Every year, staff and community members at Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) celebrate Green Day. It's not only an opportunity to plant trees, but also to strengthen relationships among ASRI staff, the community they serve, and the local government. This year, Green Day participants helped plant trees in a special zone of Gunung Palung National Park, an area called Rantau Panjang.
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:
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.
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.
Internships with local high schools and universities allow our partner ASRI to share their knowledge of safe, sustainable farming practices with the broader community. In return, these young interns bring fresh ideas and innovation to the program, keeping ASRI at the forefront of the Planetary Health movement through an influx of talent from all backgrounds.
I’ve just returned from my first visit to Indonesia, where our programs have been co-designed and executed by our Indonesian program partner, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI).
I met former loggers trained to be sustainable farmers and small business owners. I walked through rain forests regenerated and protected for the health of thousands of species and the planet. I explored the beautiful, recently constructed hospital, and met the men, women, and children who can access life-saving health care there every day thanks to the generosity of our donors.
Last year, our partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) piloted a new Chainsaw Buyback Entrepreneurship program. This micro-enterprise development program was launched to target the remaining ±180 loggers living around Gunung Palung National Park and help them find an alternative, sustainable income for their families. ASRI selected 10 individuals who already had side jobs that had the potential to scale-up and held a 5-day training with entrepreneurship experts from Jogjakarta, which included developing business plans and distribution of start-up funds. The loggers' wives were also required to attend the training in order to foster accountability and have joint buy-in for these new enterprises.
The results from the pilot were encouraging: after just a few months, 60% of the participants stopped logging entirely while 40% were logging occasionally while they waited for the businesses to become profitable.
Now almost a year later, ASRI has made the program official with an added touch: to participate in the program, loggers must sell their chainsaws to ASRI. The money from selling their chainsaws serves as part of the start-up costs for starting their own businesses. This month, ASRI signed on their first participants, Herwandi and his wife Darus Sita.
The effects of climate change seem to become more evident every day. Each season, the weather patterns seem to grow more extreme. Extreme heat means more droughts and damage from forest fires. More heavy rain means uncontrollable flooding. Drought means fewer crops, less water in the rivers, and less snow in the mountains, which means less water in our reservoirs come summertime. Preventing forest fires will slow climate change because of the amount of carbon dioxide that is released through large-scale fires.
Health In Harmony has partnered with ASRI to teach local farmers about farming in a way that is helping combat climate change in Indonesia. Sustainable farming techniques reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and holding carbon in vegetation and soils.
The final post in our Volunteer Appreciation Month series! An interview with Jeff Wyatt, who has been a donor, volunteer, and Board Member at Health In Harmony - someone that we are so thankful to have in this organization. His unique journey with Health in Harmony is a testament to his commitment to a healthy planet with healthy people. Interview edited for length and clarity. Read More
Almost 10 years after ASRI was founded, the number of loggers living outside of Gunung Palung National Park is down to ±180*, a significant decline from an estimated 1,300+ in 2007. At this point, the ASRI staff knows each of the remaining loggers personally and is working to find solutions that are tailored to each logger’s needs.
Last August, when I visited ASRI for the first time, I had the opportunity to spend a day with the Harapan Baru (meaning “New Hope”) farmers group. They taught me how to make a batch of liquid fertilizer, using some local ingredients that though readily available in Borneo, many of us in the West have never heard of.
Slash and Burn farming techniques are known for their destructive qualities, but rainforest conservationists are finding more dangers that threaten the health of this fragile environment.
April is Volunteer Appreciation Month. Each week this month, we'll be featuring new perspectives on ASRI’s work from some of the people who know it best: our volunteers.
Volunteers veterinarians Jeff Wyatt (from Seneca Park Zoo) and Andrew Winterborn (from Queen's University) just recently returned from their third trip ASRI in late February. During their time on-site, they worked to mentor Ibu Setiawati and Jili to build capacity for healthy goats and cattle.
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.
After attending ASRI's sustainable agriculture trainings, the farmers who would form the organic farming cooperative HarapanBaru ("New Hope") were skeptical. Even if it were better for the environment, how could farmers possibly get good yields without expensive chemical fertilizers? They decided to do an experiment: they would plant a rice paddy using ASRI's organic techniques, and compare it with a conventionally farmed plot.
I'm writing on my last day at ASRI. Here, I have spent and experienced time with the staff that has infinitely doubled my appreciation for their dedication. And, along with Kari Malen, HIH's extraordinary Volunteer Director, have spent nearly 7 days with 12 women representing Dining for Women who have equally doubled my appreciation for courage and what can be accomplished by a few dedicated people whose hearts are as big as the Gunung Palung rainforest and National Park no matter what side of the world they're from. And it's not just their collective passion that is as inspiring as it is humbling, it is that they truly "just do it."
Morning meeting is packed with ASRI staff and the delegation from Dining for Women who arrive this morning bearing gifts of medical supplies, medical library books, hundreds of eyeglasses, medicines and medical supplies adding to the already delivered ski bag of aluminum crutches and ambulatory boots. Name your most wonderful holiday tradition, and multiply it by 10 and you have a sense of the joy in clinic that morning. Morning meeting is also packed with final preparations for Green Day tomorrow (April 25) at the Lamong Satong nursery, about 90 minutes from Sukadana. More to follow! The excitement of all is palpable as the 12 women that are here are here because of a very generous $33,000 grant from Dining for Women in support of the Goats for Widows program.
Introduced to what would become the backbone of her life’s work, Clare Wolfowitz first experienced Indonesia as a 16-year old student-participant in AFS (formerly the American Field Service). Her destination, Jogjakarta, located in Central Java, a “beautiful, old city” that captured her intellectual, spiritual and anthropological curiosity.
Her homestay father was a doctor who served as head of a major hospital, while also running a clinic for those who couldn’t otherwise afford high-quality healthcare. “It was an amazing, amazing experience that made such an impression on me,” Clare said. “And I’ve been giving back ever since.” She and Rini, her homestay sister, remain lifelong friends.