This past month, a group of our intrepid supporters traveled to ASRI to see for themselves how our programs are changing lives and saving the rainforest. Now they share their photos so you can follow us to Sukadana and beyond, into the wilds of Borneo. See it all for yourself:
After long hours - or even days - of flights, our travelers stumbled off of the plane into the blaring heat and humidity of Pontianak, West Borneo. From there, it is another long five-hour boat ride down the river and across pockets of forested bays to the seaside town of Sukadana, where our project partner ASRI is located. Luckily ASRI co-founder Dr. Hotlin Ompusunggu knows the tastiest riverside warung (small shop) to visit, where our guests enjoyed a veritable Indonesian feast.
Photo credits: top: MJ Whitehouse; bottom: Jan O'Brien. All in between: Kelsey Hartman
The group began their introduction to ASRI the next morning at the heart of the programs: Klinik ASRI. Each clinic day begins with morning meeting, where all ASRI staff gather to discuss projects and problems. Everyone around the circle speaks in turn, deciding the daily directions and collaborating on issues of concern until everything is decided - or until the clinic opens at 9 am.
Jokes, laughter, and love abounded as we introduced ourselves to the ASRI community, an emotional moment for the long-term supporters of our work. Gifts and supplies from the United States were greeted with great enthusiasm, especially by the mobile clinic team, who took dearly needed solar lights (and equally necessary chocolates) with them as they left early to visit one of the remotest villages ASRI serves.
Photos: Upper right: MJ Whitehouse; all others: Loren Bell
We gathered at the home of one of ASRI's Forest Guardians in a nearby village for a goat distribution as part of the Goats For Widows program. Over the customary tea and snacks offered to all guests, Goats For Widows coordinator Ibu Setyawati explained how the goat matching would work: each widow would draw a number, then claim the goat with the same number tied around its neck. Nearly half of the ten recipients were actually younger relatives of the widow receiving the goat, sent to claim the goat while their mother or grandmother worked another job. All successfully found their goat, though some - like the widow whose goat escaped and hid in the hedge - had a more exciting time of it than others!
Photos: Kelsey Hartman. Second to last row at right and bottom: Loren Bell
Health In Harmony and ASRI founder, Dr. Kinari Webb, was first introduced to the beauties of the Indonesian rainforest - and the forces that threaten it - in Gunung Palung National Park as an undergraduate orangutan researcher. Dr. Kinari's husband, Harvard tropical ecologist Cam Webb, led us into Gunung Palung National Park to experience the majesty of the primary forest for ourselves.
One upended wasp nest, two orangutan nest sightings, several rope-assisted climbs, and many happy dunkings in the trail-side waterfall later, we made it too and from the cliff view point - just in time to enjoy the sunset over the rice fields of Lubuk Baji village.
Photos: Top row and second to last row on right: Loren Bell; all others: Kelsey Hartman
Pak Agus and Jili led a training session for one of ASRI's organic farming teams (and interested community members of all ages). On the second day of the training, Jili taught us all how to create organic fertilizer with all the same key nutrients as the commercial fertilizer using backyard-ingredients like banana stalk and coconut husk, and organic pesticides from more local materials.
Photos: Kelsey Hartman
The education continued with ASRI Kids, as we tagged along on their lesson on reforestation. Everyone traveled to Sedehan reforestation site, where the children learned why ASRI is creating a reforested "orangutan corridor" there to connect two sections of forest separated by logging.
After learning about ASRI's reforestation techniques, everyone planted seedlings that will someday be the forest that brings orangutan families back together.
Our time at ASRI was crowned with the happiest of moments: Hen, treasured member of ASRI's conservation team, got married! He generously invited all visitors to the beautiful reception at his bride's home, which we attended with the ASRI staff. Congratulations again, Hen!
Photo: Loren Bell
Gunung Palung National Park is home to 10% of the world's remaining wild orangutans, but with 90,000 hectares to roam, they can be hard to find. To see the "men of the forest," we took to the river again, floating through Tanjung Puting National Park on traditional klotok boats to visit feeding stations for rehabilitated semi-wild orangutans.
Photos: L to R: Kelsey Hartman, Loren Bell, Kelsey Hartman, MJ Whitehouse, Kelsey Hartman, Loren Bell, Jan O'Brien
" Visiting Sukadana changed the way I see the world. I was surprised by the strength of each part of the program - the clinic, ASRI Kids, Goats For Widows, reforestation, organic farming and Forest Guardians. Your team is aligned and committed, has hope and compassion, and is making a difference! I have no doubt that the partnering of healthy people and healthy environment will continue to emerge and inspire others to follow.
I was honored to be your guest. "