This blog post was written by Etty Rahmawati of Health in Harmony, an organization BPZ supports.
Etty is a teacher who travels around from village to village teaching the local people about the beautiful biodiversity right in their backyards. Find out more about this organization at the link: http://www.healthinharmony.org/asri/
BPZ funded her trip to the ZACC conference (from Borneo) and she made very good use of it by traveling around and participating in teacher's workshops and other training opportunities.
After 21 hours in the air, I touched down on my second trip to the US. A sunny day and the smiling face of Kathy Krogmeier welcomed me at the Des Moines airport. After dropping my luggage off at the hotel, I joined Kathy and her husband for my first experience miniature golfing. My excitement over having finally arrived in the US overpowered my travel-related tiredness, and we had a fun time avoiding the water and traps at the golf course. Later, I satisfied two of my cravings when we enjoyed bowls of spicy pepper jack cheese soup for dinner. Cheese is hard to come by in Sukadana, Borneo!
Before the conference started, I met Colleen Chisman, received a warm welcome from Patty Weeks, and went shopping for ASRI Kids supplies with Kathy and her sister – all activities that added to my enjoyable stay in Des Moines.
On the first day of the ZACC conference I was excited to reunite with people I met at the conference two years ago. The continued networking and cross-pollination of ideas has been one of the most valuable parts of my ZACC conference experience. I enjoyed all aspects of this year’s conference, and especially benefited from the education roundtable discussion. Participating in this forum allowed me to meet fellow educators, share ideas, and learn new tools to support the ASRI Kids project in my home country.
After five days in Des Moines, I continued to Cedar Falls to visit a couple who recently volunteered at ASRI. After a cozy weekend at their home, I headed west for my first trip to Portland. In Portland, I visited Health In Harmony’s (HIH) office, completed an internship at the Oregon Zoo, and fundraised for ASRI Kids.
For me, conservation education is a new and exciting field. During my internship, I both improved my skills as an educator and benefitted from learning innovative teaching methods, media, and curriculum to apply back at home. For example, the ‘Footprint’ lesson has a lot of parallels with the basis of our ASRI Kids program.
On the weekends, friends and former ASRI volunteers spoiled me with trips to Washington State, where we hiked on Mount Rainier, camped at Olympic National Park, and met with a veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo who was x-raying a monkey’s broken arm.
After two and a half weeks in Portland, I headed south to California with Health in Harmony Managing Director, Michelle Broussard, for two successful fundraising events. We took the ‘scenic route’ via Westphalia, camping at Diamond Lake, visiting the crystal blue waters of Crater Lake, seeing the Redwoods, and enjoying Michelle’s family’s hospitality when we attended their family reunion.
Before I knew it, I realized that five weeks had passed! I flew to the East Coast, staying with former ASRI volunteers in Boston, New Haven, and Manhattan. Their love, support, and hospitality never ends! Kayaking at Long Island Sound, rock climbing at Ragged Mountain, and conquering the tricky routes of New York subway made my stay in the East Coast challengingly fun.
As the plane departed, I looked out of the window at New York’s receding skyline and thought back to a special moment from the 2011 ZACC Conference: during the roundtable discussion about starting education projects, I was inspired to start a similar program back at home and blurted out my idea. After the discussion ended, a young woman, Jessie Weeks (Lowry), gave me her business card and offered her support. It was a huge gift for me and ASRI.
Today, ASRI Kids is nearly one and half years old. I’m so thankful to the Blank Park Zoo team for their support and funds to travel to the U.S., especially Jessie Lowry, for their time, energy, and positive thoughts. I feel so honored to have attended the ZACC Conference and completed an internship, and greatly enjoyed seeing more of the world and meeting wonderful people.