To celebrate her 50th birthday, the co-founder and chairwoman of inspirational education body CT ARSA Foundation has launched a book showcasing the natural wonders and cultural richness of Indonesia.

For Anita Chairul Tanjung, Pesona Indonesia (The Charm of Indonesia) is one of many achievements during an eventful career. The idea for the publication came about as Anita travelled around the country for her work with CT ARSA Foundation, a not-forprofit organisation that aims to break the chain of poverty through education and healthcare for disadvantaged Indonesians. “CT ARSA Foundation is planning to build schools in as many remote areas of Indonesia as possible. While doing the assessment for this project, I visited many places, and, from that journey, I realised how incredible Indonesia is,” Anita said during our interview at her house in Jakarta.

All that she experienced during the trip, from pristine natural environments to the amazing, unique cultures of the indigenous peoples she encountered, encouraged her to share what she saw and felt through her book.

One of her most memorable moments was meeting some of the native people of Wamena, in the highlands of Papua. Their lifestyle is a world away from modern 24/7 culture, instead focused on a peaceful existence in harmony with natural ecosystems, which impressed Anita greatly.

Anita also described how she had met many inspiring women during her travels. “The contribution of Indonesian women to this nation is amazing. They work, achieve and contribute to the family as well as to the country. I met women in Banjarmasin, Kalimantan, who got up at four in the morning to sell vegetables to make sure they have money to send their children to school,” Anita enthused.

And what are her expectations for Pesona Indonesia, released last month on her birthday, November 4. “I truly hope all the people who read this book will appreciate the marvellousness of Indonesia’s natural potential. Furthermore, I wish that this book can move its readers to love and promote Indonesian tourism,” she answered.

Anita spoke equally passionately when asked about her overriding focus on education. She wishes more Indonesians were able to access higher education, as it is one of the primary ways to break the cycle of poverty. “Educated people will be the agents of change. They will get good jobs, so they can change their lives, the lives of their families, and their surroundings for the better, and eventually they will also make this country better,” said Anita, who holds a master’s degree from the Faculty of Public Health Sciences at the University of Indonesia.

Anita’s foundation helps make this goal a reality by building schools, from pre-school to senior high school level, all over Indonesia. Moreover, it has two boarding high schools: one in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, and one in Sukoharjo, Central Java.

“A total of 95 per cent of students from our boarding high school in Deli Serdang were accepted to top Indonesian universities, including the University of Indonesia, Bandung Institute of Technology, Bogor Agricultural University and University of Brawijaya,” Anita said, eyes sparkling. She hopes the boarding school in Sukoharjo, which opened this year, will be just as successful.

In addition, the foundation runs a series of programmes, such as Healthy Car, which provides general health and dental services; Smart Car, which encourages a love of reading among Indonesian children; Iqro Car, which improves knowledge and understanding about Islam; Multimedia Car, which introduces children to new technologies; and Boutique ARSA, which works with craftspeople from all around Indonesia to support their welfare as well as to promote Indonesian-made products.

It is clear that CT ARSA has benefited society in a myriad of ways during its 13-year journey, and Anita is not going to stop any time soon. “My goal is to build as many schools as possible in every part of Indonesia; and not only to build, but also to be involved in every process until these kids can be the agents of change for our nation,” explained Anita, who is mother to 21-year-old Putri Tanjung and 15-year-old Putra Tanjung.

Anita, whose work was recognised with a Her Times Philanthropy Award at the 2017 Women Empowerment Awards in Singapore, points out that she hasn’t achieved all that she has alone. She credits the support of her family, including husband Chairul Tanjung, co-founder of the CT ARSA Foundation, as well as the hard work of volunteers from across the archipelago.

“I really appreciate the ARSA community all over Indonesia that helps us run the foundation, and who volunteer their time and efforts. They teach and motivate the children. They are amazing,” she said, adding that any readers who would like to volunteer can find out more by visiting the foundation’s website (

As someone who travels frequently with Garuda Indonesia, Anita applauds the airline. “Aside from the high quality of the aircraft, I love the friendly and helpful services from the cabin crew, as well as the delicious in-flight meals,” she said. “I didn’t think that I was going to make Indonesia proud with my career, but it does feel good to represent my country.”