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."

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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:
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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.

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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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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.

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The Clinic sees more patients every year

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).

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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."

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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.

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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.

Clare with homestay sister Rini in Jogjakarta, 1962.

Clare with homestay sister Rini in Jogjakarta, 1962.

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.

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Dining for Women, established in 2002 by Marsha Wallace, a nurse and mother of four from South Carolina, funds programs that foster good health, education, and economic self-sufficiency to make a positive difference through the power of collective giving.

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Guest blog by Christina Fitch, DO, MPH

Myself (Christina) & ASRI clinic doctors

As a doctor, I work in several settings. But, the thing that everyone wants to talk to me about is my volunteer work with Health In Harmony (HIH). Likely this is because it is the component of my work that I feel most passionate about and it shows. Having just returned from six weeks in Sukadana, I am still radiating with joy at what we were able to accomplish and what I am at the heart of in my service to HIH as a member of our dedicated Board of Directors.

 

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We are proud to announce that Dining for Women has designated Health In Harmony as its Featured Program for the month of September, 2012!

This grant will support Project ASRI’s Goats for Widows program, along with expanded training in “kitchen gardens” and nutrition.

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