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.
Jan 20, 2016

A Hospital That Saves Lives...and Trees

An open invitation to the villages calling all loggers for hire for construction on ASRI’s new Community Hospital Training Center (CHTC) is taking sustainable construction to the next level.

Well before ASRI broke ground on the CHTC, the staff had made sure to include a clause stating they will hire 40% of local labor during the duration of construction. The labor was defined as low-skill labor to people without construction training for work under the supervision and direction of the CHTC contractor. The jobs include excavation, block laying, and construction of temporary form work to support concrete.

Former logger, Pak Usuf now works as a security guard on ASRI's hospital construction site.

Former logger, Pak Usuf now works as a security guard on ASRI’s hospital construction site.

ASRI has been committed to saving the rain forest by offering more options for illegal loggers to be trained in alternative livelihoods for the last 8 years. A common refrain heard from illegal loggers is, “We are ready to stop logging – but we still have to feed our families. Can you offer us other work?”

So when ASRI’s Hospital Construction Manager Edy was practicing “radical listening” with ASRI’s conservation team to learn how the hospital’s construction could support conservation – the team replied, “Please hire loggers.”

The construction team listened. They offered an open invitation to illegal loggers in the area to join the CHTC construction team. The local labor recruitment follows a three-tier system, which prioritizes loggers (Tier 1) before moving on to recruit area from the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital (Tier 2) or from the broader community (Tier 3).

Currently, there are 17 former loggers working on the hospital, and about 3-4 positions are being added every week as the construction progresses in phases. Positions will come and go, offering about 200 different jobs throughout CHTC construction; even though the call for hire has long been closed, not a week goes by without more community members registering their interest to join the construction team. The hospital construction labor force is constantly changing with phases of the complexity, and sometimes more technical work requires trained qualified individuals. In between phases, ASRI will provide as many jobs to loggers as possible. The low-skilled labor will take loggers out of their current work and provide them with new hard skill learning opportunities.

However, the transition from logging to construction has not been easy. One logger almost resigned on his first day – because he found the construction site to be brutally hot compared to the cool, shady environment of the forest. “I could hardly breathe because there was no wind entering the site at all,” he recalled. “But we have to do the best we can in the course we have chosen.” Other loggers agreed that the learning curve has been steep for them, but they have expressed determination to overcome all the physical and intellectual obstacles posed to them to succeed in this new line of work.

Interestingly, the recruitment process has provided many fascinating insights into the rationale of why loggers choose (or do not choose) to quit logging. These insights are helping the ASRI conservation team to re-tool each individual program to better target behavior change in illegal loggers.

For example, ASRI tracks the number of active illegal loggers in village surrounding the Park through its routine monitoring efforts to determine which villages are awarded the “red” and “green” status. However, after the CHTC call for hire ASRI discovered the numbers were higher than formerly documented. 63 active loggers have registered to join the construction team, many of which originated from villages where ASRI had previously counted only a handful of loggers. This new data has provided ASRI with a more accurate picture of the seasonal dynamics around logging – many of the individuals recruited for the hospital are not “full-time” loggers; they log in-between odd jobs, between crop harvests, and other times when they struggle to meet day-to-day needs.

This helps to make sure that all the villages receive a fair “red”, “yellow”, or “green” discount based on logging activities.

Following the completion of the CHTC, all the local laborers will be provided with certificates that certify the skills and expertise they have obtained during the construction phase. ASRI believes that this certificate will help the former loggers to secure further work with construction jobs – ensuring that they never need to pick up their chainsaws again once the hospital opens its doors.

In a recent interview with some of the ex-loggers in the community, ASRI found that all of them had some understanding on the negative impacts of logging the forests. Many of them acknowledged the trees bring water, and need water to live and to farm.

Oct 27, 2015

Faces of the Forest

Conservation Manager Erica gives Guardian awards
Conservation Manager Erica gives Guardian awards

On September 21st, 32 of 34* ASRI’s Forest Guardians gathered for an all-day workshop hosted by the ASRI Reforestation team. Forest Guardians are respected community representatives from each village surrounding Gunung Palung National Park and represent powerful bridges by which ASRI can communicate with and help villagers improve their health and livelihoods, and protect their watershed. Each Forest Guardian is recruited based on their commitment to conservation and their potential to act as leaders within their communities. They are responsible for monitoring all illegal logging activity in their villages, representing ASRI among their village, and helping to disseminate ASRI’s message of healthy forest, healthy lives — or as they say in Bahasa Indonesia, “Hutan terjaga, masyarakat sejahtera” — Protected forest, prosperous community.

