Volunteers Continue to Help OURF Thrive

by Gary Shapiro, OURF President.     “Thanks for helping out today, John,” is what I said to volunteer John Page in 2006 as he assisted me in taking down our pop-up canopy, finishing a morning of outreach at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

I have thanked many volunteers over the years, individuals who found free time in their busy days to support the work of the Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF). Volunteers are our lifeblood. John helped us in the early years by building a responsive website for OURF and then went beyond to support our workshop in Indonesia in 2006 by accompanying me to Sumatra.


John and Inggriani at stall

John Page enjoying a meal break with Inggriani during our Sunday outreach at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market

Over the 17 years that OURF has been active, dozens of volunteers have stepped forward to assist my wife and me in running the programs of the Orangutan Republik and pursue its mission. While many non-profit organizations have no volunteer programs, OURF has people from around the world helping us. We seek motivated, skilled people eager to make a difference with their time, energy, and creativity. Our board of directors are all volunteers and guide the organization with its responsible fiduciary governance.

A special group of volunteers materializes each year to serve on our annual fundraising committee. They help plan, organize and coordinate the event, ensuring everyone in attendance has a great time while raising money. Susan Callery, the secretary of OURF’s board of directors and a specialist on the impacts of Palm Oil in Indonesia, has led this volunteer team year after year. Why does she keep supporting OURF? “I love orangutans, and after visiting the orangutans in Borneo, I want to be part of the Orang Utan Republik,” she says. Here, volunteers are not only essential but find meaning in giving a part of themselves to a cause.


Susan and Gary at RSPO

Volunteer Susan Callery, OURF Secretary, Board Member, and palm oil specialist attending the RSPO in Thailand (2019)

Another board member, Liz Varnhagen, is the co-chair of our Indonesian field programs which includes the Community Education and Conservation Program operated by the young Indonesian conservation educators in North Sumatra that we sponsor. Liz has traveled to work with this field team as an OURF volunteer and continues to stay active with the oversight and guidance of this team in collaboration with me, at home here in California, helping elevate the quality of their planning and documentation. She is also a committed donor that helps enable this aspiring group to perform its important conservation work on the ground in Sumatra.

Liz and Gary prepare for board meeting

Volunteer Board member Liz Varnhagen working with me on agenda items prior to an OURF Board Meeting

Several years ago we created several new committees in order to delegate some of the duties within this organization in place of an executive director. One of the committees is Social Media, a function that has evolved into a complex communication ecosystem that needs regular management. I discovered a website called Volunteer Match that pairs talented people from around the world with nonprofit organizations seeking volunteers for various roles. In 2017, an Indonesian ex-pat living in Sweden contacted me through Volunteer Match and offered to help with Membership Recruitment. Wuri Rostandy, was the ideal volunteer as she wanted to give back to her country. Many Indonesians living overseas have observed what has been happening to the wildlife and environment, especially as large-scale agriculture has decimated their native forests and biodiversity. I was delighted that Wuri wanted to help us. From her home in Sweden, she was able to enroll other Indonesians to join various campaigns that raise awareness on various social media channels. Using her professional experience with social media, she hosted art and video contests where many young and talented Indonesians submitted their inspired creations. Wuri also helped manage the Orangutan Caring Scholarship Program as a native speaker who could effectively communicate with our benefitting students in Sumatra and Kalimantan. And if that wasn’t enough, Wuri and her husband, Huib, a Google employee, were able to successfully lobby Google’s Giving Week to raise funds to benefit OURF for three successive years, raising nearly $30,000 altogether. We feel forever indebted to Wuri.


Wuri, Huib, Inggriani and Gary in Bali

Volunteer Wuri and her husband, Huib, met Inggriani and me in Bali.

Before the Covid-19 lockdown, OURF held many outreach events across Southern California especially during holidays and celebrations like Earthday and Orangutan Caring Week. Because we had numerous volunteers, Kim Riley, Laura Molina, Jill Sexton, Lisa Seigel, Lesa Miller, Harvey Jordan, and Doug Fretty to name a few, there were some years where we could mount more than one outreach booth at a time. During those events, we were able to meet and engage with individuals and families who came to learn about the plight of the great red ape.  Some have become dedicated donors to OURF.


Jill, Laura and Kim at event

OURF Volunteers Jill Sexton, Laura Molina, and Kim Riley staff the OURF table during a Springtime outreach event.

Since the Covid lockdown, OURF has held its events online like every other similar nonprofit but we have continued to thrive. In 2020, OURF held its Annual Fundraiser and Pongo Awards as a Livestream in a digital studio in Hollywood. With the help of several key volunteers such as Ed Begley, Jr., David Blake, Harvey Jordan, Jason Shapiro and the family team led by Brandon Wollner and his, What You Want Productions, we were able to put on a quality broadcast that spotlighted award recipients and participants from Indonesia and Australia as well as live and pretape musical performances by JP Taylor, Debi Derryberry, Freebo & Sally Howe, and David Blake.


