farmers and their communities. The work included donating textbooks and other books to the elementary school’s nearly empty library, joining with Habitat for Humanity to build 20 houses for local families, and a $133,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund to help provide for a system to collect and store clean water, both for drinking and for planting.
“This brings us a sense of pride to be involved in this project,” said Krishnu Senjaya, public affairs manager – Indonesia. “To see how we can help them by our own hand, as well as how our work at the office can be felt by people in need – it feels good. We turn vision into reality.”
The goal is to help solve a series of problems plaguing the region.
“When we came to survey the region the first time, the conditions here were pretty bad,” Peterson said. “They have so many needs in the area; we just try to help as best we can.”
Along with the 20 houses, the Monsanto Indonesia team and Habitat for Humanity partnered to build wells to provide clean drinking water to more than 1,700 people in the region. The groups also built water pounds – swimming pool-sized containers – to safely store the water. Already under construction, the goal is to have seven wells and multiple water pounds finished by the end of the year.
“We were worried that in the dry season, the wells we built might run dry,” Peterson said. “But with the water pound, the residents can store water and have it available even during the dry season. In the past, they didn’t have the ability to store water, so even when they had water, they couldn’t save it.”
Reaching out to the children of the region was also important, and Peterson’s speech was well received.
“He did a good job being funny, and reaching the children in a way they should remember,” Senjaya said. “He told the children to dream beyond their village, and once they achieve those dreams to come back and build up the village.”
The philanthropy, with the support of the Monsanto Fund, is all part of the Monsanto Indonesia team’s goal of supporting the region.
“We want to help the people here, especially the farmers, with water and proper housing,” Peterson said. “We feel that doing so will improve farmers’ lives and make a positive impact in the community.
“It all comes back to Monsanto’s goal of improving lives. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”