Stories of a life-changing experience

DIANE DAKIN – Physician

Diane Dakin in Sukadana

Diane in Sukadana

"I have volunteered in health projects in Latin America where I felt comfortable with the language and the culture for 40 years. The decision to volunteer in Sukadana with Health In Harmony/ASRI represented, initially, a testing of my comfort levels, challenging the familiar. Yet, perhaps because it required a leap of faith, it gave me one of the greatest rewards, in terms of feeling useful,appreciated and seeing  that I could contribute to the learning experience of the next generation of Indonesian doctors. I was inspired by ASRI's mission and how it functioned on a daily basis, and by the wonderful people with whom I worked every day, who made me feel so welcome, and who quickly became an extension of my family. I gave the clinic a few months of my sabbatical but I received an invaluable and heartwarming lesson in commitment, dedication and human understanding."

LUCIA AMIEVA-WANG – 6th grade student, ASRI Kids co-creator

"I am thankful for how the community welcomed us in a new place very different than our own, and taught us about their way of life. I loved learning and playing with my new friends in Sukadana."

ANA SOFIA AMIEVA-WANG – High school sophomore, ASRI Kids co-creator

"I am grateful for Etty, for Geris for Yuli and for Dewi, for Rendi, Ikhwan, Akhlun, Yeyen, Cici, Ririn, Reni, Yon, and the other 29 ASRI Kids. I am grateful for the amazing moments we have spent together, hiking through forests, climbing coconut trees, and exchanging cultures and language. Creating ASRI Kids reminds me daily of how lucky I am to have met them."

RHIYA TRIVEDI – Climate Change Activist

Rhiya Trivedi, canoeing in the bay near Sukadana

Rhiya canoeing in the bay near Sukadana

I spent the majority of my time at ASRI trying to see over a pile of baseline survey data as tall as a very tall person. As someone who craves community; who relies on constant opportunities to see myself through the eyes of the people around me (in order to be someone capable of making the world a more acceptable place), contributing in a largely anonymous, contact-free manner was an entirely new experience. But ultimately, this is what ASRI is all about - foreigners playing a largely peripheral role to Indonesians helping Indonesians, and in a manner that preserves the dignity of all involved by communicating the infinite ways in which one can contribute to goodness. Though my best friend in Borneo was statistical analysis software, I couldn't have left more fulfilled or humbled. As I travel the world now, I realize how rarely the two sentiments are married; how frequently the fulfillment of foreigners comes at the expense of already oppressed communities. Lucky me to have experienced possibility in this way.

DAVE ALLEN – taught English in Sukadana

"It has been now more that two years since my time working and teaching with ASRI and it is still rare to have a day go by that I don't fondly remember my time in Sukadana. I often think about the people I spent time with and the adventures I had with the food, language, and teaching challenges. I like to think that I made a difference to the people of Sukadana. However, considering the amount of time I reminisce about my experiences, I think ASRI made the biggest difference on me. Thank you."


Christina Fitch with doctors Verina and Ruth (then as ASRI)

Christina with doctors Verina and Ruth (then as ASRI)

I am so grateful for my work with Health In Harmony and Project ASRI because it has kept me passionate about a community and helping them to fulfill their goals over the past 3+ years! I believe with all my heart that the mission of this organization is necessary and mindful in its execution. The friendships that I have made with our Indonesian partners, other volunteers, and Board members has greatly added to my feeling that I am contributing in meaningful ways to improving our global community.

DAVID KARAM, Resident Physician Stanford

"Before joining ASRI I had never worked with an organization so dedicated to bettering the community in which it was rooted in so many different ways.  Being able to count myself among such a motivated, diverse, and selfless group of people, even if only for a short while, was so very rewarding.  To my friends at ASRI, I just want to say thank you for letting me take part in the great work you do."

LUCY LOONG – Medical Student, University of Cambridge

Lucy Loong, with an orangutan friend!

Lucy with an orangutan friend!

"'To give is to receive.' No truer word has been said about HIH and Project ASRI. I gave 7 weeks of my summer to the ASRI project this year, but what I received in return was incalculable. I met a team, no, a force who with courage and spirit drove through pioneering
projects aimed at changing the physical and economical landscapes of Borneo. I met physicians who dared to leave their comfort zones, their work improving not only the lives of those on the end of their stethoscopes, but the lives of generations to come through preserving health and environment as one. In return for my time I received so much more than just an experience. I received inspiration. I can only hope that some of the warmth, passion and energy of the people I met has rubbed off on me too."

RASHELE YARBOROUGH – Yale Medical Student

Rashele with other volunteers and doctors at ASRI.

Rashele with other volunteers and doctors at ASRI - all smiles!

Christmas. Birthdays. Anniversaries. These all are occasions when many of us expect to give and receive gifts of various sizes, shapes and forms. The most memorable gifts, though, often are those that completely surprise us. I am thankful for my experience at ASRI because in my giving I received so much more. Despite being in a completely foreign location, the warmth and hospitality of the people I met, ASRI-affiliated and otherwise, made the transition to my new
home-away-from-home an easy one. The experiences of our patients, who traveled far distances to the clinic and the dedication of ASRI staff to provide the best possible care truly were inspiring. I was invited to attend a number of cultural and just plain fun events with staff members that were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for me. The high premium placed on teamwork and collaboration was evident to me from my first day as everyone was made to feel a valuable part of the team. Growth, Inspiration, Fun, Teamwork and Shared experiences. These are the G.I.F.T.S. you too can receive as you give of yourself by serving at ASRI - and they are the kind that keep on giving!

ELIZABETH BAST – previous conservation volunteer, decided to go to medical school as a result. Medical student at University of Pennsylvania SOM

"I had the amazing good fortune to live my dream and volunteer at ASRI for around 6 months just after graduating from college three years ago and I am incredibly thankful everyday for that experience.  Because I was able to work on a number of wonderful projects, I got to really see and experience the clinic, the conservation program, and, most of all, the people that make up ASRI. The profundity of this experience is not something that is easy to verbalize: the smell of the forest, the sound of the gibbons, the smiles of the people are all swirled together in my mind alongside the sobering problems I learned so much about and tried to help address.

While I was no novice to the issues ASRI tackles, the experience made a deep imprint on me; despite the time and distance, I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think of something related to that time. Personally, I know that I must keep this experience in focus while following the long path through medical school because I want to remember all that I learned, felt, and experienced. I want to remember why I wanted to go into this profession, and the vital importance of the ASRI’s mission.

As we live our lives in the US so far removed from the beautiful forest and all the issues that both Gunung Palung and the communities surrounding it face, it is easy to dismiss their problems as not our own; however I know that more than ever we are all in this fight together.  I will forever be thankful to ASRI and all those who support the program, and hope to continue giving back in any way I can. Thank you!"


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