Sumatra and Bali: Scouting Indonesia Volunteer Projects

Hello from the village of Halaban, on the island of Sumatra, in the country of Indonesia. We are scouting out indonesia volunteer projects for our newest program, a summer program for high schoolers in Sumatra & Bali. We are about 4 hours north of Perth, Australia and about 2 hours east of Thailand. I mention this as many people aren’t aware exactly where Indonesia is located. This island nation is a fascinating blend of cultures with over 50 languages spoken here.

The people are “Thai friendly” and incredibly welcoming. They are genuinely curious about Americans and are quick to smile and start up a conversation testing whatever English they know.

I’m writing this in a tiny rural village on the fringe of some of the most pristine rainforest on the planet… the famed Sumatran rainforest, home to some of the most the endangered species in the world, including the Sumatran Orangutan. We are here with representatives of the Orangutan Information Centre who have been our guides for the last few days as we finalize our program to understand the plight of the Sumatran Orangutan.

I am sitting with a laptop at an outdoor table at what is the village’s only “store”—actually a home with goods for sale street side. Everybody that walks or rolls by on their “moto” gives me a quick hello and a shy smile. It is a Sunday night. The kids have all bathed in a nearby stream and people are relaxing in that post Sunday dinner lull familiar to families worldwide. The local male twenty-somethings are gathered a few feet away chatting as our guide, Febroni, is strumming his guitar and humming American pop favorites. Their counterparts, the twenty-something women, wander around in their PJs visiting neighbors. The sound of thunder and distant flashes are a reminder that we will probably be in for another huge rainstorm tonight as it is the rainy season here.

Our hunt for information about the Orangutan has lead us on a fascinating journey. We have visited an Orangutan hospital and rehabilitation center, met with world experts on the plight of the orangutan and trekked with National Park Rangers in search of (and finding!) orangutan in the wild.

Our visit to the Orangutan hospital was both heartwarming and alarming. We witnessed the amazing work being done by a mixed team of foreigners and Indonesians providing care to over 50 orangutans. Some are severely injured (you can see the air gun pellets embedded in them with x-rays) and some are simply treated for minor issues before being released back into the wild. Seeing orphaned orangutan babies is heart wrenching, but they quickly get you laughing with their hilarious antics and facial expressions. They are the definition of “cute”.

Witnessing the orangutans up close, you realize what magnificent — and eerily humanlike — creatures they are. Despite being endangered, they are hunted, trapped and starved out of existence. Our hope is that ARCC’s Sumatra and Bali: Operation Orangutan program will give our students a glimpse at the challenges facing the orangutan and those working tirelessly to save them.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 years. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.