Filmmaker Jocelyn Stokes has been in Indonesia since November 2018 working on capturing the work of Health In Harmony and ASRI. This interview was conducted between Health In Harmony and Jocelyn about the project and her experience so far.
Jocelyn Stokes: Our impact, as humans, has become all-expansive throughout our natural world. We can no longer afford to be ignorant of our responsibility to address the issues we face as finite natural resources diminish and natural systems fail due to unsustainable practices.
This means that comprehensive solutions for conserving our remaining resources and ecosystems are paramount. When I learned of the success of Health In Harmony’s programs it was clear to me that this is a solution that works. As a filmmaker, my job is then to tell this story. My responsibility is to support the growth of HIH’s work by sharing their successful, comprehensive solution with a worldwide audience.
I realized that my core contribution to conservation work would be storytelling while I was working on my first major wildlife project, as a photographer, in Northern Borneo.
That experience has helped cultivate my keen interest and primary focus in conservation efforts on the island of Borneo. Since that first project, I’ve worked for many years on numerous film projects on this island, including a documentary illustrating the plight of endangered sun bears. So, documenting the story of HIH was extra enticing as it encapsulates community-driven, planetary health, i.e. conservation and healthcare, in high-value rainforest areas of West Kalimantan, Borneo.
The goal of this film is to illustrate the story of how Health In Harmony came to fruition, the kind of solutions that have been implemented to reach the level of impact this organization currently has on planetary health and will continue to have in the future.
JS: Just getting to Sukadana is memorable. The remoteness of this mountainous jungle land is indeed what makes this area extra special. My journey here entailed a three-legged international flight (from North America to Indonesia), followed by two connecting local flights, which brought me to the capital of West Kalimantan, Borneo, on the edge of the Java Sea.
With around 500,000 people, Pontianak is the largest city, in the nearest proximity, yet Sukadana is still five hours away on the speediest of boats. For me, the most challenging part of this traveling marathon was lugging around hundreds of pounds of camera equipment, maneuvering those pesky weight restrictions and then trying to NOT panic when it was all tied to the roof of a speedboat, just barely kept dry with a well-weathered tarp.
Upon arrival, with my equipment unscathed, I was awe-struck. The immense beauty of the 360 degrees of rainforest landscape that surrounds Sukadana is surreal, especially when considering its oh-so-ancient roots (pun intended). And, as if that wasn't enough, I’ve found each member of the ASRI team to be just as stunningly beautiful in heart and soul! This caliber of dedicated professionals is highly indicative of the spirit of leadership that has founded this organization. I was extremely fortunate that my first week here overlapped with a visit from the founder herself, Dr. Kinari Webb.
Sitting at her kitchen table one evening, as I recalled the sounds of the day, the gibbons howling in the morning; the hornbills calling at dusk, she asked had I heard the sound of chainsaws?
No, I had not.
Ten years ago, when she founded ASRI, she recalled that not a day would go by where she DIDN’T hear chainsaws reverberating through Gunung Palung National Park. And she knew that those motors were cutting down ancient trees wider than the length of four men’s arms.
Today, she said, more than 80% of those chainsaws have been collected by ASRI in exchange for enough money and resources for the families who once owned them to begin new, sustainable livelihoods that enable them to now protect the forest.
JS: Another memorable experience was documenting a mobile clinic mission.
Weaving between mud-sunken trenches with a small team of medical professionals, we steadily rode through the dense green of Borneo jungle to transport our truckload of medical supplies to an isolated community of villagers.
Devoid of phone signals. Eight hours from a hospital. The people who live here are at the mercy of their immediate resources. Unfortunately, that largely means trees.
Ancient rainforest trees that make up the oldest forests on Earth: home to the largest populations of wild orangutans and countless other endemic species. If a child gets sick here, or a woman has a complicated pregnancy, the men of the village would traditionally find themselves desperately lugging beastly chainsaws to illegally cut down enough trees to afford the medical care needed, and the transportation to it.
Fortunately, these families now have an alternative option! This is where the mobile clinic of ASRI visits to bring healthcare to families. In exchange for their commitment to transition away from illegal logging and towards sustainable livelihoods, they receive affordable medical care.
And this is where we worked, in a sweltering room, with a single bare bulb, giant insects flying around, late into the night. I filmed as this single doctor team treated over 40 patients over the course of 11 hours. And they did it all with a loving smile. Sick babies, elders, people with severe infections and tuberculosis were all treated with care.
Documenting this mission, I have become intimately aware of the dedication and passion with which the ASRI team works to ensure comprehensive health for this community and OUR planet. My hope is that this film will inspire people to react with a similar sense of responsibility to do their part to support and join this critical work that is leading the way towards a truly healthy planet for ALL OF US!
HIH: Thank you so much, Jocelyn, for sharing with us and for lending your incredible talent to this work.