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Fiona & Peter Hartshorn

What started as an exciting adventure holiday in Sumatra, with an orangutan conservation twist turned out to be so much more.

September 2014 we ventured to North Sumatra to experience one of Jess’s Raw Wildlife Encounters. We flew into Medan Airport on the last, late night flight and were meet by happy, smiling Bim Bim and Lemir and they didn’t stop smiling for the whole time that they were with us.

When Jess asked us to evaluate the holiday, days after we returned home, she asked us to identify a highlight of all of the activities that we had experienced. I’ve got to say that some were challenging. Hiking through the jungle for a day to check camera traps was really quite taxing but very rewarding at the same time. Rafting was a hoot and the elephants were beautiful. Meeting Jess and seeing the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme and the work that is done there was amazing. The orangutans at Bukit Luwang were a highlight. A poster sized print of a mother with her baby is hanging on the wall of our family room. Where-ever we went we were accompanied by Bim Bim, Lemir and Jack and their team of guides.

The people of North Sumatra and specifically Tangkahan unintentionally worked their way into our hearts. The activities are etched in our memories but the people are the special highlight for us. Their passion for their families, the environment and for the future that is being shaped for their children is tangible. We must all be concerned about the planet and how we are treating it because our world’s ecosystem needs every plant and animal to be conserved so that we have a future. The people of Tangkahan get this. They care about this.

They care about education and they know that to continue to build Tangkahan as an eco-tourism destination, be able to converse in English would be an advantage. When we were shown the Tangkahan English Club (TEC), it was with pride and passion. We were told that the number of children and adults attending the single classroom of the TEC had grown to 115 in just over a year and the need for a second classroom was obvious as some lessons were being conducted in a carport-like shelter outside the classroom. My wife and I asked some questions about what would need to happen for a second room to be built and because local materials and local labor were used, the cost was very, very reasonable. Half of the funds would come from the village. I must say that Bim Bim and Jack were not asking for donations or financial assistance. They were just telling their story. Fiona and I were fishing to see what we could possibly do to help in some small way. Cogs started turning and within a day we could see that something was possible. We both saw that we could be the conduit between Tangkahan and where I work. I work at a large school on Bribie Island, just north of Brisbane. We have activities to raise money and our student council likes to get behind worthy projects.

When the Tangkahan story and specifically the TEC story was told to the various parent, teacher and student groups at my school, they agreed that we could help this little village in the middle of a jungle. My school community agreed that we would love to raise the funds necessary to help with the construction of a classroom and library to allowing the TEC to grow. This is our focus for 2015. We have adopted Tangkahan as our ‘little sister’ school. We also pledged to make a donation to the S.O.C.P. to assist with the ongoing work being done there to rehabilitate orangutans for release or to provide those that can’t be released with a haven. At the time that this reflection was written, we had raised nearly 80% of the money needed.


A highlight? Being able to make a difference in a small way and allowing the children at my school to develop their altruistic qualities. They are really very good at this. They love helping Tangkahan.

Peter and Fiona Hartshorn.

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