Putting a passion for education into practice

Would you ever take the initiative to reduce what you spend on meals, or crowd-fund, to raise money to support an overlooked need?

Meet Peter Eleftherakis, a 24-year-old student at Bundoora’s RMIT Campus. He’s not just studying a Masters of Teaching Practice; he is also on a mission to help orphans in Indonesia.

Although Peter is an Australian citizen, he travelled more than a dozen times to Indonesia as a child accompanying his mother. Their visits coincided with periods of civil unrest, but despite experiencing these struggles and being surrounded by poverty, Peter always longed to return to Indonesia as an adult, attracted by the people and their way of life.

With the help of a scholarship in 2014, Peter managed to study at Gadjah Mada University, the most prestigious university in Jogjakarta. The $7000 stipend was only supposed to support him for 6 months but he eked it out to extend his stay to a year and a half.

While studying, Peter traveled throughout Indonesia on his motor bike, carrying all his possessions in a single backpack.

Peter Eleftherakis on his Indonesian travels
Peter Eleftherakis on his Indonesian travels

With no guarantees for housing, Peter relied on friends he made along the way for places to stay – an experience he says changed him as a person.

“A lot of them did not have money, most of them couldn’t even afford to buy a bed,” he remembers.

“I really had to humble and lower myself so that I could fit in. It wasn’t about me – I had to learn their way of life and survive like them.”

Peter realised how poor most Indonesians actually were – and how many children were lacking in a good education. He decided to teach English at a Jogjakarta school for six months. But this was not enough.

Throughout the rest of his stay in Indonesia, Peter spent his free time meeting Indonesian locals over meals costing no more than 60 Australian cents, and asking them for suggestions on how he could make a difference to the Indonesian education system.

One of the suggestions was to work with an orphanage, and Peter jumped at the idea.

“I choose to support an orphanage over other charities because I am going to be a teacher and I have a real soft spot for kids,” he says.

“I really think that every child deserves to have an education, so that they can have a better life and a better future. It all comes down through education.”

Peter crowdfunded $215 for the Yayasan Orphanage, one of the poorest in Indonesia – a sum that could support the school tuition of at least 120 children.

Peter Eleftherakis at the Yayasan Orphanage
Peter Eleftherakis at the Yayasan Orphanage

“The people at the orphanage were really pleased with my donation. They even gave me thank you certificate to congratulate me but the best part was seeing the children and the work that the orphanage does to help them,” he said.

Peter was not only congratulated by the orphanage and his Indonesian friends, but also by his Greek Orthodox Church in Melbourne, which conducts and supports missionary work in Fiji, Tonga, Madagascar, Calcutta, India and Sierra Leone.

“I love Peter’s work abroad with the orphanage. I think it is great work, and a God-pleasing one,” Father Leo, the Parish priest of Ayio Vasili in Brunswick, told Hatch.

Father Leo says Peter’s charitable work reflects a commitment to ‘work as worship’: “Work is what saves a person. We need to go out and work, and show love to other people in need.”

Since returning to Australia in September last year, Peter has continued to crowdfund for the orphanage, and inspired others to donate including members of his parish and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Mission Fund.

He is now hoping to support more orphanages in Indonesia and in other countries, helping each and every child receive a good education.

To learn more about Peter and his crowdfunding initiative, visit his website. You can also follow Peter’s journey through his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Story by Shantelle-ann Marquis. Images courtesy of Peter Eleftherakis.