JAKARTA – When I was boy, I dreamed of becoming a doctor. I was born in Indonesia in the early 1950’s, a time when most families in my country lacked access to health care. As a result, thousands of children died each year from preventable diseases such as measles, polio, and malaria.
But revolutionary breakthroughs in medicine were starting to turn the tide on these killers, and Indonesia’s doctors were celebrated as heroes. I wanted to be a hero, too, so I studied hard and enrolled in medical school.
My plans changed, however, when my father got ill. He was a hard-working man who made pedicabs in Surabaya, and I left university when he could no longer manage the family business. Ultimately, I became a successful entrepreneur and established a bank that is now one of Southeast Asia’s largest financial institutions.
Looking back, I have no regrets. Indeed, I know that I have been incredibly blessed. Millions of children in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Western Pacific are forced into extreme poverty when a parent gets sick or dies. And millions more suffer from diseases that prevent them from leading a healthy and productive life.