It Changed the Way I See the World

We asked Jo Whitehouse and Jan O'Brien, two dedicated HIH supporters who joined us on the 2014 Friendship Tour, to reflect on how the experience has shaped their lives. Read below to hear their inspiring stories of seeing ASRI for themselves.

Jo taking in the scenery during a trip to Tanjung Puting.

Jo taking in the scenery during a trip to Tanjung Puting.

Five years ago, I met Dr. Kinari Webb at a party hosted by a dear friend who said “I think you will like her." Well, she was wrong – I loved her. The vision of partnering health of people with health of the rain forest was brilliant. Kinari's strong commitment to collaboration and education was impressive. I was hooked and started donating to Health In Harmony and following ASRI’s story via e-Newsletters. I wanted to ask friends and family to support the work; my husband, Mike, said “Then you have to go to Borneo!”

In April of this year, I went to Borneo to see for myself, in the company of a small group of extraordinary individuals. Here are my “take home lessons” that I want to share with you:

  • The Team is extraordinary: dedicated, committed, aligned, and making really good things happen under difficult circumstances; their “can-do” attitude is combined with a sense of purpose, excellent teamwork, compassion, and joy.
  • ASRI is much more than the clinic which provides outpatient services. It is an emerging institution that collaborates with its communities and co-creates programs and services that reflect their needs and requests.
  • The ASRI model works. Since ASRI was founded, we have seen striking decreases in the number of illegal logging households, reduction in poverty, and significant improvements in multiple health parameters.
  • The ASRI model can be replicated. The HIH team is evaluating the model with the goal of replicating it in other places where conservation of natural resources can be partnered with the needs of the local communities.

I left Borneo with an even stronger commitment to be involved with HIH and ASRI. I did not predict that this trip would change the way I see the world on a daily basis. Just a few months later, in October, I became a member of Health In Harmony's Board of Directors and am delighted to be part of this amazing organization that saves rain forests, saves lives, educates kids and adults, and reduces poverty.

 - Jo Whitehouse, Health In Harmony Board of Directors and 2014 ASRI Friendship Tour participant


Jan enjoying the outdoors!

Jan as she arrives in Borneo for the 2014 Friendship Tour

Do we all crave both poles of travel? Adventure and comfort, the wonder of experiencing something new and the security of feeling understood?

When I was in high school, I was an exchange student in Nancy, France. I lived with a family, learned the language, went to a French school - became French for a year. Now that I am older, married, settled; it is hard to find time for full immersion travel. Yet I remain impatient with superficial visits to other lands. Adventure travel with my HIH friends struck this balance for me. My travel companions were smart, fun-loving people, all engaged in some aspect of the work of HIH in Borneo. I too had a special connection. My daughter, Kelsey, was on staff with HIH at the time and came on the trip with us. I didn’t interact with her much, as she was busy with logistics and video recording events, but I was happy to see her in her professional role.

One of the memorable events of our tour took place in Sukadana. Our trip was in the Spring. As an active Methodist, I was sorry to miss the Easter celebration at my church in California. When we visited the ASRI clinic, I’d been impressed to see Muslims and Christians interact at work. So I was delighted to be invited to a Good Friday service in Indonesia. One of the dentists from the clinic sat with us the whole time and translated for me. She even showed me English versions of the scripture on her smart phone so I could fully participate! On our way back to the hotel, we walked by a mosque that had hundreds of shoes lined up outside - yet we had just worshipped openly in a Christian church. That visual was a striking reminder. It's one thing to talk about religious tolerance; it's another to see it in action in the largest Muslim country in the world. We need more examples of faithful people working side by side. I also enjoyed our rain forest hike into Gunung Palung National Park led by our own incredible ecologist Cam Webb. I hike a lot in California but mostly on trails that are dry and dusty. Trails in a rain forest, wet and slippery with vegetation overflowing the narrow trail, were a challenge. We were cautioned not to hold onto vines or tree trunks as many of them can cause irritation. And to jump over the lines of fire ants. But the effort was well worth it. Cam lead our eyes to many aspects of the forest we would've missed without his help. We saw a beautiful seedpod about the size of a quarter, with wings, that we took turns sailing down the trail. And on our return down the mountain, we shucked our hiking boots and dove into a Trailside pool - which felt great after the sweaty hike.

Another day that I found particularly interesting, was our trip to an organic farm to see them creating pesticides and fertilizers out of local ingredients. I assumed that organic farming was done much the way I do here in my personal garden - just toss a little chicken poop around the tomatoes. But here it was done scientifically. Each element needed was weighed and measured to create a balanced fertilizer to maximize crop yield. Another “aah” moment - it came home to me. This work is not casual. These people are risking their livelihoods in this venture. And yet as we saw again and again on our trip, they practically make a party out of the work, with smiles all around. So, while aspects of the trip pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone (spiders and the heat), it truly was an adventure that continues to inform, delight, and enrich my life. Go if you can!

 – Jan O'Brien, Health In Harmony supporter and 2014 ASRI Friendship Tour participant

The entire group on the 2014 Friendship Tour!

The entire group on the 2014 Friendship Tour!

Does these stories inspire you to connect with ASRI?

Come with us in June 2015 on the 2nd annual Friendship Tour to ASRI.
Email if you're interested in joining us on a life-changing journey.


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