Meet Nuraisyah Pohan. Nuraisyah is a passionate member of the SurfAid team and the Finance Assistant at our Katuerukat program in the Mentawai Islands. The region is off the coast of Sumatra near one of the best and most consistent barrels in the world, Lance’s Right. Less infamous are the high poverty rates and low health indicators that plague the region. SurfAid ran our very first malaria program in this region and was there to support the communities after a devastating tsunami killed 509 people and displaced 2,900 more from their villages. A decade later, our work continues. Katuerukat means prosperous in the local language, and our program is focused on improving food security and creating economic opportunities for 14 communities in the area.

Now in her second year of working with SurfAid, we caught up with Nuraisyah to learn about her experiences working in the Mentawai. 

What inspired you to join the SurfAid team? 

Before joining the team two years ago I researched SurfAid online and came across Dr. Dave Jenkins’ TEDx talk on Youtube. After hearing SurfAid’s origin story I developed a deep admiration for SurfAid and everything the organisation has achieved since 2000. From then on I was so excited to come on board and make an impact to remote Indonesian communities.

What has been your biggest accomplishment since joining Surfaid? 

I am so proud of our achievements over the last year as part of the Katuerukat program. We planned to train 350 community members in sustainable agriculture and were so pleased to exceed our target and reach 534 people. The training covered good agricultural practice including banana planting, chili and corn cultivation and cardamom intercropping. On the healthcare front, we aimed to train 90 community volunteers and health professionals to increase the local capacity of health and medical providers. We doubled our target and reached more than 218 people through our training. Finally, a total of eight hamlets in the Mentawai were declared Open Defecation Free, improving the health and sanitation of their entire communities. 

My biggest personal accomplishment has been improving the way I communicate with our community members and my colleagues. Communication is inherently important and I strive to continuously educate myself and foster a spirit of teamwork. 

What have you learnt from working at SurfAid? 

The biggest change I have noticed in myself is a perspective shift that values acceptance and tolerance. While living in my hometown my interactions were mostly with people who were from a similar social and economic background. Since joining SurfAid and I’ve moved to Mentawai for work, I am now in the social minority. Previously, I respected differences, but I now understand the true meaning of difference. Working in the Mentawai has taught me to embrace and accept people from all walks of life. This understanding has given a whole new depth and meaning to my understanding of our collective culture for which I am extremely grateful.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced working in remote regions with SurfAid? 

Personally, the biggest challenge I face in working within our partner community in the Mentawai is homesickness. Working in a remote area with limited transportation and telecommunications can make it difficult to contact my loved ones in my hometown. Sometimes we have no access to the outside world at all for days at a time. My passion and commitment to SurfAid keep me motivated even when I miss my friends and family. 

What are your hopes for Surfaid going forward? 

My hope is that SurfAid’s programs and the communities we work within continue to flourish. I hope we are able to keep helping more people in Indonesia and through the Pacific that are in need. Long live SurfAid, the team and our important work!