“Indonesia is probably the only country in Asia where regulation of tobacco products is still poor,” laments Mia Hanafiah. “Here, cigarettes are so cheap that anyone can afford them. We see young children aged 10 to 15, even toddlers, who have started smoking. It’s very sad to see that.”

Mia wants to prevent young people from becoming smokers not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because she is Vice President of the Indonesia Heart Foundation (Yayasan Jantung Indonesia). A leading member since it began its work 35 years ago, she is proud that the foundation continues to find innovative ways to undertake its mission.

For example, to reach more young people the foundation has set up a hardworking social media team. The team is active on Facebook and Twitter. The foundation also has its own YouTube page, packed with educational, entertaining and inspiring videos. In addition, the foundation works with an array of popular young celebrities as part of its efforts to warn millennials of the risks of heart disease occurring later in life and how to stay healthy.

“To reach a younger crowd, we have a social media team that spreads the message about the dangers of heart disease and how to prevent it,” says Mia. “We are very active with our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube). On YouTube, we have posted a lot of videos about our activities, and we share some of the latest dance moves for exercising. We want to show young people that living healthy can be fun, not boring.

“Moreover, we have asked several celebrities and socialites to be become our ‘brand ambassadors’.” The foundation’s supporters include presenter Susan Bachtiar, musician Mesty Ariotedjo, actors Maudy Koesnaedi and Marcellino Lefrandt, and the 2009 Miss Universe Indonesia Zivanna Letisha Siregar. “These are role models for the youth thanks to the healthy lifestyles they promote,” Mia explains. “Their voices are listened to, and they influence many in a positive way.”

Says Lefrandt: “I agreed to help the foundation four years ago. I believe they approached me because my behaviour, attitude and lifestyle are similar to the foundation’s vision. I have lived a healthy life since I was little. I have never smoked a cigarette and I don’t drink alcohol. I also have a strict eating habit, I mostly eat healthy food. I love to work out. So joining the foundation was a good choice, because I want to spread the positive message about living a healthy  lifestyle to the rest of society.”

Adds Zivanna, who has worked on projects with the foundation since 2010: “The yayasan is now focusing more on youth because a rise of in the number of deaths among young people caused by heart disease. This role is very suitable with my daily activities. I don’t smoke and I exercise routinely. I tell young people that they can achieve anything in their lives, so don’t lose any chances just because you live an unhealthy life!”

Mia adds: “As part of our 35th anniversary celebrations, we held a blog competition that attracted hundreds of participants. It was a way to inspire younger audiences so that they could influence their peers with their personal stories to live a vigorous life. The winner, Emmanuella Christanti, wrote about how more and more young people are having heart attacks. It’s an alarming trend. It used to be people in their 50s and 60s who were having heart problems. Now it’s people in their 30s and 40s. Emmanuella’s essay is a beautifully written piece, and an eye-opener.” Panasonic and Bank BTPN supported the blog competition.

Yayasan Jantung Indonesia has also established the Youth Heart Club (Klub Jantung Remaja). “This is opening branches all over Indonesia,” says Mia. “We know we need to have a different approach when speaking to teens. They are the gadget generation, they spend most of their time with gadgets. There is a temptation to avoid, exercising and they probably learn to start smoking at this age. That’s what has me worried. The club is a good opportunity to introduce the young generation to the idea of a healthy lifestyle before they fall into bad habits.

“The club has a lot of fun activities for teens. We have workout routines that use hip music and modern moves so they won’t get bored. They also learn about leadership skill and social trainings in the club. Our healthy heart clubs for teenagers are also very active to promote healthy lifestyle from school to school. We want to embrace as much teens as we can, because they are the key to our future.”

Mia has been with the foundation since the very beginning, in 1981. In fact, she worked with the foundation that preceded it, Yayasan Jantung Dewi Sartika, from 1978. Yayasan Jantung Indonesia celebrated its 35th anniversary last November. Mia was the foundation’s second Chairwoman, from 1987 to 1998. It was her husband, Prof Dr Asikin Hanafiah, a distinguished cardiologist, who originally urged her to join the foundation.

“As time went on, I fell deeply in love with the work I was doing,” says Mia. “I realised this was something I could do to make a little bit of difference in the world, especially for children and families in need. When I saw children with inborn heart defects, that’s was when my conscience told me this was my call to help them. Their heart valves are damaged because of the disease, and it makes them look very pale and full of sorrow. It’s very heartbreaking to see that.

“After we helped and they recovered from the disease, they became a normal kid again and achieved their dreams, some of them got the highest ranks in school while some has grown up and got a good job. They’re living their life to the fullest, even if their born imperfect to the world. For some, this is impossible, but it is not. We believe that every child should be able to live up to his or her potential and we work very hard so that they can get the treatment they need. This gives me personal satisfaction, because I get to experience their life-changing moment here. It makes my spirit and passion fired up as a volunteer.”

Mia served as Vice President and Asia Pacific Representative on the board of the World Heart Federation from 2004 to 2006. This grandmother of seven also runs the day-to-day operations of the National Commission on Tobacco Control, which was founded by the Indonesia Heart Foundation and Cancer Foundation. It’s clear that Mia has dedicated her life to helping others.

“It’s challenging work to assist people to live a healthy lifestyle,” smiles Mia when asked about the resistance and setbacks she and her colleagues sometimes encounter. “But heart disease has become the first cause of death in the nation. We can’t just sit back and do nothing. We need to fight before it’s taken so many lives. We also can’t fight it alone without the government’s help. We’ve got to convince the decision maker in our country to stand for health issues.

“And it is all connected, because tobacco is one of the biggest trigger for heart disease. If we lack regulation of it, we failed as a nation. As the country’s heart foundation, we advocate our voice to the government through reports. There are over 200,000 death caused by smoking cigarettes in Indonesia every year. The number could easily rise if we don’t have strong tobacco regulation here. We see that when there’s a plane crash happened in our country, the impact and the regulation will be so strong afterwards. Why don’t we do that as well for the tobacco issues here?”

Besides helping the underprivileged families who seek treatments and heart operations, the foundation also promotes information about heart disease and healthy heart. “We know that heart operations and the aftercare are very expensive. So, it’s better to prevent than to cure. We need to educate people to have a healthy lifestyle so that they can’t get heart disease. It’s a preventable disease, after all. Why not counter it before it’s too late? Of course, we know that it’s not that easy to change a bad habit. But, through the right campaign, we determined to influence society to live a healthy lifestyle. What are the highlights of the heart foundation’s history, according to Mia?

“For 35 years, we have been a pioneer of living a healthy lifestyle and also  a source of light for those in need,” she says. “We have helped provide over 2,000 heart operations and we have established healthy heart clubs all over Indonesia. Through the clubs, we educate people about how to live a healthy life. Our role is important, to spread awareness of heart disease prevention. Now we hope that the young generation will take part in our mission, which is to free our nation from heart disease. The old generation, like me, believes that this mission will not be accomplished without a regeneration.”

Her charity work has been Mia’s life. What drives her to make such sacrifices? “I can’t imagine doing other things. It’s my life call,” she replies with a smile. “I have a huge passion to do it. The satisfaction I get is priceless. When you give your time and effort for others you in turn feel fulfilled, and that’s an amazing feeling.”