vina doctor

Dr. Vina

When Dr. Vina Wang first told her parents she would like to work for Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) in rural Borneo, they took some convincing.

“When I first wanted to go to ASRI, it was hard to ask for my father’s permission because my parents think Borneo is in the middle of nowhere. My mother was very supportive, but my dad was worried about his daughter in the middle of the jungle.” Vina told HIH’s executive director, Michelle Bussard, in a recent interview.

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On one of my last days in Sukadana, I talked with my friends Dr. Nomi and Dr. Yuli, ASRI’s two newest physicians, about why they chose ASRI and what they like about working in the clinic. Both women are passionate about serving their patients and driven to learn and improve. They were drawn to ASRI as a clinic that meets the standards of care they aim to provide.

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Three exciting opportunities developed in the last few months that are all serving to place Health In Harmony and our founder, Dr. Kinari Webb, in a position of innovative leadership around the globe. The recognition from Rainer Arnhold, Ashoka, and the CLASSY Awards will help the model gain further attention and traction as it grows in your mission of saving the world's rainforests with a stethoscope.

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This past month, a group of our intrepid supporters traveled to ASRI to see for themselves how our programs are changing lives and saving the rainforest. Now they share their photos so you can follow us to Sukadana and beyond, into the wilds of Borneo. See it all for yourself:

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In honor of Women's Health Week this week, we are sharing some of our project partner ASRI's great work for and by women in the clinic.

Women are not only patients at Klinik ASRI: we have a strong tradition of female healthcare providers - and leaders. After all, Health In Harmony and ASRI were co-founded by three inspiring women, Dr. Kinari Webb, Dr. Hotlin Ompusunggu, and Antonia Gorog. Today, all three doctors at the Klinik are women, as are four of the 8 nurses, and 11 of the 12 extraordinary village healthcare workers helping end tuberculosis around Gunung Palung National Park.

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Guest blog by Dr. Krista Farey

Coming to Sukadana has been a blast of hot humid air, and warm new friends. As soon as I arrived and was situated in the "girls' house" off we went on our bikes. Imagine my surprise, arriving from San Francisco, to what I had heard was arguably one of the most corrupt and disaster-prone countries of the world, to learn that we had no bike locks. Not needed in Sukadana, they said, and besides, these are ASRI bikes. The "girls" were confident that there is so much respect for ASRI in the community that no one would mess with an ASRI bike.

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No one understands what drives our exceptional volunteers, all highly skilled professionals, to rearrange their lives to assist in our conservation and public health initiatives quite like Dr. Jesse Turner. He committed to spending 6 months out of the year at ASRI helping run the clinic, after volunteering in 2013.

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Each week this month, we’re bringing you fresh perspectives on ASRI’s work from some of the people who know it best: our volunteers.

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Exciting news from Sukadana: A new Memorandum of Understanding increases synergy between ASRI and the National Park office

Further solidifying their long and productive relationship, Yayasan Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) and the Gunung Palung National Park Management office (BTNGP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last month formalizing their collaboration. Dr. Hotlin Ompussunggu, ASRI co-founder, and Ir. Dadang Wardhana M.Sc, the current head of BTNGP, signed the agreement on March 26, which outlines plans for more information sharing, greater park access for ASRI’s education and monitoring activities, and increased capacity building. Read More

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I find it very appropriate that my trip to Indonesia was bookended by goats. A little more than two years ago, I wrote my master’s thesis at the University of Montana on international community development, focusing particularly on women’s roles. That interest meant the Goats for Widows program was what initially drew me to Health In Harmony. Though my appreciation now extends to each of ASRI’s programs, last Tuesday, standing in the road outside of Pak Rapi’s house (a local village leader), I remembered that original excitement, and it added to the joy of seeing smiles on the faces of eight women collecting their new kambing.

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Each week this month, we’re bringing you fresh perspectives on ASRI’s work from some of the people who know it best: our volunteers.

ASRI has a steady stream of volunteers from the west. Less common are volunteers from within Indonesia. Yusep Synata, from Jakarta, is at ASRI for several weeks in March and April, working with the conservation team, in addition to translating materials for future domestic volunteers, and interpreting for me in interviews with patients, staff and community members. He sat down with Trina (HIH Development and Administration Associate) in his first week to talk about what drew him to ASRI and his interesting experience learning English.

