cherylHello. My name is Cheryl Parrish, and my two daughters (Sophia and Jesse) and I traveled the world for about 14 ½ months, finishing in late August 2013. The highlight of the trip was the incredible, life changing 6 weeks we spent in Borneo and Sumatra, Indonesia. Thanks to the very impressive Gary Shapiro, my two daughters and I were able to meet both types of the beautiful and wonderful orangutan still left in the wild (the Borneo and the Sumatran Orangutan). Our hearts will be forever touched.

We started our orangutan awareness tour as eco-tourists with Orangutan Odysseys, with Gary Shapiro serving as a host. We traveled up the Sekonyer River in wide, comfortable boats called klotoks on the island of Borneo. Our destination was the Tanjung Puting National Park, where rehabilitated orangutans were waiting for us on the dock leading to Camp Leakey. I could talk forever about the things we learned and experienced while in Borneo but I can say the absolute best part was having Gary there to share his firsthand knowledge with the group.

After the week in the Tanjung Puting National Park area of Borneo we flew with Gary to Ketapang, Borneo to witness an awards ceremony. The Orang Utan Republik Foundation was awarding scholarships to hardworking recipients dedicated to protecting the orangutan & to conservation. I was happy to witness such a valuable project. After that we flew to Northern Sumatra to spend a month observing work the foundation was doing, while helping in any way we could. We stayed with an amazingly sweet Muslim family on the edge of the jungle near Bukit Lawang. Living the way the locals lived in Northern Sumatra was a priceless education in itself for my daughters and me. We also visited numerous schools to help to educate children, planted trees, and saw firsthand how the organization helps support the local communities. We saw half a dozen different and unique ideas the people are coming up with to support their families without resorting to selling off their land to palm oil plantations. One weekend we took a trip to the jungle area of Tangkahan. It took 3 hours of driving each way through non-stop palm oil plantations to get there. The trip was well worth the bumpy drive, but seeing the mile upon mile upon mile of palm oil plantation where jungle once stood was very sad. We really wish that jungle could have been protected before the damaged was done. Hopefully all future destruction will immediately be prevented! All in all we are so grateful we were able to spend time with both Gary and the giving individuals he has working with his foundation in Sumatra. The Orang Utan Republik Foundation and their projects really do make a difference.

I know it may be hard to feel a personal attachment to an orangutan if you haven’t visited their land. If you haven’t looked into the eyes of an orangutan, which seem full of thought and emotion, you may not FEEL the need to help. However, if you have you would be moved to help these beings that aren’t in any position to help themselves. They can’t make phone calls and ask for their lands to be protected. They can’t write letters. We need to do that for them. I urge you to put “visit these amazing creatures” on your urgent bucket list before their numbers diminish even further. I also urge you to donate in any way you can to protect the orangutan and the land they call home.


sophiaSophia's story:  Every day I got to wake up to the sweet sounds of the rainforest. Sure, the mosquitos were killer, but who wouldn't want to be surrounded by leafy green plants and exotic animals?

Going to Sumatra with Gary's foundation was amazing.

You know, I used to think that orangutans were doing just fine. We didn't really learn anything about them in school; just that they were red-brownand like a monkey. I didn't know there were only two species left- The Sumatran and Bornean orangutans- and that they were suffering. In school we had learned about the diminishing rainforests, but I didn't really pay much attention to it until in Sumatra I saw palm oil plantations that went on for miles and miles. With Gary's organization we got to understand everything they're doing to help! We went and saw some people's small businesses, like selling palm sugar or woven baskets. The palm sugar was really yummy, by the way! When people in Sumatra have their own business, they don't have to rely on palm oil to feed themselves and their families. If people don't keep cutting down the rainforest for palm oil and other things, the orangutans will not lose any more of their habitat. We also went to some schools and talked with the kids. Teaching them about orangutans plants a seed in their minds; when they're older, hopefully they won't want to take a job that will result in deforestation.

It was so amazingly awesome to see the orangutans in the wild. Whether they were eating fruit, swinging around on trees or just chilling out, being near them was pretty dang great. We even got to see Gary interact with Siswi, an orangutan he named! Siswi was so cute!

So anyways, I hope this might have inspired you to donate to the orangutans! Orangutans really are beautiful in every way, and it is so worth it to donate!