YCAB: Enabling the children of the nation to live better

Serving 4 Billion: Through education, YCAB is helping Indonesia’s poor to not only become literate, but also secure them jobs.

School dropout and migrant Dody, the second of six children, had never dreamt of completing his school education, let alone becoming an entrepreneur. But thanks to YCAB’s local Rumah Belajar centre in Jakarta, he was not only able to complete his school certificate exams, but on graduation became a tailor.

Noticing his interest in tailoring and apparel, the YCAB Foundation based in Indonesia decided to supply him with seed capital to buy material and sewing machines. Now Dody produces several bags, clothes, iPad and computer covers, etc., and has hired an extra hand to help him.

YCAB (the full-form of which – in the local language – means “Loving The Nation’s Children Foundation”) is a Jakarta based foundation that has touched the lives of over 2 million people. We spoke to YCAB team – Firza Imam Putra, COO of YCAB, and Nurjannah Ekaputri from the Marketing-Communications department, to find out how they enable skill development, livelihoods, and more for the underprivileged youth of Indonesia.

Quelling drug abuse: The evolution of YCAB

Veronica Colondam, the founder of YCAB

Veronica Colondam, the founder of YCAB

When Veronica Colondam, an alumnus of the Global Leadership program at Harvard’s Kennedy School (2009), Leadership Lab at MIT, with a Social Entrepreneurship degree from INSEAD, and an Impact Investment degree from SAID Business School, Oxford, started YCAB Foundation in 1999, her main concern was the rise of drug abuse among the youth. This problem it turned out, was just the tip of the iceberg. YCAB now works towards youth development through its three flagship programs, Healthy Lifestyle Promotion (HeLP), House of Learning and Development (HoLD), and Hands-on Operation for Entrepreneurship (HOpE).

HeLP was what was first started in 1999, working on prevention of risky behaviour including drug abuse and HIV/AIDS, through education. In 2003, they started HoLD to provide education to underprivileged children and dropouts helping them continue their education through 47 Rumah Belajars spread across 16 provinces in Indonesia. In 2005, HOpE was started to provide entrepreneurship training, seed capital for businesses, and microloans.

In 2007, YCAB International was established in the US, and is listed as a non-profit 501(c)(3) so donations to it are tax deductable. It is through YCAB International that YCAB, supported by the British Council, started pilots in other countries like Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uganda.  YCAB researches the problem, then creates and supervises the program to remedy it. The local NGO runs the program.

From a non-profit to a sustainable social enterprise

Most of YCAB’s funding comes in from corporate donors and the organisation ensures that 100% of donations go into their programs and not towards overheads. All YCAB overheads are covered by YCAB’s business units-like Yada Indonesia that manufactures and exports mechanized animal rides and Beauty Inc. a skin care clinic. The fastest growing part of YCAB’s social enterprise are the YCAB cooperatives or MFIs (Koperasi YCAB) with over 20,000 members (or clients as they are called) – these members are often the mothers of students studying in YCAB’s Rumah Belajar. In fact, they don’t give loans to members if their children are not in school or have completed schooling. Their microloans have an impressive average repayment rate of 99.54% and in 2013, have helped support the operations costs of 13 Rumah Belajars.

How the livelihood program works

With HeLP, YCAB works with schools and work through facilitators – apart from teaching youth about HIV/AIDS and drugs, they also cover self esteem issues and sex-education. YCAB has learned that around age 13 is when teens first try to experiment with drugs and they try and nip this in the bud.

YCAB's Rumah Belajar students

YCAB’s Rumah Belajar students

The HoLD program works through “Rumah Belajar” (RB) or House of Learning- these are community learning centres for underprivileged children and school dropouts. The RBs follow through a fixed syllabus for their core study (digital inclusion, English literacy and high-school equivalent studies) and students also choose one elective study of vocational training.   The RB teaches vocational skills like sewing, hospitality, hair and beauty etc. They also have some ‘mobile’ RBs in buses to reach people in otherwise hard to reach areas.

Their HOpE programs disburse micro loans and provide jobs (Beauty Inc’s employees are Rumah Belajar alumni) and seed capital.


Since 1999, their HeLP programs have reached over 2 million. In 2013 alone, through their education programs (HoLD), over 3,600 youth  have been certified in IT skills and their students had a 96% pass rate in national exams. The HOpE program disbursed IDR 88.88 Billion in 2013, amongst over 22, 000 clients.


To determine social impact of the education programs, they track for a few months, students who have been absorbed into jobs . For microloan clients, they look at welfare and also use the Grameen Foundation’s Progress out of Poverty Index. About a third of their microfinance clients have moved above the poverty line after receiving YCAB’s education linked MFI.

Where YCAB is working

Where YCAB is working

Overcoming hurdles

YCAB needs $100M aim to touch 10 million lives by 2018, and raising that kind of money is not easy. In the present, their biggest problem is with human resource- especially lack of teachers for Rumah Belajars.

Firza says, “In some ways, a lot of the problems other countries that we work with face are quite similar to Indonesia’s – with education and poverty. But Myanmar has opened up only recently, in Mongolia the kids would rather take up a mining job than go to school. In Afghanistan, the culture is very different, so the program wanted to empower women by introducing them to sport. In Indonesia, children have very little motivation to put in a little extra effort. Like they say at YCAB, ‘to live is easy, but to live better is hard’.”

Serving 4 Billion is a special series on emerging solutions for BOP Markets and is a part of a partnership between The Alternative and BoP Hub.


The BoP Hub was established in 2011 with a vision to design business to end poverty. A Clinton Global Initiative commitment, its mission is to catalyse and strengthen cross-sector collaboration and participation in social entrepreneurship. 


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