Maya Soetoro-Ng Biography

Maya Kasandra Soetoro-Ng, best known as the maternal half-sister of former US President Barack Obama, has made a name for herself as a researcher, educator, and writer. With a background in academia and a passion for promoting cultural diversity, Maya has become a prominent figure in the US Presidential campaign and beyond. Her children’s book, ‘Ladder to the Moon’, has garnered praise, and she is currently working on publishing more of her work. Maya’s wit and humor, shared with her brother Barack Obama, have endeared her to many, including her nieces Malia and Sasha. As a philosophically Buddhist individual, Maya actively participates in charity and speaks out against racial discrimination. She is proud of her Indonesian heritage and her husband’s Chinese roots, and she advocates for peace and cultural diversity through her work with Ceeds of Peace, a nonprofit peace building organization.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Maya Kasandra Soetoro
  • Age: 53 Years, 53 Year Old Females
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Konrad Ng (m. 2003)
    • Father: Lolo Soetoro
    • Mother: Ann Dunham
    • Siblings: Barack Obama, George Obama, Rahayu Soetoro, Yusuf Soetoro
    • Children: Savita Ng, Suhaila Ng
  • Born Country: Indonesia
  • Educators
  • American Women
  • Ancestry: Indonesian American
  • Notable Alumni: University Of Hawaii, Manoa, Barnard College, Columbia University
  • City: Jakarta, Indonesia
  • More Facts
  • Education: New York University, Barnard College, Columbia University, University Of Hawaii, Manoa

Childhood & Early Life

Maya Kasandra Soetoro was born on August 15, 1970, in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her mother, Ann Dunham, was an American cultural anthropologist, and her father, Lolo Soetoro, was an Indonesian businessman. Maya’s parents divorced when she was 10 years old, and she spent time moving around with her mother and half-brother, Barack Obama. She also has another half-brother named Yusuf Aji Soetoro and a half-sister named Rahayu Nurmaida Soetoro. Maya was homeschooled by her mother until she was 11 years old. She then attended Jakarta International School from 1981 to 1984 before moving to Hawaii and graduating from Punahou School in 1988. Maya went on to study at Barnard College in Manhattan, New York, where she earned her BA in 1993. She then obtained an MA in secondary language studies and another MA in secondary education from New York University. In 2006, Maya completed her PhD in International Comparative Education from the University of Hawaii. Despite the divorce of her parents, Maya’s bond with Barack Obama remained strong, and they have remained close as adults, often celebrating Christmas together at their home in Hawaii.


Maya Soetoro has had a diverse career in education. She worked as an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Teacher Education at the University of Hawaii’s College of Education. Prior to that, she taught at The Learning Project, a public middle school in New York, from 1996 to 2000. She also served as a high school history teacher in Honolulu and taught at the Education Laboratory School and La Pietra: Hawaii School for Girls. Maya has also worked as a consultant in research, focusing on multicultural and international education. She has implemented peace education in public schools and organized workshops to provide guidance to those in need. Maya is the founder of ‘Ceeds of Peace,’ a nonprofit organization that supports distressed families and develops peacebuilding leaders. She has also been an Education Specialist at the East West Center, facilitating teacher exchanges between the US and China. Maya has studied social sciences and history from various perspectives and is a part of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She played a role in supporting Barack Obama during his presidential campaign in 2007-08, taking time off work to speak about his accomplishments and their memories together as children. Currently, Maya works at the Community of Outreach and Service Learning at the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution, where she is the Director. She also teaches courses on peace education, the history of peace movements, and leadership. Additionally, Maya is currently writing a young adult novel titled ‘Yellowood’ and a book about peace education.

Major Works

Maya Soetoro is best known for founding ‘Ceeds of Peace,’ a nonprofit organization that provides support to distressed families and develops peacebuilding leaders. The organization works to improve the lives of communities and students. Maya has also spoken out against the criticism and discrimination faced by students of mixed race and has conducted seminars to create awareness and solve this problem. She has emphasized the importance of understanding and respecting cultural diversity. Maya is also a co-founder of Our Public School, a nonprofit school. In 2016, she participated in a dialogue at the China Global Philanthropy Institute, where she spoke about charity, education, and cultural exchange.

Personal Life

Maya Soetoro married Konrad Ng, a Chinese-Canadian, in 2003. He is a US citizen of Malay-Chinese descent and has worked as an assistant professor and director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Maya and Konrad have shared interests, and he currently serves as the Executive Director of the Doris Duke Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Culture in Honolulu, Hawaii. The couple has two daughters together, Suhaila and Savita. Maya describes herself as a philosophical Buddhist and an educator and activist. She named her daughters after the Moon and the Sun, respectively. Maya has a close relationship with her half-brother, Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle. She also enjoys spending time with her nieces, Malia and Sasha, during holidays and other occasions. Maya was very close to her mother, Ann Dunham, before her death from cancer at the age of 52. She often speaks about how proud her mother would have been to see Barack become the first African-American President of the United States. Maya strives to develop a loving relationship with her daughters, just as she had with her mother.


Maya Soetoro was named after American poet Maya Angelou. She is trilingual and can speak English, Spanish, and Indonesian.

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