Regenerating Rainforests

by Health in Harmony
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Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests
Regenerating Rainforests

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Health in Harmony

Location: Portland, OR - USA
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Devika Agge
Portland, Oregon United States
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