This past month, a group of our intrepid supporters traveled to ASRI to see for themselves how our programs are changing lives and saving the rainforest. Now they share their photos so you can follow us to Sukadana and beyond, into the wilds of Borneo. See it all for yourself:

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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.

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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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Borneo's rainforests are under siege. Then why are we so hopeful for their future?

As I write, I am drifting through the Tanjung Puting National Park, a Bornean rainforest. Our first group of travelers has finished their days in Sukadana, and we are now on a traditional klotok boat navigating the rivers of the park between stops at orangutan feeding stations. In preparing for this leg of the journey, I kept imagining the gloomy story and setting of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a novel set in the depths of the Congo at the height of colonialism. While we are not being bombarded with the arrows of nearby people or running our boat aground in treacherous and murky waters, now that we are here, I am finding one true comparison.

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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. Drs. Karin Gunther and Lori Chow joined Health In Harmony on a journey to ASRI, March 9-19, 2014.  We had a chance to reflect with Dr. Karin on her 2008 volunteer experience at ASRI and contrasts with 2014 (below). In a separate interview we talk to Dr. Lori about her sponsorship of Dr. Ron's residency and how Dr. Ron views his future including a long-term commitment to ASRI.

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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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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.

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Sukadana Rooster

Photo: Trina Jones

The soundtrack in Sukadana is thunder rolling and roosters crowing. I hear gibbons and children welcoming the day with their shouts and songs as I walk to the clinic in the morning and I hear chickens rustling in the leaves as I rinse with the cool water of the mandi in the open air shower. I learn to listen for motorbikes as I ride my bicycle in the cool breezes of the evenings and slowly start interpreting the rolling r’s of the Bahasa that is spoken around me each day.

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Michelle Bussard and most of the Health In Harmony staff are currently in Sukadana, preparing to welcome a group of donors to ASRI in just a few days' time. We will be featuring blogs about the on-the-ground ASRI experience during this time.

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