It doesn't take much to give – even when you might not have a lot. That's the philosophy of long-time ANU friend, alumna and former University staffer Peggy Daroesman who, along with her sister Suzanne and brother Perry, has established a study grant in honour of their late mother, Ruth.
The Ruth Daroesman Endowment helps ANU graduate students complete study on and across Asia and the Pacific, with a special focus on Indonesia – a country close to Ruth's heart.
"Ruth married an Indonesian, my father, and the family lived in Indonesia until 1957 when American citizens were evacuated from Sumatra because of political unrest and instability," said Peggy.
"Until then, our lives were Indonesian: we had a large and loving family of Javanese grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, we spoke Bahasa, and ate what everyone ate."
After leaving Indonesia for Malaysia and then Singapore (where she worked and studied), Ruth and her three children eventually found a new home in Canberra in 1968, courtesy of an appointment at ANU.
"My mother's appointment at ANU was an important milestone not just for her but for the whole family," said Peggy.
"It gave her, and us, a permanent home after years of uncertainty. It gave us nationality and identity; it provided Ruth with meaningful employment, a sense of purpose and an intellectual environment she loved; it gave her continuity and security.
"And of course, the very major consequence of enabling her to give as she received – to colleagues, students, friends and extended family."
Like her mother, Peggy is more than happy to give. She says you don't need to be "cashed-up" in order to help those in need. And by giving a little you are actually giving a lot.
"Many people out there don't know where to start as far as personal philanthropy goes," she said.
"They think they need squillions, when they don't."
Peggy adds that what people do need is to have something they believe in and a target for their philanthropy.
"People definitely need a reason to give and an idea of what they want to give to," she said.
Ultimately, it was Ruth's own struggles in life, the generosity she found from others and the unexpected path she took that inspired the Endowment, which has also attracted contributions from other long-time friends of the family.
"Having an ANU grant in my mother's name has been a dream of mine for many years," said Peggy.
"In part I wanted my mother's name to endure, even if only within a small sphere. I wanted her many acts of generosity to be remembered and, importantly, replicated over time. And I wanted the memory of the kindness and generosity she experienced, over the years she struggled to make a life for herself and her three children, to endure."
Peggy adds that like her mother's journey, she hopes the grant will help students chart their own path and find fulfilment.
"We want the grant to be used to further the life and intellectual experiences of graduate students whose interests are in Asia and the Pacific," she said.
"My mother recognised that life was not always lived in a straight line; that there are many detours along the way, and that the destination cannot always be foreseen. She also knew what it was to struggle to make ends meet – she herself was twice a mature-aged student and a single parent with three children to support. She would have been thrilled to think that in an indirect way she would be helping graduate students to find their way to a fulfilling career.
"Our family has much to thank ANU for and we are so pleased we can remember our very interesting and unusual mother in this way."
Peggy and her siblings' gesture to establish an endowment is sure to be one that keeps on giving well into the future.