Guest blog by Alex Domingo

The second reflection in our Volunteer Appreciation Month series! Stay tuned for a new post from volunteers each week in April. Read More

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Guest blog by Kenny Morford

Have we told you how awesome our volunteers are? In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month, we are dedicating April to recognizing the contributions of these amazing individuals who travel from all over the world to save forests and save lives in Sukadana. Our work would not be possible without them and we are incredibly grateful for their generous service. Stay tuned for a series of reflections from volunteers throughout the month! Read More

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My first week at ASRI was an orientation: seeing the programs in action, putting faces to names, and creating connections with the community. My first week also marked a tough transition for the ASRI staff: it was Dr. Vina’s last week, after 3 years at ASRI, the last one as head of clinic. Despite her departure, things seemed to be going business as usual, the Clinic bustling as it is most days, with conservation education in the waiting room, volunteers crammed around the table in the back, and patients moving in and out. Even on the toughest day, when there were two suspected cases of tuberculosis, Dr. Vina was steadfast, working with the team to figure out how to best help the patients. It was only when I found her stealing a moment to take a breath did she tell me, “I’m trying not to think about the fact that I’m leaving.”

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Guest blog by Mike Kanaga

My wife Peggy and I recently had the privilege of traveling to Indonesia to tour the ASRI facility in Borneo as part of the 2015 Health In Harmony Friendship Tour. We both had a bit of trepidation about this trip – half way around the world, different culture and language, unfamiliar food and surroundings, etc. However, after completing the trip I can say without reservation that I found every aspect of the 3 weeks to be fascinating.

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We're sure you've noticed that lately, we've been talking a lot about building ASRI's Community Hospital and Training Center. What's so great about this hospital, you ask? Well, I've created a side-by-side comparison for you, so you know exactly why this hospital is so important:

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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.

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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.


Dame Idossa is a Yale medical student who volunteered with the ASRI Clinic in late 2014. During her time on-site, she had a great deal of hands-on experience and took away many lessons on the realities of delivering health care in rural settings.

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Guest blog by Dr. Yuliana Jeng

A couple weeks ago, when I was doing my daily routine work as a doctor in the clinic, I met him. He is Mr. Helmi, our 40 year old patient with a very bad foot infection. I remember him because he left a deep impression on me. How can I forget him? I still can remember the day when he came.

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Guest blog by Dr. Yuliana Jeng

"The sky is dark without the stars tonight. Still, I can hear the sound of rain falling down to the ground. I always love this moment. While I was watching the  rain through my window, I remember our lovely six year old patient, a little boy named Yasir."
- Dr. Yuli

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“A young girl came in once to the ASRI clinic—she had the worst case of scabies I had ever seen. We diagnosed her in about 5 minutes and treated her and her entire family for $2, because they came from a “green” village. A Yale medical volunteer who happened to be doing research asked them about their medical bills. They had spent $500 on their daughter’s care. They had gone to other doctors, multiple nurses, and the traditional healer several times, and nobody was able to treat her.”

- Dr. Kinari Webb, Founder of Health In Harmony and ASRI

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Monica Ruth Nirmala, DDS is part of a proud, if new, tradition in Borneo: dentists saving the rainforest. This month, she follows in the footsteps of internationally celebrated dentist and conservation inspiration Dr. Hotlin Ompusunggu by becoming the Executive Director of Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI).

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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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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.

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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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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ASRI's programs have always been designed and implemented by the people living in the villages around Gunung Palung National Park. Thirty of the 32 villages surrounding the park have signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with us, agreeing to work together to reduce illegal logging. This month, we received word from our program partner, ASRI, that one of those two remaining villages also agreed to an MOU! That means there is only one remaining village that has not signed. After signing villages get discounts in the clinic even if they don't managed to stop the logging (but more if they do!). We are celebrating one more village having access to affordable healthcare and  protecting precious habitat!

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Serving a Purpose in Imperiled Paradise

Guest blog by Dr. Aaliya Yaqub

Health In Harmony's purpose is threefold: to provide ASRI with volunteers and funds, while telling its story, and we were recently awarded Guidestar's Silver Certification, demonstrating efficacy and responsibility in pursuing this missionIn today's blog, Aaliya Yaqub, one of our wonderful volunteer physicians at ASRI, paints a picture of the integration of conservation and healthcare, kicking off our August focus on sharing stories and asking you to lean on our expertise by giving the most flexible and effective gifts possibleKeep your eyes on your inbox for more details coming soon.

