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Doing Well to Do Good


I should earn some money, so this foundation can carry on.

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By Ulisari Eslita

After stepping down as Industry and Trade Minister in 2001, retired general Luhut Binsar Panjaitan decided to become an entrepreneur by starting PT Toba Sejahtra, a diversified energy and agricultural company. Unlike many entrepreneurs motivated by passion and personal gain, Luhut’s main reason to start the company was to fund his philanthropy, the DEL Foundation (DEL), which standing for leading the people. “At that time, I was thinking about how to maintain DEL’s operation. I should earn some money, so this foundation can carry on,” says Luhut, a former ambassador to Singapore.

Luhut established DEL beside the tourist resort area of Lake Toba 11 years ago. In that peaceful environment, Luhut wanted to give educational opportunities for deserving students from his hometown of Tapanuli in north Sumatra. Besides the DEL Institute, Luhut together with his wife Devi Panjaitan also run the Noah Early Childhood Center, comprised of a kindergarten and elementary school, in east Jakarta and the DEL High School in Tapanuli.

Now, after a decade running his philanthropy activities under the DEL Foundation, Luhut will expand from education into agriculture and health. “We distribute tens billion rupiah of money for those activities,” says Luhut, who holds a masters in public administration from George Washington University. His philanthropic activities are expanding to areas outside Sumatra, such as Kalimantan and Java. Every year, DEL Foundation distributes scholarships to at least 300 students.

For his commitment, accountancy Ernst & Young gave him the social entrepreneur award for 2011 because of his commitment to community development. “Our vision is that Toba Sejahtra will not only be acting as a profit center but also helping the environment,” says Luhut, who is president commissioner of Toba. Luhut founded Toba Sejahtra in 2004 and the firm has three main businesses: natural resources (thermal coal, oil and gas), power plants and palm oil. (FI)

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