Brandon and Gary Wollner prepare for livestream

Volunteers Brandon and Gary Wollner prepare for OURF’s 2020 Livestream fundraiser


David Blake performs

Volunteer David Blake performs during OURF’s 2020 Livestream fundraiser


After that, OURF‘s volunteer program entered a growth period with increasing numbers of volunteers signing on to the various committees such as Education, Membership and Development, Content Creation and Social Media, Grant Writing, Programs, and Volunteer Coordination.  An Indonesian volunteer, Lusiana Hadi, who specializes in nonprofit management and with a large following on social media, came to us.  She enrolled half a dozen new volunteers from Indonesia. We created an onboarding process that made way for welcoming and engaging a broad volunteer workforce.  All this has enabled OURF to flourish during the Covid lockdown.


Lusiana in her video clip

Volunteer Lusiana Hadi from a video clip she produced for OURF

Now with over 40 volunteers, we have temporarily suspended our volunteer recruitment and will assess how to best proceed to keep our enthusiastic helpers engaged and productive. Our Indonesian volunteers have been working on content creation for social media posts and on a schedule for video and graphic releases throughout the year. Meanwhile, other volunteers in the United States and Europe have assisted with search engine optimization, marketing, newsletter production, and graphic design, among other functions.

We are grateful for all volunteers who are expanding our capacity to achieve our organizational goals, to educate about the plight of orangutans, and to seek ways to elevate Indonesians to help protect and conserve their wild orangutan populations for the years ahead.

For more information, contact OURF’s volunteer coordinator at volunteer@orangutanrepublik.org.

Note: Unfortunately, due to the constraints of space, I was unable to mention all the volunteers who have helped us over the years in the above story, but I am grateful to everyone, including everyone listed below:

Adinda Julia Putri, Ada Horwich, Adrian Guss, Aidan Carpenter, Agostina Baldi, Alan Oken, Alexandra Saunders, Allen Altchech , Allison Saldana, Amit Sen, Amy Jones, Anthony Flores, April Rucker, Bailey Franklin, Beatriz Seraphim, Bobby King, Brandon Wollner, Brenna Larsen, Caroline Gabel, Cheri Shankar, Cheryl Parrish, Christina Narendra, Christy Joo, Cindy Lengkong, Dan Benveniste, Daniel Huber, Dave Rassmusen, David Blake, Debi Derryberry, Desak Nyoman, Donald McPherson, Doni Covan, Doug Fretty, Douglas Jacobsen, Ed Asner, Ed Begley, Jr, Eddy Karyadi, Edelyn Mansur, Eden Goldman, Edward Lee Goldstein, Emile Welman, Emily Baker, Eric Raymond, Flo Ginsburg, Freebo, Fritz Coleman, Gary Wollner, Graham Banes, Gregory Tague, Haley Reinhart, Harvey Jordan, Hayden Begley, Henrica Tramboo, Holly Draluck, Howard Hill, Hyla Douglas, Ian Hall, Ian Maddaus, Indrawan, Inggriani Shapiro, Ivana Kurniawati, Jack Dalton, James Askew, Jason Shapiro, Jean Chaffee, Jeannette Aldridge, Jennifer Hoffman, Jesse Schmidt, Jill Sexton, Jim Round, Joe Witte, John Callery, John Stimson, John Page, Jonathan Gruber, Jordan Rydman, Josh Coyne, JP Taylor, Justin Lee, Kandy Stern, Kanika Sharma, Kate Dougherty, Kathryn Craig, Katey Sagal, Kim Lievense, Kim Riley, Kim Schubert, Korinne Hinderliter, Kym Wollner, Laura Molina, Laura Tenenbaum, Leeza Metrovich, Leif Cocks, Lesa Miller, Lisa Siegel, Liz Varnhagen, Logan Phelps, Lusiana Hadi, Marika Lamoreaux, Marina Starek, Marisa Strange, Mary Grace, Matt Thomas, Matt Trudall, Max Tramboo, Maylene Wong, Melany Lintuuran, Melissa Smith, Mia Pangestie, Michel Witte, Michele Keeler, Monique Reymond, Nancy Dancer, Nancy Finnimore, Nancy Pearlman, Natasha Kriste, Neal Sperling, Nina Herzog, Nunzia Giannattasio, Ozgecan Yeleser, Parvene Michaels, Patrick Martin, Patty Shenker, Paul Rode, Paula Tapia, Peggie Taylor, Peter Falcon, Phil Hendrie, Rebecca Keller, Reyudzky Putri, Rania Long, Richard Shirer, River Jordan, Rob Fitzroy, Robert Kounang, Roger Kintz, Roger Payne, Ronna Phelps, Sara Keller, Sean Johnston, Sekar Sosronegoro, Shauna Callery, Shawn Thompson, Sally Howe, Silfia Chaibus, Siti Balqis, Sophia Schmidt, Steve and Sherri Sener, Stewart James Bim-Merle, Susan Bell, Susan Callery, Suzette Davidson, Susana Martinez, Terry Edward, Terri Wollner, Therese O'Brien, Tiffany Darden, Todd Cravens, Tolu Awosika, Tom Eddington, Troy Kenah, Vaishnavi Yathirajam, Veronika Pavlíková, Wade Bourne, Wendy Hoole-Cundiff, Wendy Wiseman, Wuri Kleinhout-Rostandy, Yusril Anwar.

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