Engage community-led solutions for human health and the health of our planet.
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Alexiandrea Borden is a photographer who has donated her incredible prints for ASRI's Community Hospital and Training Center. They are featured prominently in ASRI's patient areas and community meeting room, reminding staff and visitors that our shared climate means icebergs in Greenland rely on healthy rain forests in Borneo - as trees fall, the ice melts. Her work has even inspired our ASRI Teens to begin conservation outreach in local shops!
Today, Alexiandrea shares her experience below of photographing these icy wonders and has made her prints available for you to order from our Gift Shop! We will continue to add more of her beautiful photos to our shop over time, and please let us know if you find one you love that's not available yet.
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."
Every month our partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) provides clinical care and follow up visits for families in the most rural villages on the border of Gunung Palung National Park. ASRI staff crisscross the landscape delivering affordable medical care to patients who have no other access to medical care. In exchange, patients often pay with seedlings instead of cash.
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.
Guest blog by Clare Wolfowitz, Ph.D.
What works? Carefully designed community outreach works. And community capacity-building works. Here’s how.
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.”
Dr. Ronald Natawidjaja, one of the doctors who has served at ASRI since 2012, was recently accepted into his residency in general surgery, which will begin in January. We are so excited to offer heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Dr. Ron!
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.
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.
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.
September is Save Your Sight month, dedicated to eradicating preventable blindness around the globe.
39 million people are blind worldwide. Eighty percent of visual impairments can be avoided or cured; yet huge numbers of people continue to struggle with serious vision problems. Why? Ninety percent of the visually impaired live in developing countries, where they often cannot access or afford the treatment they need. (WHO 2012)
Guest blog by Clare Selgin Wolfowitz
The second annual meeting of the Congress of the Indonesian Diaspora (CID2, for short) attracted more than 5000 participants from around the world. The 3-day conference, held in Jakarta (August 18-20), is a project of the Indonesian government; it was opened officially by President Yudhoyono. The CID is designed both to support overseas Indonesians through networking, and to encourage them to apply their talents and resources toward Indonesian development.
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 mission. In 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 possible. Keep 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.
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).
Guest blog by Art Blundell
According to mythology, long ago a woman found seven eggs. They hatched into a ghost, a woman, a stone, and four kings—one for each of the four large islands in the archipelago off the northwest tip of New Guinea. And so the vast archipelago (about the size of New Hampshire & Vermont combined) came to be known as Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings. The area is now the largest marine park in Indonesia, the crown jewel of the world’s coral reefs.
Guest blog by Sisca Wiguno and Natalia (DOTS program coordinator)
Natalia, the ASRI DOTS Program Coordinator, interviewed one of the community health workers for TB treatment (DOTS workers), called Pengawas Minum Obat (treatment adherence supporter) in Bahasa - and one TB patient. In this interview, they shared their impressions about ASRI’s TB treatment program, their motivation to continue their work (for the DOTS workers), and to finish TB treatment (for the patient). Here are their stories:
Guest blog by Daniel Ebbs
Volunteering at ASRI Klinik in Sukadana, West Borneo, was as much of a learning experience as it was an adventure. From opening our hearts and minds to the people and culture, to experiencing the surrounding jungle and biodiversity, every day we absorbed and saturated our minds with seemingly endless knowledge and amazement. Traveling to Sukadana is an experience that is difficult to describe in words and will, I hope, provide insight to those wishing to witness how health access coalesces with environmental life and health, and how community engagement can produce innovative solutions to save the planet while saving lives.