Guest blog by Tea Chandra
What is the thing in the world that makes you most happy? To be in love? Maybe. To have lots of money? Yes, for many people. Well, I think a little differently…
I recently spent 13 weeks volunteering at ASRI as a member of the conservation team. I am not a reforestation expert nor did I consider myself a conservationist before this. I actually work as a Public Relations Consultant in Jakarta, and I took a sabbatical from my work to come to ASRI to learn - of course, with the expectation that I might be useful for some projects.
Just in case you've never heard about ASRI, please allow me to introduce you: Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is an Indonesian NGO which offers win-win solutions for the communities who live near Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP). They provide low-cost, high-quality health care, and they appreciate the locals who preserve GPNP by providing them with health care incentives.
It all started in August when I, for the very first time, came to Sukadana, the capital of North Kayong Regency. It was a very small downtown area, where you can find the iconic Grand Mosque and a Durian Monument. I stayed in the Girls' House with five ASRI staff members and two other volunteers. When I arrived, some people began asking me, "what do you expect from your 3 months volunteering here?" Well, I had two answers: to learn and to find meaning. “Whoa, wait, what? Meaning?” Well, honestly speaking, I was not 100% myself at the time, feeling a bit lost in the urban lifestyle that I had in Jakarta.
Then day by day, my daily routine changed at ASRI. I biked to work. I ate properly. I went to bed earlier, I got up earlier, and my quality of sleep improved. I got along well with the ASRI staff. (We even had Zumba sessions on Fridays!) I also connected with the daily (contract) workers in the field. I taught at elementary schools. I played in the forest, swam in the streams, went to the beach, and hiked up hills. I had lots of long, deep conversations with my housemates. Then, slowly, I began to realize that I was living a healthier life.
Every day, I was inspired by the people at ASRI – people who work with passion, with smiles, and with a belief that the world needs their help to make it a better place. I am thankful for - and adore all…I mean literally, ALL of these people who devote their lives to this work. Seeing their sincerity has taught me to not give up hope. No matter what happens with our planet right now, we all still have opportunities to do good for others. And in the end, it successfully opened up my heart and mind. It changed me and took me back to who I used to be. A person with optimism - with the belief that we all can change the world into a better place. (Michael Jackson said so!)
So back to my initial question: what is the thing in the world that can make you most happy? My own answer is: when I can find myself again after a long time. When I'm surrounded by humble and dedicated people. When I can contribute and give back to the community.
About Tea Chandra
Tea is an Indonesian volunteer who was at ASRI from August-November 2016, working on conservation and marketing projects. She lives in Jakarta, working as a Public Relations Consultant.