Health in Harmony

The vision for Health In Harmony began more than 15 years ago in the forests of Gunung Palung National Park where Dr Kinari Webb recognized the direct link between the environmental destruction wrought by illegal logging, the desperate state of human health in the communities around the park, and the impact of rain forest loss on health worldwide. Our comprehensive approach works at the intersection of human and environmental health to provide sustainable change in communities around the world.
May 11, 2015

Adiwiyata

ASRI Teens now educate other students
ASRI Teens now educate other students

The word Adiwiyata is derived from 2 words in Sanskrit; ‘adi’ and ‘wiyata.’ ‘Adi’ means big, great, ideal, or perfect, while ‘wiyata’ means a place to get knowledge, norms and ethics in social life. The Adiwiyata program is run by the Indonesia Ministry of Environment, whose aim is to raise knowledge and awareness of environmental conservation among students and faculty in schools. They do this by paying close attention to how lessons are taught and making sure should they are linked to environmental awareness. They also teach the 3 R’s (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle) and manage gardens for medicinal plants, etc.

Since August 2014, I have served as one of the committee members of Adiwiyata Kayong Utara Regency, representing ASRI, along with other committee members from the Ministries of Environment, Education and Religious Affairs. There are 12 schools in the regency whose vision and mission center on environmental awareness. I have been visiting and educating students in some of these schools.

The subjects I teach include “Environmental Threats” (for primary school students) which focuses on waste management, “Tropical Rain Forest” (for junior high school students) which centers on the benefits and threats regarding the rain forest, and “Environmental Threats” which also covers the rain forest and includes mangroves and corals in the lesson. 268 children (coming from 7 different schools) have attended these lessons. One of the schools also requested for ASRI to come plant trees with the students, and even sent 42 students to ASRI’s conservation office for a lesson on how to make recycled paper (taught by senior ASRI Kids). Furthermore, another school requested ASRI to teach environmental education as a local content subject for the 4th and 5th graders. So far, we have taught 4 lessons, each with a total of 105 students!

These schools are not only being guided by the regency committee, but also being evaluated and scored on how they implement environmental awareness in school activities and lessons. The 12 schools are expected to adopt environmentally-centered models. If they reach a certain exemplary level, the higher provincial committee, will guide and evaluate them to become the model school in the province, and then, in Indonesia.

This program will continue to conduct lessons and guide schools every year, and we will continue to monitor those 12 schools. We will also continue to encourage other schools to include environmental education into their activities and lesson plans.

Being involved in Adiwiyata has made the ASRI Kids program widely heard. A group of science teachers invited me to teach them how to make recycled paper, so they can implement it in teaching their students on the “Role of People in Environmental Management.” Moreover, six former ASRI Kids who are now known as ASRI Teens are teaching in one of the Adiwiyata schools once a month. Their students are 7th, 8th, and 9th graders who join an extracurricular activity called SINAM (Siswa Pecinta Alam, translated to “Students of Nature Lovers”) in their school. Before they teach the class, I train them on how to make a lesson plan that includes creating fun teaching techniques and media and managing a class that involves 20-30 students.

Seeing my students’ enthusiasm in learning and being aware of their environment means a lot to me. As I have been involving myself in ASRI Kids program and Adiwiyata, being an environment educator has been my great passion.

Students build a house that could survive a flood
Students build a house that could survive a flood

Links:

Feb 13, 2015

We Are Not Superheroes

Mr. Helmi bringing a gift of sand to the clinic
Mr. Helmi bringing a gift of sand to the clinic

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.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 was the first day when he was showed up at the ASRI clinic. Although Tuesday is not usually as busy as Monday, there were a lot of patients that day. Because of that we were late for lunch. After lunch, when we came, he was waiting in the emergency room. He came with high fever, chills, redness, and swelling with pus on his left 1/3 distal shin for two weeks. His temperature when we measured it was 39 degrees Celsius. Random blood sugar was 386 mg/dL (more than three times normal indicating poorly-controlled diabetes). He had already gone to the closest referral hospital in Ketapang. The Internist had recommended amputation because they feared the abscess would spread to other parts of his leg but he refused. Then he heard about ASRI from his relative. His relative recommended him to come here because ASRI is the best quality standard of care and he was afraid to lose his leg. He hoped ASRI could make a miracle for him.

