Wanda Ponika believes that everything we have in this world is entrusted to us by God. She tells Prestige that she sees herself as His extended hands in bringing blessings to others. “It was a calling,” says Wanda Ponika when asked why she’s busy with so many charitable and social projects. She has a demanding schedule as principal of Wanda House of Jewels, and on top of that there are her responsibilities as a wife and mother of three.
“I think everything just happens, and there’s an inexplicable happiness that you feel when you’re giving back,” Wanda explains. “No matter how big or small a project may be, it can take up much of your time, energy, skills, everything. It’s just a matter of whether you want to commit to it or not.” Even during the pandemic, when so many people’s activities are restricted to home life, Wanda continues to work actively on charitable projects. “These days,” she points out “the channels for spreading kindness are wide open, thanks to the new communications technology and social media. Previously, we had to present our projects in front of live audiences. But today, we can present through webinars, streaming services like IG Live and many more digital media. I know it doesn’t have the same feeling as talking to people in a room, but social media can actually reach more people and create more impact.
“Because in these uncertain times, it’s all about mindset. How do we take care of our mental health at this time? That’s why I think it’s important to keep ourselves busy. For instance, I love to create mentoring videos for those who have just lost their jobs. Perhaps they want to start a new small business through IGTV (Instagram TV). I’m doing information sharing sessions, giving people my knowledge and point of view as a professional turned entrepreneur. Doing all of this work feels great, especially when I see young people coming to learn and mothers who want to create their own businesses. I’m happy that I’m able to utilise social media to bring something meaningful to others’ lives and give them a better sense of wellbeing.”
Wanda has been doing charity work for more than a decade. “I started with Yayasan Jantung Indonesia (YJI), the heart disease foundation, supporting several of their campaigns. Through Wanda House of Jewels, I launched a CSR (corporate social responsibility) programme to help kids who had been born with congenital heart diseases. For example, I designed a special necklace. The proceeds from this project go to the foundation we collaborate with. Clients buy the necklaces in my boutique, but their payments go straight to the foundation.”
Wanda is particularly interested in assisting cancer foundations because her own husband happens to be a cancer survivor. Together with their children Brandon, Brenda and Bella, she says, they’ve been able to create something impactful as a family. “Our children have been very understanding since they were young. They’re active supporters of the Indonesian Pediatric Cancer Foundation (Yayasan Kanker Anak Indonesia or YKAI). We started out by going to Dharmais Cancer Hospital (in West Jakarta) with blankets, toys and foods for the patients. I also brought the kids to experience the activities at YKAI. All of this helped them develop a desire to give to those in need.
“As the children grew up, they took on bigger responsibilities. For example, they used their own pocket money to help YKAKI organise a trip for the children. Together with Saab Shares (a provider of accommodation, part-time education and access to healthcare for underprivileged children and low-income families) they were actively teaching children and donating food and toys. Today, her daughter Brenda has her own non-profit organization, which she runs together with Veronica Tan’s children and several friends, called Anak Indonesia Bersatu. They give food to underprivileged families in eight locations in the Jabodetabek area.”
All of this just part of Wanda’s charity work. On several occasions she and some friends have done “little things”, like visiting mothers and children in slum areas to find out about the common problems they share. They also give mothers cookery classes. What makes Wanda stand out is her ability “to connect people and organisations to achieve their goals.” She has built a strong network and her ability to develop and maintain relationships gives her a big advantage. When it comes to sharing and giving, she is able to connect people who have the same interests. She doesn’t hesitate to knock on people’s doors and ask for their help when she needs it.
“What we have in this world is entrusted to us by God. And what goes around, comes around.” – Wanda Ponika
“If you’re doing this kind of work for fame, it won’t work out in the long run,” she counsels. “You need to develop a network. If we’re walking alone, it’s possible to do something, but the impact will be little. What if we can connect more people who share the same goals? Then together, we can create a bigger impact? Why not work with more organisations, more people? No matter big or small it is, we are creating a chain of kindness. We can learn a lot together, and for me it’s beautiful.”
Wanda tells of how Mia Egron, Chair of Happy Hearts Indonesia (HHI) and Director and COO of Plaza Indonesia Realty, approached her to join HHI’s board of directors. HHI is a non-profit foundation dedicated to rebuilding schools. “To be honest, I had no idea back then of joining the board, and I talked to Mia about my concerns. I’d had a lot of offers to join organisations, but I had always refused because it felt more comfortable to support from the outside. I felt I wasn’t ready for such a commitment because I had a lot of other work to do. My business still needed to be taken care of. I thought that if I agreed to become part of the organisation, I would have to be committed to all of the responsibilities of being a board member. But Mia asked me think it over before giving her my decision.”
As the wise man said, everything you need will come to you at the perfect time. Her family promised Wanda all the support she needed to take the step. “My husband said maybe this is the time, and the children also said the same thing. I haven’t left the other organisations behind. I’m still helping. But what made us fall in love with HHI was when we got a chance to visit a school project that was built together with Wanda House of Jewels in East Nusa Tenggara and meet with the students. It was a life-changing moment for our family. I came to the realisation that it was our responsibility as Indonesians to help the children and give them the chance of a better education, because the potential is there. Their future is in our hands.”
Aside from her charitable and social work, Wanda is known as someone who’s vocal about current issues in society. Utilising social media, on Instagram, she delivers her thoughts in a distinctive style that moves her followers. “This isn’t something new for me,” she says. “When I was only 15 years old, I worked at the Bali Post Media Group as a writer and illustrator. They gave me a special page where I could write about everything from social issues to book reviews, sketches and beauty tips. I’ve been very interested in politics since I was young. When I write and make videos, I’m trying to capture what’s going on in our society, and to express what concerns me most. That’s it.” Some wonder why, as a woman from a minority background and an entrepreneur, Wanda takes such risks. To which she replies: “We already live with so many rules in this society, especially women. But if expressing our opinions is to be prohibited, why should we live?”
There are always pros and cons to expressing our opinions publicly, and Wanda agrees that speaking out made her feel uncomfortable at first. “I was stressed out when being attacked by the haters,” she admits. “Then, one of my good friends told me, if you can’t handle the haters, all the negative comments and different opinions, don’t use social media. That advice changed my mind, and I decided to focus on the positive and encouraging comments I received. Actually, a lot of people have messaged me and thanked me, saying my comments had helped change their lives. The funny thing is, nowadays, what I say has expanded to the lifestyle area. People are curious about what I’m doing on a daily basis, such as clothes, makeup and skincare, food, even the places I’m going for holidays. It’s funny because I had never expected the engagement to go that far. But the thing that I always stick by is that I must always give honest opinions and only mention products that I personally use and love.”
Wanda contemplates the life choices she’s made for a moment. “In the end, what I’m doing has changed my perspective as a human being,” she smiles. “I have become more mindful about my own spending, and about giving to others. Because what we have in this world is entrusted to us by God, and what goes around, comes around. On the other hand, I have learned that social media is such a powerful tool. It can be used negatively as we all know, but it can also be a platform to spread kindness and bring a greater impact on people. My dream is to always be God’s extended hands in bringing blessings to others.”