I had the fantastic opportunity to visit ASRI in Borneo when I was in my final year of medical school in April 2023. I had been studying in Edinburgh, Scotland for nearly six years and I was hoping to experience medicine in a setting and culture that greatly contrasted my previous exposure to the profession - and the clinic at ASRI definitely did not disappoint!
I arrived at the clinic by jeep after nearly 48 hours of travel just as the sun was setting over the majestic rainforest of West Kalimantan. I was stunned by both the beauty of the area and how remote the village was - the collection of buildings was squeezed on the shore between the infringing Bornean rainforest and the peaceful waters of the South China Sea, only reachable by dirt tracks peppered with potholes and the remnants of landslides. The remote location only became clearer as I woke in the early morning to the sound of gibbons chattering and began my first day at the clinic.
I was amazed at the efficient running of the acute healthcare service, despite there being very limited investigations, medicines and staff members when compared to the healthcare centres I have worked in in the UK. The four doctors were extremely friendly and helped me to understand the different health problems the people of Borneo face, and also how to deliver the best care with the paucity of resources available.
After four weeks of working with the ASRI clinic, I left feeling very grateful for the knowledge and skills I had gained from the staff members there. Although I visited ASRI primarily for experience in the medical clinic, I was also intrigued by the incredible conservation and collaborative work they do with the communities of Borneo. I was lucky enough to be able to visit some of the projects, such as the chainsaw ‘buy-back’ program, the nursery for replantation and also work with the ASRI Teens & Kids.
The passion that people felt for saving the rainforest was simply infectious, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent learning about the invaluable work that is being carried out. I was particularly intrigued by the concept of ‘radical listening’ and how effective this is for rural communities. I hope its success will soon be mirrored in societies across the world.
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at ASRI for making my trip an unforgettable experience. Every single member of staff made me feel very welcome and went above and beyond to ensure the 4 weeks I spent there were both educational and full of fun and laughter. I couldn’t recommend ASRI enough to anyone looking for an experience similar to mine, and I very much hope I am able to visit again in the future!