Volunteer Voice: Bethany Kois

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.

In late 2012, Bethany volunteered with ASRI after being drawn to the connection between human and environmental health and how it leads to social change. Today, we are pleased to announce that she will be joining Health In Harmony as the new Grants Specialist!

Bethany (left) with ASRI co-founder Hotlin (right)

Bethany (left) with ASRI co-founder Hotlin (right)

Early in 2012, when I was studying Indonesian law and development at Leiden University in the Netherlands, I learned about Health In Harmony. At the time, I was trying to understand how social change, motivated by social entrepreneurs, might positively affect environmental and human rights outcomes in nations with failing legal regimes. Upon learning about the strategies ASRI was using to prevent deforestation and remedy poor human health, I became very excited and wanted to see the work first-hand. I reached out to Kari Malen and explained my interest in volunteering with ASRI. Over the next six months, Kari and I kept in contact. Finally, that fall, I made the two-day journey to Sukadana.

Over the next three months, I experienced life as a volunteer with ASRI. The daily process of collaborative learning was constant. ASRI staff and volunteers worked together, played games together, ate together, and lived together. The continuous interaction allowed the ideas to flow and the projects to find creative solutions. The group felt like a strong unit. If we encountered a problem or difficulty, we worked together to resolve the situation effectively. I am proud of my volunteer time with ASRI and thankful for the friends I made in Sukadana.

Fast forward to spring of 2015. Since volunteering, my interest in understanding the effectiveness of the methods of ASRI has only increased. Indonesia continues to have the worst rate of deforestation in the world and poverty and poor health remain everyday realities. ASRI has worked hard to address these issues over the years, but there is still a great deal more to do. I am hopeful that, with the construction of the new hospital and the expansion of other initiatives, ASRI will realize even greater success in linking public, private, and social actors to mitigate deforestation and improve human health. Additionally, in my new role as a Grants Specialist with HIH, I am honored to join the team and overjoyed to work in a field that I am passionate about. I cannot wait to see what these next few years will bring.

 Reforestation2ASRI's reforestation site

Thank you for joining us this month for Volunteer Voices! If you'd like to read past volunteer testimonials, click here. Interested in learning more about Health In Harmony's volunteer program? Click here. Inspired by the work these volunteers are doing with ASRI and want to contribute? Donate today.


About Bethany Kois | View all posts by Bethany Kois

Bethany is the Research Director at Health In Harmony, based in Charles City, IA.