Youth Advocate Jaya Setiawan Gulo: the Faces of Children and Their Hopes Are Driving Force

The tale of the young Jaya Setiawan Gulo, now 28, starts in a left-behind village somewhere in the province of North Sumatra, after he broke his left arm. While he was on the road to recovery, he had the heartbreaking experience of witnessing the harsh realities that face the people in the rural areas of Indonesia who dedicate their lives to giving their kids the opportunity to finish school. It was then that he realized he would one day found a social enterprise organization focused on education. And so it has been. Back then, he was just a tiny kid with poor grades who was climbing coconut trees. Today, he works at the Indonesian Ministry of Finance and has made his dream come true.  Together with nine other young people who are dedicated to fighting for education, he founded a youth-led organization called The School Projects that is changing the shape of the education system in rural Indonesia. Gulo and his cohort have reached more than 1400 children so farby mentoring and motivating them while providing school supplies to support their learning process. This is Gulo’s story.

Meet Youth Advocate Jaya Setiawan Gulo, the Youth Advocate


Dear Jaya Setiawan Gulo, please update us on what project are you working on at the moment, apart from your regular job as an advocate in the Indonesian Ministry of Finance?

The School Projects group are currently working on several different projects: Inclusive Kindergarten is one of them – we provide an inclusive, fully-funded kindergarten for children in need in Pematang Siantar. We are trying to increase the number of our students by next year.

We also have 10 children in foster care. We mentor them regularly and support them with scholarships at the beginning of each semester. We are trying to reach more people who can become child sponsors for this project.

We also hold the #CEO4Youth (Computer, English, and Opportunities for Youth) sessions, which are inclusive training programs designed for youth, unemployed youth, and youth in need of skills to become sufficiently competent and confident to enter the job market and get a decent job.

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A team of nine young people gathered around, and this was how The School Projects was born. Describe to us the first steps of this business, who helped you the most in the beginning, and let’s mention your colleagues. How much time do you dedicate to this job on a monthly basis, having in mind that you have a regular job?

We began by researching the crucial problems for children in the very rural areas in Indonesia. The children coming to school without school uniforms and school supplies became our concern and a priority for our project. The kids are motivated to study but lack resources for the learning process.

Hence, we decided to provide school supplies and mentor them in order to motivate them to study harder and commit to achieving their future goals. We also issued an open invitation to potential sponsors and started an online crowdfunding.

My beloved colleagues in The School Projects are Isabeau Malan, Amanda Fletcher, Anis Reza, Arya Nugroho, Bunga Yuniasari, Ema Latersia, Fahmi Maulana, Hary Irawan, and Nur Iman. They are the education fighters!

Every week, I dedicate approximately 20 hours to this project. I spend weekends meeting up and/or discussing issues online with my team or partners. During the work week, the before-dawn hours and night time would be the best time for me to execute The School Projects. 

Physically, doing the projects at home can be tiring, especially after office hours. However, remembering the faces and future hopes of the children and helping them truly drives me to stay motivated. Time management is essential in our daily lives.

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What is the number of schools you have reached so far and succeeded in helping? Tell us more about the programs your team is using to help these kids.

We have reached 14 schools with over 1.400 children as of July 2018. One of our programs –  Education Cannot Wait – empowers children by mentoring and motivating them while providing school supplies and reading textbooks in order to support their learning process and improve their literacy.

To maintain the sustainability of the program, we visit the school six months after the initial action, and we keep up by communicating with the principal and teachers of each school.


After receiving a scholarship from the US Department of State to study towards a Project Management certificate at Edmonds Community College under the Northwest Community College Initiative consortium, you spent a year in the USA. What was the most valuable life-changing experience during that time and what was the lesson you learned?

The most valuable life-changing experience during my exchange program in the USA was volunteering for the community for over 150 hours in 10 months. Every time I volunteered, my social soul for helping others was growing bigger.

I met new people, listened to their stories, and became friends with many of them. The lesson I learned was that this world would be a better place if we helped each other by sacrificing a bit of our time, energy, mind, and money.

By volunteering, I learned and took to heart many valuable lessons that I might not have gotten from books. The plus was that I visited many places in the USA for free!

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One of the first people to help you learn about the business of non-profit organizations was Om Karl Clauset.  What did those first steps look like?

Om (uncle) Karl Clauset was my American-Indonesian family host while I was staying in the US.

He connected me with an NGO based in Seattle called Cerdas Foundation. There I met with the director and the team of this foundation, who, later on, helped me in learning more about the non-profit enterprise and their business.

I saw their presentation and I was warmly welcomed. I felt energized to learn fast about this topic. Thank you, Om Karl!

Jaya Setiawan Gulo (on the left)

Tell us more about the program and the goals of The Education Cannot Wait project?

The Education Cannot Wait project is an inclusive, sustainable education initiative that combines skill, passion, and attitude by engaging students and the school neighborhood to support each other, learn together, and contribute in all aspects of the life of the school.

Our programs are carrying out training for the teachers and counseling for the students’ parents, organizing activities for students such as drawing, story-telling, inviting professionals to motivate the students and distributing 1,100 school supplies.

The goal of the Education Cannot Wait project is to inspire students to keep going to school and study harder and to make more parents understand the importance of education.

That way they will be more conscious of the fact that their children will be able to contribute to the family budget by getting a better job in the future. We wish to convince more people in the community to prioritize education for their children.

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What does the educational system in Indonesia lack the most, do you cooperate with them, and how?

The educational system in Indonesia does not have the traditional pedagogy where the students generally read the book, re-write the content of the book in their notebook, and read it out loud.

They should not re-write their content as it merely wastes studying time in the classroom.

Our team deals with such conditions by providing drawing books, toolkits such as pictures and equipment, and mini-games to mobilize the students to participate actively and become engaged.

The students are literally enthusiastic and courageous in joining our activities.


You even participate in a family planning program in your region. What inspired you to deal with this matter?

Ever since I was nine, I have seen young women in our community pass away because they were too young and too weak to give birth. In our community, many families are unable to have their children attend school simultaneously because of the school fees and the expense of the supplies.

After school, the children leave and work with their parents. Constantly seeing this around me makes me want to help these people.

However, many high school graduates in our community will get married, and have children less than one year apart.

This is a big challenge, and the family members need improved knowledge before they can take the lead in family planning. Together with my mother, a midwife, we are trying to educate them about family planning and education.

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Where would you like to be in a decade regarding your career and achievements?

Professionally, I would like to be an innovator, change maker, and public policy analyst in the Indonesia Ministry of Finance.

For The School Projects, I believe we can be a trusted youth-led foundation that will reach one million beneficiaries in a decade.

Photo credits: Hary Irawan, Ma’ruf Gustomo, Agim Gulo

More about Jaya Setiawan Gulo read here.

Read more about youth advocate here.

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