Posted by: masaranghk | May 15, 2015

The HK Urban Jungle then the Indonesian Rainforest

Dr Willie Smits recently spent four days in HK. Rushed though it was, he was able to meet, greet, tweet…and speak!

Monday March 23

Morning: Victoria Shanghai Academy.  Meet the principals and staff. Meet the Masarang Club for a Q and A session.  Meet and greet student supporters, donors as well as teachers about to visit the Sintang and Tembak projects the following week.

Then, Masarang HK Committee Meeting. Masarang HK welcomes any new volunteers and we would be grateful for any relevant help!

Tuesday March 24

Visit to New College with Dr. Billy Hau: a committed and dedicated faculty member of HKU with whom Masarang HK is proud to work when possible.   A photographic exhibition was provided for the students of New College, which had been taken by local ESF teacher, photographer and friend, Ross Burrough. The exhibition showed some of the projects of the Masarang Foundation in Indonesia.

Willie then presented to a group from the University community, then dinner at the University whilst screening the film: Rise of the Ecowarrior to the University community. For further film details, please note:

We sincerely hope that some members of the HKU community visit and volunteer at some of Dr. Smits’ projects in Indonesia.  Thank you, Billy!

Thank you to Chris Durbin, at ESF, as well as Ross Burrough, at Island School, for the exhibition photographs and their continued support of Masarang Foundation.

Wednesday March 25

Morning at Kennedy School: a talk to the students, then prize giving ceremony and student exhibition viewing. Wonderful work and support from this gold medal school!

Afternoon at West Island School: a talk to members of the school community.

We are thrilled that WIS is organising a student volunteer visit to Tasikoki in 2015!

Thursday March 26

Talk to staff and students at Clearwater Bay School. Amazing fundraising and support from CWBS!

Talk for HK branch of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. Wonderful to meet the organising team and those members who attended! We remain very grateful to Ms. Kathleen Ferrier for her wonderful support of Willie’s projects and introduction at the event, as well as the generous donation from the Moorrees family, who attended the event.

Friday morning leave for Indonesia and prepare for a 5 day visit from Susan Smith, the primary principal from the Victoria Shanghai Academy and four teachers, as well as a team from Klokhuis a very popular children’s television show in the Netherlands.


With an intial visit to Ragunan Zoo, in Jakarta, to see the orangutans, Willie and Adrienne then celebrated Easter and the 96th Birthday of Ulla von Mengden.

Ulla is a life-long promoter of animal rights and actually lives in the middle of Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta! She has already lived there for half a century!

Then, flights to Sintang to enable Willie to meet the Dutch Klokhuis film crew team, who were there for a week to film Willie and the local projects, especially the SOC and the 27 orangutans.

On April 1st, the team from the VSA primary school arrived in Sintang to visit Willie’s projects in the region, including the SOC project and the Tembak/Ensaid Panjang communities. Over the next few days they witnessed some high highs and some very low lows!

The illegal gold miners spewing mercury in the river at Sintang, as well as the ever-spreading palm oil plantations were a shocking low, but the great work being done by the SOC team and the 27 rescued orangutans at the SOC, as well as the visits to Tembak and Ensaid Panjung longhouse, and football game with the children there, were very high highlights! The team brought donations of medical supplies to the clinic from the School Science department.  These were, of course, very gratefully received. They also brought clothes, balls, balloons and books for the local children, which were received with great joy and grateful thanks.

A special thank you to those students who donated clothes, balls and books.  Additionally a very special ‘Thank you’ to the two school students who raised funds and bought enrichment equipment for the orangutans at SOC!

The Klokhuis team filmed Willie throughout the same period. The programme was shown on television in The Netherlands (7th and 8th April) and was very well received.

Please refer to the VSA school newspaper article below from the VSA Staff team below for more details and lovely photos about their visit.





From the Teachers’ desk As part of Ocean Week, VSA Primary students participated in the ‘Masarangathon’, a sponsored word search/puzzle to raise money for the Masarang Foundation. It was held on Wednesday March 11th and turned out to be a fun challenge for the primary school while raising awareness of environmental issues.

A heartfelt thank-you to VSA children and parents for their commitment and enthusiasm towards this meaningful event. Thanks to everyone involved, the incredible total of HKD 379,609.10 was raised.

The house that raised the most money for Masarang was Yangzi. Well done!

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Leading into the Easter holidays, 4 primary teachers and Mrs Smith set off for Borneo to learn more about projects that the Masarang society have set up. After 3 flights, we arrived in Sintang, ready to begin our adventure. We were greeted by Dr. Willie Smits who took us to our first stop, Father Jaques’ home. Father Jaques is the initiator of the Sintang orangutan center and founder of the Kobus foundation. Father Jaques and Willie took us on a tour of the orangutan center. We saw the work that the keepers do and explored the clinic which provides a safe environment and rehabilitation for rescued orangutans. Later that afternoon, Dr Smits took us on a speed boat down the main river of Sintang. In the last 5 years, gold mining has caused major destruction of the jungle in Borneo. We saw the gold mining taking place in the river and the huge sections of the surrounding jungle completely destroyed. The next morning, we traveled by 4 wheel drive through the muddy roads of the Borneo jungle to a remote village called Tembak. We were greeted by members of the community and were given a traditional welcome ceremony. Four dancers led us to a longhouse which would be our accommodation for the night. Before entering the longhouse, each teacher rubbed one foot on a rock, an egg and a pile of dirt.

During our time in Tembak, we saw the Indigenious Dayak community’s efforts to be self sustaining. They have built their own water hydro power station which provides electricity to much of the village. There are also medicinal gardens which provide remedies for common ailments. The local Dayaks weave their own baskets which are then used to collect food from the forest, and there is the Illipe nut butter factory which is also used for coconut oil production. Even though it was the Easter holiday and the school was closed, a local English teacher took us on a tour of the school grounds and classrooms. Later that evening, a meeting was held with local educators to see how VSA can work with the community to support not only the orangutans but also education and daily life for the Dayaks. Before leaving the village of Tembak, we distributed clothing that was collected by the Year 3 students of VSA. The children accepted the clothing with much gratitude and excitement! On our journey out of Tembak, we saw palm oil plantations, sugar palm trees and learned about how the Dayaks are being displaced by the companies growing palm oil. Arriving back in Sintang, we had the pleasure of visiting the museum which Father Jacques funded. The museum showcased the cultures of the local Dayaks, Malays, and Chinese and emphasized the balance of all three cultures. Later that day, we traveled to a palm sugar nursery which was set up by Dr. Willie Smits. The goal is for the local community to learn how to grow and use palm sugar as a source of income. We then headed to the Ensaid Panjang community where 25 families (137 people) all live together in a wooden longhouse. The people of the community greeted us warmly and we had the chance to see how these people live. Beautiful woven products handmade by the women were on display, along with handmade drums. Before we left, we distributed clothing to the children and had a quick game of football. We arrived safely back in Hong Kong on April 6th with plenty of photos, interviews, and artefacts to be used in the classroom to form links between our learning and the projects that the Masarang society has set up. The trip opened our eyes to the trials and tribulations that the local community faces on a daily basis.


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