An Update from ASRI Teaching Physician Krista Farey

Dr. Krista Farey is a physician from California who has visited our pilot program Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) on several occasions.  Here is a recent update from Dr. Farey:

Greetings from Sukadana, West Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, where I have the good fortune and privilege to be serving for a third time as teaching support for the excellent team of young Indonesian doctors at ASRI clinic.  The environment is as luscious as ever and my work at ASRI clinic, a non-profit linking human health and planetary health, is fun and gratifying.  Medicine here remains a calling and is not just a job.

That said, some things have changed greatly since my last visit just two years ago. Think technological advancement at fast-forward speeds. ASRI clinic is now based in a hospital-type building, not a converted house.  Cool, spacious and equipped for future offerings of X-rays, surgery, and intensive care, it a completely different work environment.  Most staff have exchanged their flip phones for smart phones, which, with newly reliable WIFI, makes possible much better medical look-up, constant interaction on WhatsApp, and myriad distractions. The demonstration organic farm behind the new hospital provides fresh-picked farm to table organic vegetables for the lunch provided daily to staff, they are incredulous when I tell them how much a lunch like that would cost in California.

For me one of the big challenges of building a western medical infrastructure in these parts are decisions about which aspects of the technology are most worth importing. In that light, I was delighted to learn that the young doctors here were very interested in learning more meditation, yoga and Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) from me while I’m here, and to apply it to patient care, thus reducing reliance on western pharmaceuticals.  I am also working with them on the skills of emergency obstetrics, as taught in the lower-tech global “ALSO” course, which they can then teach to the nurses and midwives who will be working for replication projects being started in other communities, supporting the conservation of other forests using the ASRI model.

You may have seen news reports of a recent study showing that the world’s orangutan population has shrunk from 300,000 to 100,000 or so in the past 16 years. The orangutans in the forest communities ASRI works with have their habitat protected and are not being hunted.  I had the honor of participating in a moving “chainsaw buy-back” agreement signing ceremony last week.  ASRI will buy the chainsaw and provide additional start-up funds for a new business for loggers who are ready to change professions.  The solemn middle-aged gentleman we visited inherited his chainsaw from his father and had been logging since he was 11 years old.  He was relieved and grateful to have the opportunity to transition to a cooking gas delivery business, as logging is dangerous, stigmatized, and illegal.  ASRI now has a collection of 70 some chain saws which they are dreaming of repurposing, perhaps into a “chainsaw monument” resembling a tree.

And now Easter has come. In the protestant church here in Sukadana, the interpretations of the biblical events of crucifixion and resurrection are quite literal. I like to juxtapose that with the concept of the Hindu lord Shiva, god of both destruction and renewal, and then with Camus’ Sisyphus, putatively enjoying life as a process, however difficult, whatever the outcome of one’s work, and whether or not there is any meaning in it.

I do find beauty in observing and participating in renewal, whether it be watching the church kids hunt Easter eggs, seeing the dramatic growth in the past two years of ASRI’s reforestation project, or participating in the healing of a critically ill patient. So, in spite of all the destruction in the news, I hope all of you also find joy and meaning in the beauty and renewal that comes your way in this season, and throughout the year.


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