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Between July 6 and August 9, Etty Rahmawati, ASRI’s Conservation Education & Outreach Manager, gained as many insights into the USA, her volunteer, staff and Board hosts as we gained inspiration from her and connection to something bigger. That something bigger is Alam Sehat Lestari, healthy nature everlasting, or ASRI, beautiful, and ASRI Kids, the program inspired by volunteers and led by Etty. This is a story about those connections and why they are the very fiber of what we do and why it works. It is also a story about raising funds for the future: While on the west coast, Etty helped raise more than $10,000 between a ZACC grant and our generous Health In Harmony family of donors. Will you help match the gift and help support ASRI Kids and its promise for the future? You are our connection to success.
With a scholarship from the Blank Park Zoo, Etty’s USA adventure began in Des Moines at the Zoo & Aquariums Committed to Conservation (ZACC) conference. There the value of Etty’s work with ASRI Kids was recognized with the award of a $1200 grant. But, just as cool, was the design selected by the ZACC organizers for the back of every participant t-shirt: a design by Ikhwan Fatana, a 2012/13 ASRI Kids student.
Joining Etty at ZACC was Kari Malen, HIH’s Volunteer Director; and, Ana Sofia Wang (who along with her sister Lucia and mother, Dr. Ewen Wang launched ASRI Kids). For five days, the three women improbably connected and celebrated what they love through poster presentations and dozens upon dozens of conversations with conference goers. After enjoying the hospitality of volunteers Jim and Lori Young, the three went their separate ways only to be forever connected and joyously reunited in the days ahead.
Landing in Portland on July 14th, Etty immediately plunged into her 2 ½ week Oregon Zoo Summer Camp Internship, arranged with the help of Board member, Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo Director of Animal Health. During every one week session, Etty connected each of the 250 kids to places they only imagined watching the Zoo’s orangutans cavort in their realistic but still artificial environments. Zeroing in on the 4th & 5th graders who represented the cohort of kids she is working with in West Kalimantan, Etty soaked up new teaching methods, children’s joys and accomplishments.
During the course of her internship, Etty was invited to make two presentations to Oregon Zoo Camp staff leaders and teachers. Their farewell gift to her was a banner representing all the camp classes, teachers and camp leaders that she had engaged and connected with.
When not at the Oregon Zoo Summer Camp, Etty’s time spent in the northwest was punctuated with visits to Seattle where Dr. Darin toured her through Pikes Place Market and other Seattle delights; and to the Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainer with its vistas and snow fields, with volunteer Dr. Diane Daikin. Portland is also where HIH’s connection with Dining for Women (DFW) began and Patricia Andersen, group leader for the recent DFW junket to ASRI, hosted Etty for a DFW Chapter meeting and reunion with some of the women who made that trip last April.
Reflecting on the web of nearly implausible relationships cast through the work of HIH and ASRI, Etty and I headed south in my VW Westfalia for California where she would reconnect with Ana Sophia, Lucia and Dr. Wang, plus a host of Stanford-based medical volunteers. With a brief tent-camping sojourn at Diamond Lake in southern Oregon for my family reunion, we continued south to visit Dr. Toni Gorog, former Program Director of HIH and still-ardent fan; and, to Board member Dr. Peter Mayland’s home in Mendocino Valley.
Along the way, my dog Charm and 15-year companion, died in the Westfalia while we raced for the cool of the Oregon Coast. As we stood together and cried in the face of Charm’s death, I understood something in a new way. I knew the Qur’an considered dogs unclean and had watched Etty avoid Charm’s muzzle many times, but I hadn't yet appreciated how the Qur’an equally enjoins its followers to treat animals with compassion. What greater connection in the face of death than sharing tears of compassion and pain.
At each stop, we were embraced as family. And our lives moved into high gear with two fundraisers: one in San Francisco hosted by David Wieand of
the San Francisco Mennonite Church; the other hosted by Board members Christina Sabater and Alice Prussin. Both evenings, as guests filtered into the space, they not only recognized Etty, but it was easy to see the smiles of recognition on their faces when they saw former and current colleagues and friends. And I too smiled as I recognized a few faces, welcomed many more into the fold, so to speak, and felt embraced as a member of this astounding family of Health In Harmony supporters.
Whether engaged at ZACC, road tripping or attending fundraising events; every engagement, every encounter constellated around a wide web of connections that hold and support a vision of global health. Health In Harmony takes pride in raising funds for this most amazing vision; we relish working with volunteers to meet ASRI’s needs; but, most of all, we love telling the story of connection to something greater than us: Alam Sehat Lestari, ASRI.
Etty has gone on to the East Coast where she will be squired by a whole other set of remarkable volunteers and Board members (watch for the second installment!).
While on the west coast, more than $10,000 was raised between the ZACC grant and our generous HIH family of donors. Will you help match the gift and help support ASRI Kids and its promise for the future? Please donate here. Thank you.