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April is Volunteer Appreciation Month. Each week this month, we'll be featuring new perspectives on ASRI’s work from some of the people who know it best: our volunteers.
Chelsea Call is a skilled photographer and yoga instructor from Colorado and was drawn to the volunteering position because she felt passionately about ASRI's mission. While on site in late 2014, she served as a volunteer photographer of ASRI's various programs and even taught yoga classes!
Whenever asked about my volunteer experience in Sukadana I chuckle and explain that I had the best volunteer position ever created: being a photographer. My first task upon arriving at ASRI is a clear example of this. After my first morning meeting inside of the Clinic I was introduced to the staff member that would help direct my volunteer duties, Indah. Her contagious smile immediately put my nerves to ease. After giving me a tour of the Clinic, Indah took me into the pharmacy, a place we would later nickname “heaven” due to the air conditioning. As the pharmacist at ASRI, Indah’s duties involved overseeing the entire pharmaceutical side of the Clinic. Indah was in charge of ASRI’s social media and website so it was suggested we work together during my volunteer visit.
Inside of the pharmacy Indah created some space for me on a desk next to her in order to set up my laptop. We began chatting and she immediately complimented me on my photographs, as she had previously looked through my website. It was nice to put a face behind the words that I had briefly read beforehand via e-mail. After talking about our vision for the ASRI Facebook page and website, Indah asked me to help her by taking staff photos for their new nametags. I happily obliged, this was the perfect way for me to be introduced to ASRI. The camera was an immediate icebreaker, always resulting in laughter. I quickly became known throughout ASRI and Sukadana as the "bulai (white person) with a camera."
Throughout my six weeks on Borneo I was able to witness every single project happening inside of ASRI, and their greater impact on the community. When I wasn’t spending time inside of the Clinic photographing or editing, I was out in the field. Bumpy motorbike rides became a daily venture. While I spoke little to no Bahasa, my camera allowed me to communicate with everyone I encountered. Eyes always seemed to to glow a little brighter when my camera was brought out. It was not uncommon to find myself posing with others in front of the camera, a place I usually find uncomfortable. Yet, it is hard to be uncomfortable squeezed between smiling Indonesian faces.
While I joke that I had the best volunteer job at ASRI, and I am biased, because it was the people who made me feel this way. It is impossible to fully capture the immense beauty of Sukadana and the kind hearts of its people on a digital platform, but it is my hope that my photographs tell a visual story that will transcend time.
To read previous Volunteer Voice reflections, click here.