05 Sep 2018
Cendranata Wibawa Ongkowijoyo: Creating an impact through volunteering
With his background in dentistry, Cendranata Wibawa Ongkowijoyo, or Cendra, has high hopes to broaden his service and impact on society locally and globally. Currently studying a Master of Dental Public and Primary Health at The University of Western Australia under an Australia Awards Scholarship, Cendra recently won the 2018 Western Australia International Student of the Year award.
Volunteering isn’t something new to Cendra—back home in Indonesia, he volunteered at a church social clinic and the Tzu Chi Foundation, providing free dental treatment for the underprivileged. When Cendra arrived in Australia, he sought the same opportunities.
“I proactively immersed myself in the dental professional association in Western Australia.” It was through the Australian Dental Association magazine that he found out about the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA). As his dental license from Indonesia is not acknowledged in Australia, Cendra serves as a junior dental assistant instead, providing free dental treatment for the poor and refugees, just as he did in Indonesia.
Since the beginning of his studies, Cendra has volunteered his time to the Association of Indonesian Postgraduate Students and Scholars in Australia UWA chapter as President. He is also involved with the Australia Indonesia Youth Association as an executive committee member.
Cendra has also volunteered as a mentor through the UniMentor program at The University of Western Australia and has been involved in restoring native plants for the habitat of cross equatorial migrating birds through the Swan Estuary Reserve Action Group (SERAG). Cendra learned the importance of this work through his team leader at SERAG, “It gave me the insight that our impact on society is actually bigger than what we assume.”
“I feel honoured and happy to receive the award,” Cendra says. The humble 29-year-old from Surabaya is quick to add, “What shapes me today and brings me to the award is the accumulation of the interaction I experienced with so many people and organisations, so I wish to thank them all for being a part of this journey.”
"We have different physical features, different habits, cultures, yet we have many things in common and most of the time we try to connect with each other by seeking a commonality. These experiences gave me the insight that despite all of the differences, most people naturally want to connect with each other and to embrace the differences and celebrate the commonality.”
“The diversity of the organisations and the people allowed me to listen to these people’s stories and philosophies, and to learn new ideas. It eventually changed the way I connect with people in a way that it is profound and meaningful.”
“By working with different people in different organisations, listening to their motivation, and understanding issues in a broader sense I’m able to see the society in a new way… I realise that a caring and responsible member of a society will help to make better changes and have a greater impact in life.”
When asked if he has tips for fellow students, he said, “Think of how to extend the impact of what you do instead of giving only yourself an experience of satisfaction and think of how your choice of activities can benefit your career in the future.”