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Before our new Executive Director, Jonathan Jennings (read about him here), sets off, I sat down with him in Portland for a quick chat about his first trip to Indonesia. Here’s what he had to say.
Darya: You’re about to visit Indonesia and our ASRI colleagues for the first time. How are you feeling?
JJ: Excited and curious. It’ll be the first time I’ve been to Indonesia, and it’s such an important trip for my learning and my ability to represent and lead Health In Harmony. I’ll spend a total of three weeks in-country, a week in Jakarta and then two weeks in Sukadana with our ASRI colleagues, seeing their path-finding programs firsthand. I’ll travel with Clare Wolfowitz, Vice President of our Board of Directors. I understand she’s a special force of nature where life and Indonesia are concerned. Clare spent part of her youth in Indonesia on an exchange program. Later, her Ph.D. in Anthropology centered on Javanese language and culture. She also spent three years based in Jakarta in the late 1980s with her family. I couldn’t ask for a better guide!
It’s also my first trip back to Asia in some years. I’ve lived in India on multiple occasions when I was with Doctors Without Borders, and 20 years ago I had the great fortune of living in rural Japan. Lawson’s convenience stores (a Japanese version of 7-Eleven) are popular in Jakarta. So in addition to sampling Jakarta’s street food, I’m nostalgic to get hot coffee in a can and onigiri rice balls from Lawson after 20 years!
Darya: What are your main priorities for this trip?
JJ: Seeing ASRI programs in action. This is essential. I need to see and understand our operations, to smell the air and get some dirt under my nails. It’s critical for my ability to represent the organization and lead it, especially as Health In Harmony aims to open new intervention sites across Indonesia and beyond. I must experience firsthand the interlocking components of our unique intervention model. To shake the hands of Forest Guardians, accompany the mobile clinic on a visit to a rural village, and of course, visit the new ASRI hospital that opened late last year.
Health In Harmony operations are one of the few examples in the world of Planetary Health in action. We integrate health care with conservation programs and alternative livelihood training. This approach reduces poverty, improves human health and saves critical rain forest habitat for some of the world’s most charismatic (and threatened) plant and animal species. Operationalizing this nexus puts Health In Harmony at the vanguard of a new Planetary Health discipline which understands the health of humanity is intrinsically linked to the health of the environment. (To learn more, please visit: http://www.thelancet.com/commissions/planetary-health)
Before getting to know ASRI’s Executive Director, Monica Ruth Nirmala, and her team, Clare and I will have the opportunity to meet Ima Abdulrahim, ASRI’s Board Chair, Putri Timur and Etta Djumaan Rivai, two ASRI Board members. Our two organizations have a unique partnership, joined at the hip, even while both entities independently grow and mature. It’s critical for me to understand ASRI leadership’s strategic aims and greatest challenges so that I know where to invest my efforts and which way to help pull. Shared vision and synergy with ASRI is critical.
I’ll also meet leadership at the Ford Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. Both organizations play major positive roles in overcoming social inequality in Indonesia and conserving its biodiverse habitat. We will continue to learn from them and partner if and when opportunities arise.
Darya: What are you reading on the plane?
JJ: Well. I’ve got to finish Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, which I started ages ago…and then I’ll start Pisani’s Indonesia, Etc. Plus a lot of other background reading specific to ASRI and our Indonesia programs. I’m a slow reader but that’s okay. I’ve got over 20 hours of flight time ahead of me, so there’s ample time for reading.