Johanes, 19, is a Compassion-assisted student from a small town called Tanjung Balai in North Sumatra, Indonesia, 180 kilometres from Medan, with a big future.

He is an independent, highly active and strong-willed person who has a passion for sports. Possessing the good posture of an athlete, he also has a gentle disposition that makes him a good teacher.

Johanes’ favourite sport is swimming. He has a dream of becoming a professional swimming coach. Seeing his passion, Johanes’ Compassion centre wanted to help him achieve his dream. As he reached the end of high school, he became the recipient of an academic scholarship to help him pursue becoming a swimming coach.

The gift empowered him to put his dream in motion, moving to Medan to study sports science at university.

An unfolding future

Johanes’ father, a local community pastor who set up his house as a small church for his neighbourhood, is proud that Johanes is attending university in Medan. It’s an opportunity that means the world to the whole family.

Johanes has his arms around his mother and father. They all smile.

Johanes is the son of a local community pastor. He is with his parents.

But even with the help of his academic scholarship, moving away to Medan was not a simple matter. Johanes has had to show his determination and focus as he provides for himself during his study year in the city.

To do this, he teaches paid swimming courses for children in Medan while he takes his courses to manage his living costs.

He enjoys his routine and is excited to see the future he dreamed of beginning to unfold as he practices his coaching skills while teaching swimming lessons. If not for the Compassion centre, he wouldn’t be where he is now.

Discovering a swimming dream

Johanes was introduced to swimming at the Compassion centre when he was little. In the seventh grade, he chose swimming as his activity.

He chose swimming purely for enjoyment and didn’t think how it could lead him to a professional career. But as he developed his interest in going professional, he won several regional competitions, collecting gold and silver medals. He even entered a qualifying competition for the Olympic Games, representing his town, Tanjung Balai.

Johanes does the front stroke in a swimming pool.

Johanes won several gold and silver medals in regional competitions.

With the opportunity given through Compassion’s program and Johanes’ persistence in doing what he was passionate about, he began to carve out a new future.

“I still remember how I climbed up the pool’s wall so I could sneakily swim when my father didn’t let me,” says Johanes with a grin. “But if not for the Compassion centre, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Many people supported his passion, from his parents to the tutors and staff members at the centre, including his first coach.

“Sir James, I won’t forget his teachings. I am a good swimmer all because of him,” said Johanes. Though Sir James moved to another city, Johanes keeps in touch with him.

Practicing his passion

As he got older, Johanes was asked to help teach swimming classes to the children at the centre. He was a role model to younger children, teaching them discipline and determination to pursue their goals. His experience showed that it was possible to overcome poverty and thrive.

Johanes is at the edge of a swimming pool adjusting a child’s goggles. He is surrounded by his students.

Johanes teaching swimming lessons.

“Children in Tanjung Balai who make their way to higher education must have strong willpower to push through their circumstances. No matter how hard, they have to put in an effort. Johanes is one of the examples,” said Juni, a youth mentor at Johanes Compassion centre in Tanjung Balai.

Juni recognizes that the challenge was not only the high cost of higher education but the lack of motivation, which stopped the children from pursuing their dreams.

“In our regular parents’ meeting, we always reminded the parents of their important role in giving their children motivation to pursue higher education,” says Juni.

Passionate about potential

After he finishes his university program, Johanes dreams to establish a swimming club under his name and train professional athletes.

Johanes is sitting at the edge of a pool instructing a swimmer who is holding onto the side of the pool.

Johanes coaches another swimmer.

His passion has moved from swimming and competing to coaching. “To see a person’s or a child’s potential come forth—that is my joy at the moment,” he says.

While the sports sector is not necessarily considered a lucrative industry in Indonesia, it has its own niche, and Johanes is using his passion to create a bright future.

Who could have thought a childhood splash in the pool could strike a bright future free from poverty for a family?

“Thank you, Compassion. You really helped to ease the financial burden. With the extra support, I could realize my dream career in swimming.”

Johanes smiles in a swimming pool with goggles on his head.

Johanes is thriving as he works toward his dream.

The gift of an Academic Scholarship can help other passionate students like Johanes create a brighter future.

A future free from poverty.

Give Academic Scholarships

Photos and story by Hutama Limarta with Rebekah Malbrecht.

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