The Project Assistant will work under the supervision of the Project Coordinator/Director and assist in all aspects of the project’s work.
The Orangutan Health Project (OHP) is the first and only on-going orangutan research project to investigate the special behaviors and ecological conditions necessary to maintain health in wild orangutans. This is partly due to the complexity of self-medicating behaviors and the astonishing variety of flora in the rainforest, which vary geographically and seasonally. Understanding preventative and curative methods used by wild orangutans is critical to the monitoring and protection of health in wild orangutan populations, which are universally threatened with extinction. This research may also help to shed light on the human-primate relationship – most importantly, the health risks associated with co-existence.
A day in the life of a Project Assistant varies greatly. It depends on the needs of the project at the time and if there are volunteers present at the Project. Daily tasks will often consist of a mixture of the responsibilities mentioned above.
The program schedule includes some free time to enjoy the nature and cultures of Sumatra.
We are a short bus ride away from a fast running river where swimming, rafting, and tubing are available. There are a number of other rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, and a bat cave to be discovered around the Bukit Lawang area. White water rafting or kayaking can be arranged in town.
Cooking lessons are available in Bukit Lawang, including a trip to the local market to buy ingredients. Many places in Bukit Lawang also offer excellent massages.
It is also possible to organize a day trip with some OHP affiliated guides to see a local school, visit an oil palm plantation, try out traditional bamboo rafting, and explore the area on motorbikes.
Project accommodations, amongst the rice-fields of Timbang Lawan are basic with limited amenities and no running water.
Water for bathing and washing clothes is drawn from our well, though weather permitting (as it normally is) we also collect rainwater for these purposes. Like almost all of Indonesia, we purchase bottled drinking water in large drums, which we also use for cooking.
There are two small bathrooms, one with a squat-style toilet, and one with a western style- sitting toilet. Both are non-automated, meaning water must be poured down with a scoop after each use to flush. Neither toilet accepts toilet paper, if you choose to use toilet paper you will need to dispose of it in the bin provided. More instruction is given during orientation presentations.
There are no showers, and bathing is done either in a river (while in the jungle) or with a supply of cold water that you scoop over yourself, both of which are extremely enjoyable after a hot day of work or trekking.
While staying at our base, you will probably share a small bamboo room with another volunteer, depending on the number of volunteers in your team. Privacy may be in short supply. Each volunteer is given a mattress and a mosquito net.
We do have electricity, though we experience power cuts known as “mati lampu”—meaning “dead lights”—on a near daily basis. We also have WiFi internet available for volunteers.
There are a variety of insects and small animals around for you to get acquainted with: cats, geckos, mice, cockroaches, leeches, chickens (be prepared for a chorus of roosters very early every morning), spiders, ants and frogs. Mosquitoes are around at night, but not usually in large numbers (they are much worse in the secondary forests).
We eat three times per day with all meals prepared by our project cook
or by project staff. Food is provided Monday - Friday. The food will always be Indonesian cuisine
consisting mainly of rice, noodles, vegetables, tofu, tempeh and fruit.
It is very different from western food but also very tasty, and is
similar to much Southeast Asian fare in general.While Indonesian food is
traditionally extremely spicy, utilising varying amounts of chilli(but
rarely without), our meals are usually less hot and we do our best to
accommodate those with lower spice tolerances.
Meat is served only on special occasions, and vegetarians can easily be catered for. Vegans may struggle as locals often do not understand the concept and may not know what exactly is in the food.
While we try to accommodate specific dietary needs, we only have access to food available locally. Again, if you have a very precise dietary regimen, please ensure that you bring any necessary food items along.
Bottled drinking water is provided by the project at all times, but alcohol and soft drinks are not, and can be purchased at the volunteers own expense. These can be found at local shops just around the corner from our project base.