Georges Hilaul has built up quite an impressive resume at the age of just 28. He has run an event management company and an employment agency, had a stint designing marketing campaigns and even worked as a magician for 10 years. Born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands to an Indonesian father and Dutch mother, Georges has visited Indonesia since he was 4. He has now set up base in Jakarta to focus on his foundation, Stichting van Sjors (Sjors Foundation), which aims to help underprivileged and less fortunate children in Indonesia through education projects.
What is your connection to Indonesia?
My father comes from Surabaya [East Java] and originally my family comes from Nusa Laut [Maluku].
A big part of my family still lives in Surabaya and in Jakarta and another part moved from Surabaya to Holland. My mother is Dutch and beside the fact I’ve been raised really Western, there were many Indonesian influences from my father and my Indonesian aunts in Holland.
When did you move to Jakarta?
I moved to Jakarta one-and-a-half years ago. I went back and forth between Holland and Indonesia [growing up], but now Indonesia has become my residence because I didn’t want to live in two places and because of all the children I support with my foundation, I preferred to be close by.
What were you doing before you moved to Jakarta?
Well, it’s not really a common story I think, but I used to be a magician. Besides that I ran my own event-organizing company, an employment agency and designed marketing campaigns for Dutch companies. As a professional illusionist I performed at corporate events, on TV, and at theme parks for 10 years.
But after all those years I sold my companies and stopped performing professionally because I wanted to do something new, something I really loved to do and something that would make me happy and give me energy — which was to help the underprivileged kids here in Indonesia.
Can you tell me about Stichting van Sjors? What was the inspiration behind it and what do you hope to achieve?
I’m campaigning to help underprivileged and less fortunate kids in Indonesia with the support of my friends, donors and businesses.
I’ve got a motto, ‘Learn to inspire and inspiring to learn,’ and with this motto I want to give these kids a little push toward a better future by setting up inspirational and educational projects. With the right guidance and a chance to relax, good education and above all, inspiration, these children will go further than they could ever dream.
And of course, to learn, you need to be in a safe place: a place that is healthy and inspiring, with the right facilities, resources and materials. Because not all children have that, I provide schoolbooks, uniforms, a safe building and the right teaching materials. But they also need a reason to go to school: a goal, a dream. That’s why I take them out of their usual surroundings for a while, away from the rubbish dump or the railway station. I show them the way to an inspiring place where they wouldn’t usually go, looking for a dream. I might take them to the beach, an amusement park or even a skating rink. It’s not just what they do there that helps them to relax and be inspired, the journey itself does that too. They come into contact with dozens of different jobs people do, new surroundings and other children, all of which provide inspiration. I make the link to education and show them it doesn’t have to stay a dream.
Do you ever use any of your old magic tricks to cheer up the kids?
I actually use it a lot during my activities with the kids on the street. I am even teaching them some cool tricks.
For the kids it’s only about the magic and the fun, but actually there is happening a lot more. The self-esteem of a child is growing by teaching them some magic and it makes them feel special, to know a secret and being able to show it to others. You can imagine the huge smiles on their faces when they just perform a magic trick successfully.
What does Jakarta mean to you?
Jakarta for me means a city with a lot of advantages. Still a lot to be done, especially with my kind of work here. The city also has so many opportunities and I love how everyone is involved with each other. Although it makes me sad that next to the luxurious malls there are people who live on the street or in carton-box houses.
Are there any similarities between your home and Indonesia?
There are not so many similarities. The people are friendlier here, the food is way better and the weather is also better of course, although it’s raining a lot at the moment, which is the same as in Holland.
Well, something good about Holland is that there are not so many traffic jams. But that’s the only difference I think.
Georges Hilaul was talking to Sandra Siagian for The Jakarta Globe.