Throughout the day, the Forest Guardians discussed their experiences over the past year, and ideas for raising local awareness of ASRI’s health care discount. Hendriadi, the Forest Guardian program coordinator, presented data on logging trends over the last year. Pak Frans, the Reforestation Coordinator, introduced the seedling health savings program to the Forest Guardians, who were given seedling polybags to distribute to their community members to build “savings accounts” at the clinic by donating seedlings for use at the reforestation sites.

Many Guardians reflected on successes and stories of the past year. One Forest Guardian boasted about the reduction of 60 illegal loggers down to 4 during the past four years. Another told a story about confiscating a logger’s chainsaw, because the logger had cut down a fruit tree in the Park that “belonged” to another family, according to local tradition.

To close the event, ASRI staff distributed awards for distinguished Guardians. One award category for “above and beyond call of duty” went to a Forest Guardian who created a personal health savings account of $70 (by donating 88 seedlings) over the course of the year. One day his neighbor fell ill and the Forest Guardian graciously paid for his neighbor’s medical care at the ASRI Clinic with his own health savings account.

In October, we profiled other Forest Guardians on our Facebook page, including:

Pak Wawan who went to every logger in his village to encourage them to apply for jobs at the hospital instead of cutting down trees.

Pak Amir who won the Best Forest Guardian award this year for being dedicated to his job in addition to other full-time work, bravely standing up to hunters, and helping his village earn a 'yellow' logging status and 50% discount in the clinic.

Pak Samsu who has long loved the forest, takes personal responsibility for protecting it, and helped his village go 'green', which means there is no logging happening and villagers receive 70% off their medical bills.

Pak Ridwan who is from one of the villages most entrenched in logging, but doggedly pursues an end to the practice by engaging his community members in regular radical listening meetings.

All of the Forest Guardians are a vital part of the ASRI program. We are incredibly grateful for all of their work protecting the rain forest and caring for the needs of their community members.

 

*Two forest guardians were not able to attend because they had been asked to represent their communities at government meetings — a sign that they have become trusted leaders within their villages.

Forest Guardians workshop
Forest Guardians workshop
Pak Amir
Pak Amir
Pak Ridwan
Pak Ridwan
Pak Samsu
Pak Samsu
Pak Wawan
Pak Wawan

Links:

Aug 5, 2015

Reaching the Unreachable

Dr. Yuli, the staff, and members of the community
Dr. Yuli, the staff, and members of the community

The ASRI Clinic has a lot of programs, and one of them is the Mobile Clinic. We do the Mobile Clinic twice a month and visit the Pangkalan Jihing and Matan villages, which take 7 hours and 9 hours to reach by car, respectively.

Since February 2015, we've also visited the Jago village, an hour away from Matan. The first time we went to Jago, we came across a truck that got stuck in the mud. We stopped, and with the help of everyone around, we helped pull it out, and then continued our trip.

When we first arrived in Jago, people would come and see what we were up to, but did not want to be seen by a doctor. They assumed that they would have to pay a bill of 300,000 rupiah ($22) for a doctor's visit, a cost too high for the residents of the rural village. We then explained our payment system. At ASRI, patients can pay for health care with cash, or non-cash options -- which include manure, handricrafts such as mats, baskets, and bracelets, or offering their labor with the Clinic or conservation programs. After our explanation, everyone was enthusiastic and wanted to be seen by the doctor! One patient was surprised when the bill she paid was one tenth of the price she expected.

In Indonesia there is a quote, "Poor people should not get sick." This quote is actually a satire to criticize the government's policy. People expect accessible health facilities and affordable bills. ASRI, a non-profit organization, tries to reach especially unreachable people. We give the best service to them and every time we do the Mobile Clinic, we meet grateful people. Happy people are our pleasure.

Truck stuck in the mud
Truck stuck in the mud

Links:

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