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Each week this month, we’re bringing you fresh perspectives on ASRI’s work from some of the people who know it best: our volunteers.

Dr. Anna Arroyo is a third year medical resident on the Global Health track at Stanford. She volunteered at ASRI for six weeks, and we had the chance to sit down together at the beginning of March right before she left to talk about what she contributed to ASRI and what she is taking home.

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Borneo's rainforests are under siege. Then why are we so hopeful for their future?

As I write, I am drifting through the Tanjung Puting National Park, a Bornean rainforest. Our first group of travelers has finished their days in Sukadana, and we are now on a traditional klotok boat navigating the rivers of the park between stops at orangutan feeding stations. In preparing for this leg of the journey, I kept imagining the gloomy story and setting of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a novel set in the depths of the Congo at the height of colonialism. While we are not being bombarded with the arrows of nearby people or running our boat aground in treacherous and murky waters, now that we are here, I am finding one true comparison.

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Each week this month, we're bringing you fresh perspectives on ASRI's work from some of the people who know it best: our volunteers. Drs. Karin Gunther and Lori Chow joined Health In Harmony on a journey to ASRI, March 9-19, 2014.  We had a chance to reflect with Dr. Karin on her 2008 volunteer experience at ASRI and contrasts with 2014 (below). In a separate interview we talk to Dr. Lori about her sponsorship of Dr. Ron's residency and how Dr. Ron views his future including a long-term commitment to ASRI.

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The gibbons sing their howls. Motorbikes zoom by. ASRI Clinic hosts a few in-patients. The “plastics” truck eases by with its familiar tune, calling customers. Sun beats down as the morning breeze all but disappears. A day like any other and most, except that after three years, Dr. Nur Chandra Bunawan (Dr. Nur) departed ASRI yesterday amid tears and joy and, yes, trepidation to gain his residency in Internal Medicine.

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We are thrilled to announce a major gift to ASRI: MacArthur Foundation Fellow Sarah “Sally” Otto is donating $100,000 from her MacArthur “Genius Grant” to support our community-based conservation work.

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Forest Guardians, all together | Photo: Thomas Lazzarini

Forest Guardians, all together | Photo: Thomas Lazzarini

ASRI's Forest Guardians are our not-so-secret weapon in combatting rainforest destruction: they are the bridge that connect local villagers to all our programs. Each of the 30 Forest Guardians are respected members of their community, nominated to the post by village leaders and then vetted and trained by ASRI in how to most persuasively approach illegal loggers - many of whom are friends and family of the FG. They monitor deforestation around their homes and spread awareness of all of the ways ASRI assists people who want to make a change, from alternative livelihoods trainings to village-wide healthcare discounts for villages that protect their forests.

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The ogoh-ogohs are nearly done. Devil creatures with ponderous breasts, big bellies, fangs, claws and bulging eyes. Some are three or four stories high, others the height of doorway. Some are being constructed by groups of older men and young boys, some by groups of older boys. On Balinese New Year, 30 March, the parading and burning will begin followed by a day of total silence throughout the island: everywhere, everyone. I think about the hundreds of ogoh-ogohs tucked under porches and temple roofs, of young boys learning from uncles and fathers, and of the thousands of offerings by women, young and old.

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Sukadana Rooster

Photo: Trina Jones

The soundtrack in Sukadana is thunder rolling and roosters crowing. I hear gibbons and children welcoming the day with their shouts and songs as I walk to the clinic in the morning and I hear chickens rustling in the leaves as I rinse with the cool water of the mandi in the open air shower. I learn to listen for motorbikes as I ride my bicycle in the cool breezes of the evenings and slowly start interpreting the rolling r’s of the Bahasa that is spoken around me each day.

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Michelle Bussard and most of the Health In Harmony staff are currently in Sukadana, preparing to welcome a group of donors to ASRI in just a few days' time. We will be featuring blogs about the on-the-ground ASRI experience during this time.

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