Rotarian Budi Soehardi nominated for CNN Hero of the Year.


Rotarian Budi Soehardi's devotion to bettering the lives of disadvantaged children in Indonesia earned him a spot as one of 10 finalists for the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year award.

Soehardi grew up in Central Java, Indonesia, where food and education were often scarce. At 53, it's his goal to help children avoid the hardships he had to endure.

With his wife, Peggy, Soehardi opened an orphanage in West Timor, Indonesia, in 2002 after learning about the horrible conditions faced by refugee children fleeing the violence on the eastern portion of  the island. The Roslin Orphanage has provided food, shelter, and education to more than 45 children, from newborns to teenagers.

"These children were suffering much the way I did, but worse," says Soehardi, a pilot and member of the Rotary E-Club of 3310, Singapore. "I feel very blessed in my life and wanted to give something back to those who needed it the most. My goal is to make the kids smile and happy. That's all."

Soehardi and his wife have three children, but he also treats those in the orphanage as his own.

"We care for each child equally and consider them part of our family," he says. "I want to give them everything they need, no strings attached, just like my own children."

Soehardi's first brush with Rotary came as he coordinated relief efforts for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Through donations from friends and leaders in the airline industry, he secured more than 130 tons of medical supplies, food, and clothes, which were delivered to affected villages by several Rotary clubs. Impressed by the Rotarians' dedication to helping others, Soehardi decided to join Rotary.

"It's such a privilege being a Rotarian," he says. "Their spirit of togetherness and helpfulness is what inspired me to join. So many doors, all over the world, have been opened to me. My life is more beautiful with Rotary in it."

Soehardi's club helped furnish the orphanage with books, computers, and a projector. In 2006, a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant helped provide a vehicle for a mobile library program.

To learn more about the award, visit the CNN Heroes page.