What Trust Looks Like

Guest blog by Hotlin Ompusunggu, DDS and Alexandra Ristow

Photo by Nikki See for Undertold Stories.

Alexandra Ristow, a Yale Medical Student, shares her volunteer experience with the ASRI project in Sukadana, and I reflect on trust.

"For months before my rotation in ASRI clinic, I read updates from on-site volunteers and spoke to classmates who had worked with Health In Harmony. However, not even the most elegant passages describing ill patients or the most exciting accounts of forest hikes and hidden beaches could fully prepare me for the richness of this experience. The idea of intertwining community and environmental health, at first a beautiful but abstract concept, takes on a moving, breathing life in the heat of Sukadana. Being surrounded by the joys and the challenges of West Kalimantan emphasizes the urgency of Health In Harmony's mission, but the hardworking, compassionate and talented staff members-- who all teach me much more than the medicine I came to learn-- remind me daily of the power of a dedicated team with a common goal. I feel unbelievably fortunate to learn from such an amazing team and unique organization."

- Alexandra Ristow

Meanwhile, the pace of Klinik ASRI does not slacken.

As for the clinic, as happens often we had an emergency patient arrive after hours. A midwife sent in a 4-hour-old infant with a fever and possible seizure. As it turned out the baby was not having a seizure but was in acute respiratory distress with pneumonia and probably sepsis. A few more hours and this baby would have died. The ASRI team rushed into action giving antibiotics, starting an IV and getting a history. The mother was sent for also as the team worried she might have a uterine infection. Throughout the night and day, volunteer Dr. Diane was impressed with the effort made by the nurses to encourage the mother to nurse rather than giving a bottle when the mother thought she did not have any breast milk.

Later while in the Public Health Department, I just happened to meet the midwife who delivered the baby. As we talked, I realized how much she trusts us since she referred the infant to ASRI rather than another clinic.

All are attentive at an organic farm training. Photo by Pak Ngalim.

Trust I think has become central for Klinik ASRI, and shows up in other programs too. Pak Ngalim, our organic farming coordinator, continues to work on an ongoing workshop and training program for the villagers, in which trust and mutual respect have been growing.
Looking back 5 years, I can see how much mutual trust and respect has developed between the health workers and the villagers. Four years ago, when we first began our organic farming training, we gave transportation money, one day's wages and food to the participants. Next we reached the point where we only paid for fuel and food. Last year we only paid for food during the meeting. This year we have moved to the stage where the village is willing to cover all expenses including food. And Pak Ngalim says that now villages approach him to ask for training! The sustainable training is happening - with trust building.

Pak Ngalim himself. Photo by Christina Fitch.

Thanks to you all for taking this journey together.

Best regard,

Hotlin Ompusunggu, DDS

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