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Throughout this week, we featured the stories of four Forest Guardians who are committed to the program and protecting the rain forest. You can find their individual stories on our Facebook: Wawan, Amir, Samsu, and Ridwan. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram to see campaigns like these in the future. #FacesOfTheForest
On September 21st, 32 of 34* ASRI’s Forest Guardians gathered for an all-day workshop hosted by the ASRI Reforestation team. Forest Guardians are respected community representatives from each village surrounding Gunung Palung National Park and represent powerful bridges by which ASRI can communicate with and help villagers improve their health and livelihoods, and protect their watershed. Each Forest Guardian is recruited based on their commitment to conservation and their potential to act as leaders within their communities. They are responsible for monitoring all illegal logging activity in their villages, representing ASRI among their village, and helping to disseminate ASRI’s message of healthy forest, healthy lives -- or as they say in Bahasa Indonesia, "Hutan terjaga, masyarakat sejahtera" -- Protected forest, prosperous community.
Throughout the day, the Forest Guardians discussed their experiences over the past year, and ideas for raising local awareness of ASRI's health care discount. Hendriadi, the Forest Guardian program coordinator, presented data on logging trends over the last year. Pak Frans, the Reforestation Coordinator, introduced the seedling health savings program to the Forest Guardians, who were given seedling polybags to distribute to their community members to build "savings accounts" with seedlings for use at the Clinic.
Many Guardians reflected on successes and stories of the past year. One Forest Guardian boasted about the reduction of 60 illegal loggers down to 4 during the past four years. Another told a story about confiscating a logger's chainsaw, because the logger had cut down a fruit tree in the Park that "belonged" to another family, according to local tradition.
To close the event, ASRI staff distributed awards for distinguished Guardians. One award category for “above and beyond call of duty” went to a Forest Guardian who created a personal health savings account of $70 (88 seedlings) over the course of the year. One day his neighbor fell ill and he graciously paid for his neighbor’s medical care at the ASRI Clinic with his own health savings account.
The Forest Guardians are a vital part of the ASRI program. We are incredibly grateful for all of their work protecting the rain forest and caring for the needs of their community members.
*Two forest guardians were not able to attend because they had been asked to represent their communities at government meetings -- a sign that they have become trusted leaders within their villages.