MY SABBATICAL JOURNEY

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” – Jim Rohn.

img_2663My name is Karina Suryawinata from Jakarta. I’ve been volunteering with EBPP as a Public Health Nutritionist for three months since September 2016. I graduated from Universitas Pelita Harapan back in 2013 as a Food Technologist and continued my education in the UK for a postgraduate programme. In 2014, I graduated from Sheffield Hallam University (MSc Nutrition with Public Health Management). Whilst pursuing my postgraduate degree, I also tried to find other activities to enrich my experience and knowledge by working as a part timer and volunteering for my university, FoodCycle UK, and Age UK Sheffield. It was such a blessing and advantage for me to be able to learn about both food industry and public health sectors which enables me to think in two different perspectives. Moreover, it was such a great experience to be working along with a diverse target population in the UK.

Before I graduated in November 2014, I already started looking for available job/internship opportunities in the UK and Indonesia. I have a big chunk of mission to educate and raise the awareness of the community about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle as well as to serve those who need the most, which became the reason behind my goal to work for an NGO. It was all started when I caught my eyes on EBPP, one of the NGO in Bali, Indonesia. EBPP public health sector was well described in the articles on its website and the activities were various; suitable with what I have been looking for. However, there was no available spot at that time. I thought probably it was not the right time for this experience and started to look for other opportunities. I started my own health education and catering business for Elementary School children and adults with two of my business colleagues. Funny thing, something always brought me back to EBPP website even though my business runs pretty well. I felt like there was still something missing. Somehow, EBPP had been in my radar ever since late 2014 until mid-2016 without really realizing it.

Last June 2016, I found a volunteering opportunity as a Public Health Nutritionist on EBPP website. It just felt right at that time, thus, without thinking twice I have got to follow what my guts said so I applied and got accepted along with the other Public Health Nutritionist from the Netherlands (Brenda de Kok). These past three months, we have been working on the malnutrition protocols and research to know the root of causes of malnutrition in Ban Village. On daily basis I also work along with EBPP Health Team related to our Posyandu programme in every hamlet, giving nutrition counselling for the mothers and their children who are malnourished (Gizi Kurang & Gizi Buruk).

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Living in Ban Village is like the other side of the coin of living in Jakarta. It is so sad to see how life is so different here with lack of resources, transportation, poor infrastructure, and less available health services & facilities. At first I arrived in Ban Village with a lot of ideas which majority came from my idealism perspective but in reality not everything could be applied and implemented, as well as to adjust with the situation in Ban Village, what is feasible, practical, and suitable. It takes a lot of patience and understanding in dealing with the complex malnutrition issues in Ban Village because of the underlying causes, such as: knowledge, awareness, mentality, literacy (unable to read and write), cultural/religion, resources (lack of water source, food availability, and transportation), remoteness (poor infrastructure, as well as poor land and soil quality), and skills of the community. I am so fascinated about the local’s beliefs that have been passing on from one generation to the other generations. From scientific point of view, those practical beliefs just do not make any sense and it is pretty challenging to gradually shift their mind set. On the other hand, I also feel delightful to be working along with the whole EBPP Health Team. They are very welcoming, friendly and fun to be working with. I can feel the family-oriented culture within the staff. They also like to share their knowledge and experience about being a Balinese and because most of them are the locals. Moreover, we could not do our research without the help of our hardworking staff.

img_2590I feel like there is still a lot of homework to be done. Patience and positive attitude are the keys for making a better change because behaviour change cannot be done instantly. It is true that I have to expect the unexpected, be flexible and creative so that we can come up with practical and realistic recommendations for them not only as a short-term goal but also a long-term one. On the other side, this experience has been keeping me grounded. There are so many people who still live in poverty and with lack of supports. Wake up every single morning just to think about how to survive the day, how can they provide foods for their children, and all back to their survival mode. This voluntary experience has been a life changing experience for me personally and the more I witness, the more I feel like I should be grateful about my own life. Thank you EBPP for the life lesson!

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