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We're sharing this beautifully written guest post from Maleeha Malik, a recent visitor to our Indonesian partners Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI). Maleeha describes her visit and ASRI's life changing impact. The original post can be found on Maleeha's blog: Ke Mana? Stories from Asia
"Two weeks ago, I visited Alam Sehat Lestari, or ASRI for short, an NGO in West Kalimantan that is dedicated to improving the quality of healthcare for communities around Gunung Palung National Park. The name Alam Sehat Lestari literally translates to ‘nature healthy sustainable’; ASRI translates to ‘beautiful’. It is exactly this idea of linking healthcare to a healthy environment that ASRI is trying to promote."
Staff at our pilot program Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) have witnessed a dramatic decrease in logging in Gunung Palung National Park over the past 11 years. By offering affordable health care and training in organic agriculture, ASRI has enticed almost all of the loggers who used to operate in the park to put away their chainsaws for good. But that has left a minority - about 12% of logging households according to our latest calculations - who have continued to log.
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.
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.
October 18th 2013 is Anti-Slavery Day.
Although slavery seems very far removed from our work in healthcare and conservation, the truth is that forced labor comes much closer to home than we’d like to think. The Walk Free Foundation released the first Global Slavery Index yesterday, cataloguing the estimated prevalence of modern slavery around the world.  Their interactive map is an eye-opening and heartbreaking tour of the world. In Indonesia, the home of our project partner ASRI, an estimated 200,000 to 220,000 people are enslaved there.
Guest blog by Ana Sofia Wang
Just a month ago, a project that started as a small idea experienced its second year of success when a group of 17 students traveled all the way from their remote villages to surrounding the Gunung Palung National Park to Tanjung Puting National Park. The students were chosen from 4 schools to take their first trip away from home and first ever plane flight to experience firsthand the beauty of protected rain forest. One of the most amazing things the kids learn on the trip is that people from all over the world want to come and see where organgutans live. This realization gives them a sense of pride in where they come from and in their rain forest. Watching these discoveries and being involved in those small magical moments was, for me, the most valuable thing in the world. For my sister and I, coming back to work with ASRI Kids’ amazing teacher and coordinator Etty, has been monumental. These past two years visiting the classrooms, meeting the kids, going on the field trips, I have realized it is not only us who are teaching the kids, but the kids have a lot to teach us too. Their eagerness to learn and constant curiosity gives me hope for their future.
And we need to make room for the steadily-increasing number of patients. The high volume of patients is evidenced in long wait times for treatment and crowded waiting areas (indoor and out).
Today, the ASRI Clinic is crowded far beyond capacity. Patients have long waiting times for treatment, and in some cases must return another day. Moreover, the clinic lacks facilities to treat more serious injuries and emergencies, or to provide simple surgeries and inpatient care.
This month at Health In Harmony is dedicated to Forest Guardians, respected members of their local communities who represent powerful bridges helping villagers to improve their health and livelihoods and protect their watershed. Inaugurated with a prestigious Whitley Conservation Award, Forest Guardians are the connectors between ASRI and communities around the park, helping to mutually identify and create livelihoods that promote conservation of Gunung Palung. To date, over 330 villagers in 20 communities have, as a result of working with Forest Guardians and ASRI, developed organic farming initiatives that have decreased illegal logging in the park, boosted local incomes, and improved household nutrition.
I want to send you some love medicine. I want to share with you some of the amazing healing that has been happening in Borneo over the last five years.
I am stunned by the changes we've accomplished with your help.
I often joke that American citizens should have to spend time abroad – preferably in the developing world – before being given the right to vote. But, I am only half joking.
I started my affair with ASRI as a volunteer three years ago, with a desire to get more experience in forest restoration and to visit an exotic place called Borneo – but not be a tourist. And, well, I am still here. My role has shifted a bit but my desire to help has only grown. For some of my friends and family it is hard to understand why I would choose to live in a rural village, in a remote corner of the world, to plant trees – for free! But, if you have been fortunate enough to have an experience like volunteering with ASRI or a similar organization – I bet you understand. It is hard to put those feelings into words, but I can try to give you a sense of it.
For the one year anniversary of the Forest Guardian program, Hotlin Ompusunggu, DDS, co-founder of ASRI, talks about its inception. Based on the core values and philosophy of HIH and ASRI - that community be at the center, involved in and own the solutions of change – Forest Guardians have inspired a 45% increase in villages that have totally stopped logging. Livelihoods and the fate of the Gunung Palung National Park, home to 2500 orangutans, are at stake. You can help by supporting a Forest Guardian for only $50 per month!