It’s true, life happens, but a rich life full of vibrant experiences will not just land in your lap.  One year ago, as I was expecting my first baby, I had the opportunity to spend 6 weeks in Sukadana, Borneo working in the ASRI clinic. Yale/Stanford Johnson & Johnson Global Health Scholars program helped me grow from an American into a global citizen ready to explore and experience.  I must admit that one must have some adventure in them to participate in such an experience, but the rewards are boundless. 

For me, the long 36-hour journey to Sukadana, the remote Bornean village where I spent the summer of 2012, was well worth it. Sukadana is the kind of fantastic place that exists in your imagination.  It is nestled in the rainforest and yet manages to boast a pretty little brown sandy beach that gets framed by marvelous rainbows during the rainy season.  Its people are otherworldly with their deep sincere smiles that never seem to end, their big hearts, and their vast gratitude.  The internet is slow and unreliable.  Sometimes there is no running water, and air conditioning is not an option even amidst the sometimes sweltering tropical heat and humidity.  Showers are taken with buckets and monkeys frolic outside of homes early in the morning.  People maintain a simple and organic diet consisting of freshly caught fish, local vegetables and rice.  And yet, even for a girl used to the modern luxuries of the first world, this is paradise.

Living in Sukadana was the greatest adventure I could have asked for, but it was my time in that tiny rural clinic that really shaped me as a doctor and as a person.  The clinic was housed in a small building and consisted of two patient examination rooms and three beds for inpatient care. In this clinic, I was no longer an internist who specialized in the medical care of adults. I was now one of the community doctors—equipped with the courage to care for trauma, eye emergencies, neurologic emergencies, children and pregnant women.

There were moments that really challenged my emotional fortitude.  I particularly remember a 43-year-old woman who was brought in unconscious by her family.  One moment she was preparing dinner in her kitchen, and the next she was being rushed to the clinic after suffering a massive stroke.  With no imaging capabilities and little resources, we treated her supportively and comforted her family as she peacefully passed away.  I had mixed feelings about the experience—sorrow, sadness, and frustration that I was unable to do more.  As her family members thanked me and my colleagues for our love, support and guidance during this tragic time, I began to realize that I was serving a purpose. Although I was unable to save this patient, I was able to make her comfortable and provide support to her family.  In moments like that, we all face our fragile humanity and are bonded together by something deeper than medical care.

Apart from the amazing experiences I had in the clinic teaching young Indonesian doctors and treating patients, I spent time learning about the heartbreaking destruction of the rainforest.  With illegal logging by people looking to sell wood to make a quick profit and the rapid spread of palm oil plantations in the region, I saw the repercussions firsthand.  Orangutans, a species of great apes only found in Indonesia, are losing their habitat at an alarming rate.  With destruction of the forest, we are also losing the amazing biodiversity found in the region—insects, birds, trees, plants.  And, most alarming to me is the increase in greenhouse gases and climate change as a result of this critical loss of forest. All of these issues may seem so foreign and obscure to those sitting in the western world, but seeing all of this in person changed me.  It changed how I feel about the environment and about health.

I believe that as we allow the destruction of our environment, we are also allowing the destruction of our health.  Respect for one’s health and respect for our natural resources go hand in hand.

When my daughter is old enough, I hope she can experience Borneo the way that I did.  I am looking forward to taking her halfway across the world for an experience that will add richness and color to her life.

 

About Aaliya Yaqub

Aaliya volunteered at the ASRI Clinic in 2012 through the Johnson & Johnson Scholars Program at Stanford University. She currently resides in Atherton, CA.

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Resilience

Rising before dawn, we run, do our yoga, listen to the swish of brooms and the buzz of saws from the louver and door makers down the street. Roosters having been silent through most of the night begin their cacophony, the Imam calls believers to prayer and the motorbikes begin their buzzing like flies along Sukadana's few main streets. Everything starts early here, before the sun pours down molten hot and life is forced to slow.

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