Dear Global Givers,
We have some very sad news to report this time around, but plenty of hope and inspiration as well.
At the end of September, a fast-moving fire devastated our reforestation site at Laman Satong, home to nearly 80,000 seedlings planted with love over four years. It swept over the twenty-hectare (nearly 50 acre) site in less than two hours, killing 95% of the trees despite the community’s rapid response and best efforts. Everyone at ASRI is heartbroken, but determined to move forward stronger than ever in our work to protect and restore the rainforest. The community’s reaction has shown us just how important replanting is: it is a symbol of hope and a reminder of how challenging it can be to replace what was lost. One man, viewing the aftermath of the fire, said he would think twice about logging again after seeing how hard it is to reforest.
The good news is that real progress is being made toward ending deforestation in Gunung Palung National Park! When we first began our red-green village system in 2010, giving “green” villages that have not illegally logged for the past 30 days a 75% healthcare subsidy, only three villages out of thirty qualified. This October, 12 villages have gone green! The local government has also begun to crack down on illegal logging: in August, two logging bosses with large illegal operations within the park were arrested. Our Forest Guardians were so excited by this news that they travelled en-masse to the new head of the National Park to demand action in other problem areas. Conservation is being taken seriously, and change is happening faster than we could have hoped.
ASRI Kids are a large part of this growing culture of conservation. Etty recently returned to Sukadana from a 6-week internship at the Oregon Zoo summer camp, where she and the zoo staff shared their environmental education expertise with each other. She came home invigorated with many new ideas on how to engage the ASRI Kids. (Watch our interview with her about her trip here.) With one recent after-school class increasing from the planned 25 children to 40 as more kids came to learn, we are excited to see how Etty engages them even more! And the kids are learning a lot: in the pre- and post-tests taken by the 200 children we taught in the 2012-2013 year, only 3% could name 3 benefits of the forest before the ASRI Kids classes. Afterwards, 71% could!
Our organic farming trainings are having similarly inspiring success. One farmer who participated in our training in sustainable agricultural methods shared the results from his half-hectare of rice cultivation:
Using non-organic methods:
Harvest 0: Yield 1 ton of rice (using 1.2 tons of chemical fertilizer costing $360)
Using organic methods:
Harvest 1: Yield 2 tons of rice (using 500 kg of organic fertilizer costing $15)
Harvest 2: Yield 3 tons of rice (using 300 kg of organic fertilizer at $9)
Harvest 3: Yield 3.7 tons of rice (using 300 kg of organic fertilizer at $9)
In other words, every year he is getting a larger yield and having to put less into his soil as it gets healthier and healthier, and he's doing this at a dramatically lower price. This is in direct contrast to how other farmers describe needing to increase the amount of chemical fertilizer every year to get a decreasing yield.
The environment is becoming healthier and so are the people. Common disease symptoms have decreased across the board in the communities surrounding the park, and we’re even winning against the deadly chronic illnesses malaria and tuberculosis. In 2008, we diagnosed 70 cases of malaria, and in 2012 we saw less than 12; tuberculosis cases have also gone from 40 in Sukadana in 2009 to 6 in 2012 with the help of ASRI’s DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy, Short-course) workers. We’re extremely proud of the work ASRI-trained healthcare workers of all types do, and ASRI is becoming a sought-after training center, thanks to our top-notch medical volunteers. One such volunteer, Yale-trained certified nurse-midwife Karen Ruby Brown, returned to ASRI in September to repeat her highly successful 2011 midwife trainings. She was in such high demand that we had to schedule an unplanned second training during her trip!
All of ASRI’s services are in high demand, and to meet the community’s needs we are moving forward with the proposed Community Health, Surgical, and Training Center. Just last week, Kari Malen and Loren Bell, along with former volunteer Andrew MacDonald, and Health In Harmony supporters Ryan Bell, Brittni Milam, Darin Bell, and Luke Morehead ran the Portland Marathon to raise money for the new Center. They all finished admirably, and raised $2,725 – more than enough to fund the radiology room! We’re so impressed by both their running and fundraising efforts.
But as we’ve been reminded recently, it’s not as individuals or even small teams that we succeed. It truly takes an entire community: to plant a forest, to spread awareness, to change the face of global health. We could not do what we do without you, our Global Giving community, and we are incredibly grateful for your continued support. Warmly, Health In Harmony
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