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In the final installment of her series about Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), guest blogger Nina Finley shares more details about her experience, and how Planetary Health is shaping her research and future plans. You can read more of Nina's writing at her blog, Natural Selections.
For the past month I've been visiting Sukadana, a village nestled on the edge of Gunung Palung National Park in Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia. This lowland dipterocarp rainforest is home to 3,000 of the last Bornean orangutans. I’m volunteering here with Yayasan Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), roughly translating to Healthy Balanced Nature, a pathbreaking Planetary Health hospital with a mission to “save the rainforest with a stethoscope.”
Traditionally, in rural Borneo, wives whose husbands have died are left with few options for making a living. Our partners at Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) created the Goats for Widows program to empower these women and give them economic independence. Amy Cardamone, a public health expert who works in different rural areas throughout Southeast Asia, visited Alam Sehat Lestari recently and witnessed the birth of a baby goat, with a rather dramatic intervention from ASRI staff:
We have received strong evidence that our work in partnership with Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is preventing and reversing deforestation in Gunung Palung National Park. Just this week, new research conducted by ASRI staff revealed that deforestation in Gunung Palung has slowed significantly. Summing up their findings, the authors wrote: "Community empowerment, forest rehabilitation, and health care incentives as payment for ecosystem services can help reduce deforestation."
Nina Finley shares another blog post with us - this one focuses on Alam Sehat Lestari's reforestation program and the progress at the Lamong Satong reforestation site. This is the second in a series of blog posts from Nina. (Read more about Nina's travels on her blog Natural Selections.)
Heat rises from the wet ground and pulses down through black shade cloth. I can feel thermal energy surrounding me in waves. Welcome to the tropics.
Nina Finley, a recent graduate of Whitman College currently researching disease ecology and traveling the world on a Watson Fellowship, shares her notes on an expedition to Gunung Palung National Park -- and the amazing flora and fauna she encountered there! This is the first in a series of blog posts that Nina shared with us while visiting Sukadana and our pilot program Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI). Read more about Nina's travels on her blog Natural Selections.
This month we found everything from important research to inspiring news to share. Check it out!
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.
Dr. Courtney Howard is an emergency room physician who has witnessed the health impacts of climate change firsthand through her work in the Canadian Arctic. Bringing years of experience in medicine, public health, and planetary health, she recently joined Health In Harmony's Board of Directors and visited our pilot program, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), to provide clinical instruction to their doctors. This post from Courtney's blog shows the impact of our Chainsaw Buyback program, an innovative way to promote sustainable livelihoods and help the few remaining loggers put down their chainsaws once and for all.
Along with the rest of the world, we were saddened to read the coverage several weeks ago about the precipitous decline of the world’s orangutan population over the last 16 years. Fascination with these incredible cousins of ours is what first drew me to Borneo 20 years ago, and I left with a concern for them and our whole planet that has fueled the work of Health In Harmony ever since.
Last month, we welcomed Ashley Emerson as Health In Harmony's new Program Director. With a Masters in International Development, Community, and Environment from Clark University and years of experience leading and developing international programs around the world, we are thrilled to have her on the team. And to give you the chance to get to her know too, we sat down with her this week for an interview.
“This is my first time seeing an orangutan in the wild with my own eyes,” said Tian.
Tian is one of several students involved in ASRI Teens, an after-school conservation education curriculum for high schoolers through ASRI's Planetary Health Education Program. Similar to ASRI Kids, which targets primary and middle schoolers, the ASRI Teens study issues related to health and our environment. They also go outdoors to learn, and last November went on an overnight field trip with International Animal Rescue (IAR).
At Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), we believe that the communities we work with are the best solvers of their own problems, and it is our job to listen to them and help them find solutions. And listening is not something we do only once - it is a continuous process the helps us constantly refine our programs. So on January 15th, ASRI held radical listening meetings with villages around Gunung Palung National Park.
February's latest and greatest reads on environmental conservation, global health, and everything in between.
For our last What We're Reading of the year, we've rounded up our staff's favorite articles of the year. What were your favorite picks of 2017?
“Please show me, where is Indonesia?”
“Here!” the students called as they simultaneously pointed to Indonesia.
Kebun Keluarga (Kitchen Gardens) is one of ASRI's conservation programs, focusing on alternative livelihood development. This program works with women who live around Gunung Palung National Park, teaching them how to cultivate the small plots of land they manage next to their homes.
Since 2007, Health In Harmony and our partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) have reduced illegal logging (by 89% as of 2017), achieved important health outcomes (such as reducing infant mortality rate), and helped lift families living around Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP) out of poverty. We’ve done this by using radical listening to facilitate community-designed solutions to the integrated problems that people face. Could the same approach work in other parts of the world?
“Now we have hope. Now we KNOW change is possible!”
This is what one man told Kinari about his community over the last ten years. Health In Harmony has focused on data since creating a baseline survey in 2007 to monitor behavior change and health impact over time. But we haven’t figured out a way to quantify hope. We can’t quite measure how important respect, love, and commitment are to the changes we see (though we’re working on it!).
Dear friends of Health In Harmony,
I just got back from a wonderful seven weeks in Kalimantan and I want to thank you all for helping make the hospital possible. Because of visa issues, I had not actually been back since November when the ASRI team officially moved into the building. So for me, the last time I saw the building was in the first week of the team using it.