The communities surrounding Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, Indonesia were in a dangerous spiral of illness and poverty, but now have a reason to hope. And all thanks to a bunch of apes.
Dr. Kinari Webb, founder of Health in Harmony, originally traveled to Gulung Palung to study the lives of the orangutans that resided there. What she saw was an example of the inherent and inextricable link between the health of the environment and human well-being. Due to extreme poverty, local community members were forced to participate in the illegal logging of the park’s ancient rainforest. In addition to threatening the home of the orangutans and other native species, this practice was causing the steady deterioration of the park’s watershed, a naturally developed water filtration system. It was also causing small, stagnant ponds to form, allowing more breeding ground for malaria-ridden mosquitoes. These factors put the health of the local population at risk and the cost for treatment of the illnesses that followed was often more than people could bear. So the logging continued.
dr. webb’s response was to implement a solution that protected the environment as well as human health, and so Health in Harmony was born. Project ASRI, the organization’s pilot initiative, is a small health clinic in Sukadana, West Kalimantan providing low-cost, high-quality health care to local communities. In order to promote environmental health, additional discounts for care are given to the members of communities who have traded illegal logging practices for sustainable farming methods. In this way, Project ASRI is reshaping the consciousness of the local population and giving community members an alternative means to make a living. Unfortunately, the clinic operates using the same at-risk water sources that have plagued the local population: ad hoc piping systems that often burst and open wells susceptible to contamination. Further, the clinic struggles to meet the needs of the over 40 patients it treats daily. The need for this priceless and essential resource to expand has quickly become obvious, but they need help.
In 2010, WaterHope was asked to join the efforts of world class engineers, Western and Indonesian doctors and environmental experts in expanding this small clinic into an eco-friendly hospital. This hospital, expected to be complete in late 2011, will provide much-needed medical services and extended training to both Western and Indonesian doctors. Thanks to WaterHope’s involvement, it will also have a sustainable, reliable supply of clean and potable water. Now the residents of Gunung Palung- humans and apes alike- have every reason to hope for a healthy future.