Lembeh Foundation: Working with Lembeh Communities for Sustainable Solutions

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Conservation, sustainability and community are three words which Lembeh Resort in North Sulawesi, Indonesia has always been passionate about. Over the years the resort has taken measures to reduce their plastic waste and become more environmentally sustainable in all of their operations but this has now been taken to another level by a team of Lembeh Resort staff who have founded the “Lembeh Foundation”.

The Lembeh Foundation is an independent registered Indonesian charitable organization which is working along side local communities on Lembeh Island to provide environmental and economically sustainable solutions to waste management. The core aims of the Lembeh Foundation are to reduce plastic waste, provide education and economic benefits while improving the health and sustainability of local communities.

Lembeh Foundation is currently focusing on two major projects; a trash bank and associated “Funplastic” pilot initiative, and the construction and creation of a green library learning center. Both of these projects are taking place in the village of Pintu Kota Kecil which is located on the west side of Lembeh Island. Pintu Kota Kecil has around 300 residents and in recent years had become overwhelmed by plastic waste with little or no education or solutions to relieving the problem.

The Trash Bank.

The “Bank Sampah” (trash bank) is already under construction using funds which have been donated to the Foundation. This pioneering scheme on Lembeh Island will provide villagers with a place to take their sorted and cleaned plastic waste in return for cash. Collected plastics will be shredded and compressed into blocks which will be used for a multitude of purposes including building blocks and molded items which can be sold. The Lembeh Foundation is already holding workshops in village communities to teach locals how to repurpose plastic waste into saleable items. The aim of the trash bank project is to not only reduce and re-use plastic waste but to provide an economic benefit to the community in doing so.

Early stages of the Green Library construction.

The Green Library is also under construction and with the second floor nearing completion it will shortly be receiving its first students. Pintu Kota Kecil does not have a village school and the Green Library, which is located adjacent to the village church, will be multi-functional and fulfil a much needed role in the community. Children will be able to attend and learn about the environment and importance of conservation through a variety of resources including books from the eco-education organization, Green-Books. Obtaining Green Library status has involved months of dedication from Helen Pananggung who has been spearheading the project. Helen, is passionate about educating future generations and creating awareness about the environment, wildlife and ecology of Lembeh Island.

The Green Library now.

Funding for the construction of the Green Library has been raised entirely through donations which Helen has been a huge part of raising. Helen co-ordinates the village Sunday School Choir to perform at barbecue evenings for the guests at Lembeh Resort. Guests are able to purchase memory sticks of the singing and all proceeds go to the Lembeh Foundation.

Green Guru Helen working with local children.

Helen has been holding twice monthly classes, activities and projects with the children of the village as part of the application process for becoming a Green Library. Over the last 4 months Helen and the village children have learnt about endemic wildlife species, plastic pollution and solutions such as upcycling and repurposing (which will be carried out in tandem with the Lembeh Foundation Trash Bank project).

Since the founding of the Lembeh Foundation, life in Pintu Kota Kecil village has changed beyond what could have ever been initially conceived. The village previously consumed vast amounts of single-use plastics from water bottles, plastic cups and straws, plastic bags and plastic wrapped produce. All Lembeh Foundation workshops have been used as demonstrations as to how these items can be eradicated by other, more sustainable and cost effective, options. When events are now held in the village there is no single use plastic to be seen – the local people have adapted to using large refillable water containers, re-usable plates and cutlery and the need for a drinking straw has seemingly disappeared.

Clean Up Day at Lembeh Resort.

The pilot schemes in Pintu Kota Kecil are just the beginning for the Lembeh Foundation, which also supports communities in two other Lembeh Island villages, Batu Riri and Pintu Kota Besar. In all three villages the Lembeh Foundation continues projects initiated over the years by Lembeh Resort, including the annual provision of school supplies and school uniforms to families which otherwise could not afford them.

Clean Up Day Volunteers.

While the Lembeh Foundation was founded by staff from Lembeh Resort, they were delighted to receive independent status from the Indonesian Government in 2018. As an independent charity, Lembeh Foundation hopes to incorporate other resorts in the Lembeh Strait who will work in tandem, with their own neighbouring villages.

Team Lembeh Foundation.

“The Lembeh Foundation is a blue print project which we hope can be rolled out beyond our local communities, to the rest of North Sulawesi and Indonesia”, Petra Schmiedl, Founding member of the Lembeh Foundation.

In the meantime, as the construction of the first trash bank and green library near completion, the people of Pintu Kota Kecil are looking forward to a cleaner, greener, healthier and more prosperous future.

Providing sustainable options for local communities.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Lembeh Foundation, donations can easily be made via credit card or transfer. Please contact info@lembehfoundation.org for a donation form and further information. Lembeh Foundation provides confirmation of all donations which may be used for tax purposes.


Sarah Wormald

Sarah Wormald

Sarah Ann Wormald is a writer and PADI Master Instructor with a passion for underwater photography and conservation. Sarah is the author of “Diving in Indonesia” and “Diving in South East Asia” (Tuttle Publishing). With over 20 years of diving experience, Sarah has dived all over the Indonesian Archipelago and South East Asia. Find out more at www.MurexDive.com.

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