When we were exploring his wound, we found the abscess was deep and we thought it already infected to his bone. After a long discussion among us and an Infectious Disease Consultant from Stanford, we hospitalized him for a month and gave him antibiotic shots for 4 weeks and then switched it to oral for 2 weeks with very careful wound care every day. A miracle happens. Slowly but sure, his abscess was cured. He was very pleased with what we have done.

Before he saw it himself, he thought that ASRI is a religion mission foundation from the West and belonged to a Western country. Then I explained it to him. My explanation made him understand. He is going to tell all his relatives and colleagues about what ASRI has done. As a sign of gratitude, one day ASRI’s front yard was very muddy after the rain and he sent a truck full of sand to help. He also brought us a box of food.

I remembered one day our former volunteer asked me, what kind of movie do I like? I said, “Superhero.” I love superhero movies because superheroes are very cool. Superheroes can save people. I think everyone has a dream. A dream to make a difference. To do something. To save life. This is what I want to say. We are ASRI. We are not a superhero. We are just like ordinary people that want to make differences. To save lives and give hope.

Links:

Nov 25, 2014

Orangutans are using Sedehan reforestation site!

An orangutan nest in Sedahan
An orangutan nest in Sedahan

I always say that ASRI’s two reforestation sites are like two children: Laman Satong, our older reforestation site that had the fire last year, is like the difficult child that needs constant love and attention in order to thrive. In contrast, Sedahan, our younger reforestation site, is the precocious child that constantly delivers amazing surprises, unasked.

Every time I go there, I am amazed at how tall the trees have grown in less than two years. The site’s peatland soil is far more fertile than the degraded, dry soil at Laman Satong. Many of the planted trees are already over two meters tall. One species in particular, petai (stink bean) has been consistently shooting up like a rocket wherever we plant it.

“We need to plant more of this!” I keep telling the team. They laugh back at me, “But it’s hard to find seeds! The community loves to eat the beans and collects them all before we can plant them!”

Luckily, we happen to have a health clinic that can solve these types of problems. We raised the price of petai seedlings in our list of non-cash payment options. A patient can now cover their entire medical bill with just a few stink bean tree seedlings. (I hope we get a flood of them.)

Also, not only is the site growing well, but it is legitimately changing the worldviews of the community members who work there. Many are former illegal loggers that have been tasked with returning this small piece of the world back into forest. Our site coordinator Yayat says that the workers have told him they can’t bear to think of cutting down a tree ever again after their work on the reforestation site. And believe me, they are extremely proud of what they have accomplished. They really want Sedahan to become an environmental education site so that others can see what the site has become.

Last year, we asked them to replace the old bridge into the site with one safe for school-children to cross. They responded by building an elaborate bamboo bridge with two sets of benches. Benches! The old bridge was so precarious that I used to leave all of my electronic devices at the clinic assuming that I would fall off the bridge into the river. The gorgeous new bridge is stable enough to host 8-person photo ops.

“I had almost nothing to do with it!” Yayat told me at the time. “It was all their idea!” And by the way it took them only 2 days to build. 

The workers were also instrumental in stopping further land clearing. In previous years, one community member cleared the 2 ha area next to the site for farming. With the constant coming and going of the reforestation workers, he became afraid of getting reported to the police. So he stopped clearing land. He didn’t plant any rice. Instead, he planted durian and rubber tree seedlings. That piece of land will also become a forest again.

Lastly and most incredibly, the site is already fulfilling its initial purpose — providing a corridor for orangutans to cross between forest fragments and the main body of the park. A few days ago, our newest conservation volunteer Adam came back from a day of cleaning out weeds at the site with news: the workers found orangutan nests. Three of them. He went back the next day to take some pictures. Sorry, he said. There are actually four nests. FOUR!

The Sedahan site continues to remind us that sometimes all the love, sweat and bug bites that go into reforestation work can yield the elusive results we hope for – even a few years earlier than expected. In fact, I just heard today that one of the Forest Guardians visited the last active logger in the community where the Sedahan site is located. The logger is ready to stop. But he wants a job.

He wants to become a reforestation worker.

Adam and the reforestation workers
Adam and the reforestation workers
Seedlings going into the ground
Seedlings going into the ground
The Sedehan reforestation site - Chelsea Call
The Sedehan reforestation site - Chelsea Call

Links:

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