At a young age, Natalia Teguhputri learned about generosity from her dad. She saw how her dad used economic means to help others in ways that respected their human dignity, either by giving anonymously or by empowering them to find their own ways of earning. Natalia, now in her early 30s, has developed a number of initiatives that have brought these lessons to life.
Born in Indonesia, Natalia is the older of two girls and comes from a closely-knit family. Her parents have Chinese heritage, and were the first ones from their family to convert to Catholicism. Natalia moved to Australia at the age of 17 to study commerce at Monash University.
In her corporate role as a cost analyst, she found like-minded colleagues who wanted to do good for others but found themselves lacking in time and expertise. Together they started a movement at work called “The Waterjars”, which utilises a percentage of business profit and salaries to support registered charities. Because of its simplicity and tax deductibility, the initiative caught momentum with more business partners and contractors joining in. To date, The Waterjars have helped distribute over $300,000 for community building projects in the areas of health, education, and youth empowerment.
In her office, Natalia created the “feelgood wall” where she pins pictures and stories from the latest projects that The Waterjars support. There is a description which reads: “When there was too much work, and too little time, may this wall remind me of what is truly important.” The wall makes the connection between the work done in the commercial setting of the business and the impact that its charitable giving has brought to people’s lives. The featured wall has provided real encouragement for Natalia and her colleagues while working, and at the same time has become a popular conversation starter to anyone visiting the office.
Natalia often gets asked why the movement is called The Waterjars. She has sought to explain the scriptural underpinnings which comes from Jesus’ first miracle in Cana. The Waterjars were filled with water and Jesus turned it into wine, in the same way that the funds to support charities were offered for Jesus to turn into blessings for the people in need.
As this project developed, Natalia became increasingly keen to apply some deeper theological thought to these areas of service that she was becoming more involved with. Fortuitously, in 2017 she was accepted into the Leadership for Mission course. This is an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ then Office for the Participation of Women, with partners the Australian Catholic University and Catholic Mission. Natalia has now graduated with a Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies. She found the academic component excellent and it has inspired her to apply for a Master of Philosophy by research in the area of philanthropy and non-profit studies. The immersion and collaborative aspects of the Leadership for Mission course were life-changing and life-giving for Natalia. The opportunity to meet with other young Catholic women from different places and different walks of life, to share not only the struggles but also the joys of being part of the Catholic Church, were truly a blessing.
With her passion for helping others through her business and financial skills, and a strong belief that sustainable profit is one that has social justice at heart, Natalia decided to apply for a chance to attend the Economy of Francesco Summit, which was to be held in Assisi earlier this year. This gathering brings together a variety of people including entrepreneurs, economists, change-makers and academics who wish to “propose an alternative lifestyle to the dominant one within our capitalistic system.” (https://francescoeconomy.org/) Having been accepted into the conference, Natalia now hopes to travel to Italy in November, after COVID-19 restrictions forced the postponement of the earlier date. Given there is no guarantee that international travel will be allowed by November, participants are already meeting regularly via webinars.
Natalia speaks generously of the people who have collaborated with her through The Waterjars, and she is grateful that God has given her the opportunity to share her faith with everyone. She states:
“There is a goodness in other people, even outside the context of faith, and I believe God works through that goodness - in mysterious ways. This has been a journey for me, and I think God is wanting to teach me a lesson: Don’t worry about equating business and profits with things of the world, because they can still be used to further the kingdom of God.”