Expanding our Approach: Notes from our Second Program Site

Health In Harmony Program Director Ashley Emerson recently visited Borneo and brought back this update from our next program site there:

Dear Friends of Health In Harmony,

I recently returned from an extended trip to Borneo to work with our partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) and support the launch of our second site in the beautiful rain forest communities of Bukit Baka Bukit Rya National Park (BBBR).

As you know, for the past ten years, we have primarily worked in Gunung Palung National Park  (GPNP) in West Kilimantan, Indonesia.  BBBR is almost twice the size of GPNP, harboring some of the world’s most biodiverse tropical rain forest within its 180,000 hectare expanse.  This rainforest is home to sun bears, clouded leopards, jungle cats, hornbills, and is an International Animal Rescue safe release site for orangutans. It is also home to indigenous Dayak communities.

tropical timber deforestation

Logged timber drying in piles | Photo: Ashley Emerson

The journey to BBBR is arduous and nearly impossible to complete by yourself. We were fortunate to make the journey with an intrepid driver who, after many starts and stops, delivered us safely to a road that ended at a rushing river. The Dayak are river people, they are also isolated, with limited access to health services and livelihoods other than logging timber. Their main method for survival is logging, which brings the needed income to pay for things like healthcare, food, and other basic needs.

Our hope is to work with nine of the sub-villages near BBBR to address the needs and concerns that they have expressed through Radical Listening meetings with us. When we start our programs there, we will offer access to healthcare and support training in alternative livelihoods (such as organic farming) in an effort to provide alternatives to illegal logging. By leveraging our successful approach in GPNP -- which resulted in an 88% reduction in illegal logging -- we hope to achieve similar outcomes in partnership with communities around BBBR.

rural health care mobile clinic Indonesia

Dr. Nirmala and Dr. Alvi speak with patients | Photo: Ashley Emerson

We had the pleasure of meeting with the Department of Health, the local Bupati (Regional Administrator), the National Park Office, the local Puskesmas, and community members. Dr. Monica Nirmala and Dr. Alvi from ASRI performed mobile clinics in four communities and hosted several Tuberculosis trainings. They also hosted dental clinics for the old and young and treated long lines of patients in the mornings and evenings, distributing medicines and updating communities on the progress of the program and official start date in August 2018. Jili, ASRI’s Sustainable Farming and Agriculture Coordinator, conducted organic farming trainings and community assessments for the organic farming program.

ASRI staff and BBBR National Park staff | Photo: BBBR Staff

People shared their excitement for the program to begin and their urgency to have better access to consistent healthcare services, especially midwifery support. They also shared their eagerness to learn new farming practices that will ensure higher yields and preserve the forest. One logger said, “Every home here has a chainsaw, we all log. We need new opportunities before this rainforest is gone.”

-Ashley Emerson, Health In Harmony Program Director

Children playing in the river waved goodbye to us! | Photo: Ashley Emerson


About Ashley Emerson | View all posts by Ashley Emerson