Engage community-led solutions for human health and the health of our planet.
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Stuart Smith’s daughter, Alla Smith, volunteered at ASRI in 2013 while a medical student at Yale. After learning more about the organization through her experience, Stuart and his wife Cynthia Smith were inspired to begin donating, and in 2014 decided to sponsor the laboratory in the Community Hospital and Training Center.
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.
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.
Guest blog by Dr. Kathleen White
Good afternoon to the dedicated and therefore, to me, fortunate fellow Health in Harmony volunteers.
Michelle and Rosevan asked, because I am both an ASRI volunteer and member of the Health in Harmony Board of Directors, would I write the ASRI final volunteer story of this series to both tell my story as well send a personal thanks to all volunteers from the Board? And I said of course! So first I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to you all.
As a past student of biology, Indonesia has long held a special place in my heart, both for its abundant natural beauty and for its vast biological resources. Located in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean, Borneo is the third largest island in the world. Although its size is massive, at nearly 740,000 square kilometers, its human population is slight.
Guest blog by Chris Woerner
Waking up in Sukadana for me is an auditory adventure in itself. From the distant rainforest the exotic siren-like whoops and howls of the kelempiau, the White Faced Gibbons, drift through the mist into my window. Closer by, the cheerful, bubbly song of the Yellow-Vented Bulbul perched outside in shrubbery contrasts with the surprisingly loud, harsh croaking of the Cik-Cak gecko in the rafters above my head. Suddenly a new sound begins: the powerful soul-stirring wail of human song: the morning “Call to Prayer” coming from the village mosque.
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.
DIANE DAKIN – Physician
"I have volunteered in health projects in Latin America where I felt comfortable with the language and the culture for 40 years. The decision to volunteer in Sukadana with Health In Harmony/ASRI represented, initially, a testing of my comfort levels, challenging the familiar. Yet, perhaps because it required a leap of faith, it gave me one of the greatest rewards, in terms of feeling useful,appreciated and seeing that I could contribute to the learning experience of the next generation of Indonesian doctors. I was inspired by ASRI's mission and how it functioned on a daily basis, and by the wonderful people with whom I worked every day, who made me feel so welcome, and who quickly became an extension of my family. I gave the clinic a few months of my sabbatical but I received an invaluable and heartwarming lesson in commitment, dedication and human understanding."
Earlier this month, I spoke with Diane Dakin, a family doctor based in Olympia, Washington who recently volunteered at ASRI, helping to train newly-graduated Indonesian doctors and organizing a training for local midwives.
She's been working as a family doctor for the past 28 years, including over 25 years doing low-risk obstetrics. She estimates she's delivered over 1,000 babies! I asked her how she heard of Health In Harmony, and she told me the story of chance connections that led her to volunteer. In her own words, "It was a coming together of all sorts of little connections, that made it seem like, 'I should look into this place!' … I was reading the Yale alumni magazine, and I saw an article about a woman – Kinari Webb, the founder of ASRI - who initially had been an orangutan researcher. Since my youngest son was studying chimps, I was interested, so I read it… Later, after medical school, it turned out that she had gone to the same family practice residency that I had gone to many years earlier. I thought, 'the ASRI program sounds really interesting,' and knowing that I had a sabbatical coming up, I wrote and asked if they needed a Family Medicine volunteer and they said 'sure!'"
All photos by family doctor Diane Dakin, a volunteer with Health In Harmony at ASRI. Click on any photo to see slideshow (you may need to wait a moment for photos to load).
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.
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.
All photos by Patrick M. Ryan, a volunteer with Health In Harmony at ASRI. Click on any photo to see slideshow (you may need to wait for photos to load).
Guest blog by Patrick Ryan
The first time I went to ASRI, late last year, I brought goodies to the ASRI clinic in Sukadana. Stethoscopes, sphygmomanometer, oximeters, and other medical equipment, and also my favorite travel gift- crayons. Kinari thanked me for the gifts and at some point I let slip that I'm a birder in my Puget Sound home. She said, "I have a job for you!" - A Bornean bird survey in the areas ASRI has been reforesting.
Guest blog by Deepa Agashe
Too often and in various ways, our species has trampled over other life forms, perhaps forgetting that we are all intimately connected. I do not use “connected” in a hippie-holistic way – I say “linked” in the scientific sense, with a long legacy of previous research supporting my choice of word.
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.
This summer wonderful Volunteer Manager Kari Malen will be moving back to the U.S. with her husband Loren Bell who, in his own words, has been pursuing a graduate degree in "ecology, free-lance writing and chasing gibbons" in the rainforest near Sukadana. Loren has also helped ASRI in many ways including by providing fire suppression training for our reforestation crew. As Kari and Loren contemplate their leaving, I asked her what she would most love as a parting gift.
Will you join me in giving Kari a gift of thanks?
What Kari really wants is a bit unusual: the gift of knowing that the ASRI conservation program is in good hands. With Kari moving on and Pak Ngalim, our current conservation manager and organic farming coordinator, moving to a consulting role, we want to combine their jobs and hire a new conservation manger who can act as liaison and ASRI conservation staff manager. There are two ways you can help!