Interview with Sandra Sahusilawani, Global Philanthropy Advisor at SOS Children’s Villages
- 5 min read
“I used to work with people who wanted to use their luck to make more money, now I work with people who want to spend their money to improve other people’s luck.”
"I loved the time I spent at Hotelschool The Hague. My most memorable moments include; the boarding school, the first semester (the Havik during my time), the hours in the kitchen, the food fights in the canteen, internships abroad, basically the student life in general. There are simply too many memorable moments. I really enjoyed the practical courses; the mix of practicality and theory. I remember a few lecturers such as Mr Schoenmaker, because of his 'Joie Vivre' and Mrs Lin with her American insights.
After graduating from the Hotel School, I started a traineeship at a large Dutch Bank. I worked as a Corporate Account Manager and later switched to Financial Personal Planning. I have held several management positions at companies who were into financial services. I worked in the financial sector for 15 years.
After those 15 years, I reached a point in my career where I felt that I had neglected my social responsibility. So first I tried to find ways to volunteer and help others. SOS Childen’s Villages needed someone who was used to talking to others about money, and who liked to work with people. I used to work with people who wanted to use their luck to make more money, now I work with people who want to spend their money to improve other people’s luck. That is a different position to work with and to actually see what that money does is rather fulfilling.
This year I moved to SOS Childen’s Villages International, which is headquartered in Austria, but I am based in Amsterdam. As a Global Philanthropy Advisor I acquire and engage with global major donors and support other SOS offices to increase the income of leadership giving sources. What we do is all based on general children’s-rights: they need to have a family, they need to have a home, they need to have good health care, and they need to have an education. We take these things into consideration and we see what is missing in their situation and how we can support a family in any way.
In the past, a company would raise money or have social budgets to spend on projects. That was great and it was very simple. Now companies don’t only want to give money, they also want to have employee engagement so that they can improve their HR policies. As more young people are aware and willing to take part in social projects, I challenge big hotel chains not only to give through their donations, but also to try and find ways to help children and youth in upcoming and developing countries.
The non-profit sector in the Netherlands is relatively small. It’s not easy to get into the non-profit sector if you want to. I always advise people to show through their actions how much they are worth to these NGOs. I tell them to take up a project, do some voluntary work, show them how much you are capable of, and that you are willing to help others.
I would say that Hotelschool The Hague students in general are very result oriented. I think they should often ask themselves, “With my career, will I impact lives in some way?” In the end, you want to be proud of what you achieved and not only of the monetary value it provided. Climbing up the corporate ladder is great, it’s definitely a great ride. But make sure you stay close to who you are. Take a step back and make sure you know where you are going. Ask yourself: is this going to fulfil my dreams?
One thing that I learned from the Hotelschool, which is something I find very important, is to be able to relate to all kinds of people. In my job I talk to a lot of influential people but, at the same time, I also talk to SOS staff in the field. Making the connection between different levels and showing that they are all part of the overall mission is something you learn at the Hotelschool.
I still keep in close contact with alumni from the Hotelschool. Most of my best friends are alumni. Two alumni work at SOS Children’s Villages as well. I work with them, spend my free time with them and their families, and I still travel with them.
Looking at the future, my first priority is to educate my daughter to be happy. I will continue working for SOS Children’s Villages in the foreseeable future, raising money to support more children. We can end poverty in the world in this generation, and I look forward to contributing to this mission.