"With a New Truck, My Family Will be Less Worried for my Safety"

For the past year, Pak Faisal has driven ASRI's truck through tough terrain in rural Borneo; from muddy tracks and giant potholes to wooden bridges and rising flood waters!  He told us that every time he drives the old ASRI truck, his wife and children worry about him. The following is a brief interview with him, translated into English and lightly edited for clarity: 

Q: How long have you been driving for ASRI?
A: One year. Started last August.

Q: How does it feel driving for ASRI? Have you worked as a driver before?
A: Before, I worked as a driver in Central Kalimantan. At ASRI, unlike my previous job, I feel like I’m part of a family. Previously, there was no communication between staff members. But with ASRI I feel a sense of togetherness, especially during the mobile clinic and any conservation activities.

Pak Faisal with ASRI's truck | Photo: Stephanie Gee

Q: What is it like to drive the mobile clinic during the rainy season?
A: During the rainy season, the road conditions are especially unpredictable. Usually they are muddy; often they are flooded. But as a driver, you really need to be able to predict what route to use – and I use my instinct to do that.

Q: Have you ever been afraid when driving for mobile clinic?
A: I have, of course I have. Especially when we leave when it is cloudy.

Q: Would you be less afraid if you had a new car?
A: In my opinion, whatever car I used, new or old, I will still feel afraid if the weather is bad. But with a new car, I will feel safe. Even though the road is bad, a new car is powerful. It’s hard to get good power out of the old car because it is 11 years old.

Q: What does it mean to feel safe?
A: Every time after I go to a rural area, the car comes back broken because the car isn’t in a good enough condition. For that reason, I never want to force the car to go through a badly damaged road, even if its faster. I’d rather go the long way and use 5-10 more liters of gasoline. It’s okay as long as there are no obstacles that will hurt the passengers or the driver, like a collapse or a trap. That’s why I always ask Bu Lia, "When will we have a new car?" If we total all the costs of car maintenance and repairs, it costs as much as buying a new car.

Q: What is your favorite and unforgettable memory when mobile clinic?
A: When we had a flat tire in Batu Barat. That was the first time a truck had to be left overnight in the mud. And more interestingly, when Stephanie joined the mobile clinic and took a video [standing out the window of the truck] on the way down a hill. Efan had to hold her so that she wouldn’t fall out.

Video below by Stephanie Gee

Q: If ASRI have a new car, what would be the impact on the environment?
A: We have a drive truck, but it doesn’t work properly. ASRI has many programs that always work in the field. And if we go to a remote area, then we always use the truck. For example, for the next 2 weeks our truck can’t go anywhere, can’t collect the seedlings, and perhaps can’t go for the mobile clinic. Because the truck’s spare parts won’t be coming in for the next 2 weeks. If we had a new car, our health and environment programs and all programs could still run and they wouldn’t be interrupted. In fact, if we don't have a new car, many programs will be canceled, like mobile clinic, seed collection, and others.

Q: How many times have you had fixed the car? How long does it take?
A: Once a month. How long? Depend on how bad is the car damaged and the availability of spare parts. The longest repair was two months.

Q: What was the most expensive repair?
A: For the longest repair (2 months) the cost was almost 40,000,000 rupiah. I have worked as a driver at ASRI for one year, and so far I have paid 80.000.000 rupiah in repairs. The reason why repairs cost so much is that the car is already 11 years old (bought in 2007) and it is no longer in good condition. If we want this car to be in good condition, we would need to repair everything, but we don’t have enough money to do that. For example, if the right wheel is damaged, we fix it – but after that we use the car, and then the left wheel is broken and we need to fix that too…Bu Lia has asked me, “What we should do with our truck?” I said, we just have 2 options: first, fix the whole car, but the cost will be more expensive than buying a new one. Or buy a new one. So we keep going, keep breaking, keep going, keep breaking.

Q: What is your first memory driving a car?
A: The first time I drove, I drove my father’s pickup truck. Every time I came home from school, I helped my parents bring the car to deliver sand. So it's quite a lot of experience driving a car.

Q: How will having a new truck impact your family?
A: If I start driving a new car, my family will feel less worried and feel safer. I predict that it will take 90% longer for a new car to be damaged; it all depends on how well we take care of the car and never letting anyone except drivers use it because the car is driver’s responsibility.

Q: Why do you like being a driver?
A: I only graduated from Senior High School, so driving is the only skill I have that I can use for a job. Also, I am the sort of person who likes to explore new places and meet new people. I wouldn’t like working a whole day facing a laptop and sitting (laughs).

Q: Why do you like working for ASRI?
A: ASRI’s goals make me excited. This vision and mission to protect both health and the environment has never been done before. There has never been a comfortable workplace that has clear and precise goals.

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About Thomas Phillips | View all posts by Thomas Phillips