Pilot takes orphans under his wing

Pilot takes orphans under his wing

Pilot Budi Soehardi still remembers the first time he saw young children abandoned in the streets after violence erupted in East Timor.

"It hit me hard," he said. "It was so painful to watch."

Fourteen years on, he has 148 children who call him "Pa" after he set up an orphanage to shield vulnerable young people from the horrors of war.

"You do not need to wait till you strike the lottery to help others," he told an audience at the National Young Leader's Day event in Singapore. "Share your love and care with others... and do not procrastinate."

Mr Soehardi was a Singapore Airlines captain preparing to go on a month-long vacation around the world when his life took a sudden and dramatic turn.

He was tucking into his dinner in front of the television when an image on the screen grabbed his attention - a family sharing one packet of instant noodles, supplemented by leaves and water.

It was 1999 and East Timor was plagued by unrest after its residents voted for independence from Indonesia.

Hundreds of East Timorese were killed and up to 250,000 displaced from their homes. As refugees fled to West Timor, families lived in cardboard boxes in filthy conditions.

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