Geologists Take Walk for Mankind

Indonesia Trek Raises Funds

In a world that seems to be getting angrier by the day, two oil company geologists did something good and literally walked into the hearts of hundreds of Javanese.

On a lark, AAPG member Keith Maynard and co-worker Jon Elliott, both with ConocoPhillips, decided to walk coast-to-coast across Java after getting their co-workers and friends to back them with donations to aid the children of Indonesia.

"The idea was to come up with a project or stunt that would be significant enough to attract people's imagination and attention — and when their defenses were down get them to pledge lots of money to children's based charity projects across Indonesia," said Maynard, a geophysical advisor with ConocoPhillips Indonesia.

The geologists figured that while oil companies spend billions of dollars in aid to countries all over the world bringing everything from education, medical care and clean drinking water to people in need, sometimes it's the smaller, more personal outreach that profoundly touches the local population.

"After living in Burma and Indonesia and traveling the world pursuing my career in the oil business, I have always been troubled by the contrast between local poverty and expatriate wealth," Maynard said. "Our lives in Indonesia are sheltered and it is easy to live here and not see the extreme poverty and difficulties of the local people.

"So, about a year ago I thought it would be good to try and do something beyond the 'normal' levels of charity donations we typically undertake."

After traveling coast to coast in Java for family holidays, Maynard realized a person could walk across Java. The idea was born — and then he enlisted the help of colleague Jon Elliott, a consultant operations geologist based in Perth, Australia, for ConocoPhillips Indonesia.

Both men said this walk was a more personal effort to help the local population, particularly children. Elliott has sponsored students and funded cleft palate operations for children during his time in Indonesia. Maynard made similar contributions in Burma.

"All you have to do is look at the picture of a little girl who has had the cleft palate operation and realize for just a few hundred dollars you can change the life of a child," Elliott said. "That's what motivated us."

Making A Difference

The pair initially planned to just e-mail friends and colleagues to sponsor their walk, but the response was phenomenal and the project quickly grew into something much bigger. Maynard and Elliott raised over $40,000 — primarily from individuals and companies from the oil business.

Image Caption

Forest.
Photo courtesy of Keith Maynard

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In a world that seems to be getting angrier by the day, two oil company geologists did something good and literally walked into the hearts of hundreds of Javanese.

On a lark, AAPG member Keith Maynard and co-worker Jon Elliott, both with ConocoPhillips, decided to walk coast-to-coast across Java after getting their co-workers and friends to back them with donations to aid the children of Indonesia.

"The idea was to come up with a project or stunt that would be significant enough to attract people's imagination and attention — and when their defenses were down get them to pledge lots of money to children's based charity projects across Indonesia," said Maynard, a geophysical advisor with ConocoPhillips Indonesia.

The geologists figured that while oil companies spend billions of dollars in aid to countries all over the world bringing everything from education, medical care and clean drinking water to people in need, sometimes it's the smaller, more personal outreach that profoundly touches the local population.

"After living in Burma and Indonesia and traveling the world pursuing my career in the oil business, I have always been troubled by the contrast between local poverty and expatriate wealth," Maynard said. "Our lives in Indonesia are sheltered and it is easy to live here and not see the extreme poverty and difficulties of the local people.

"So, about a year ago I thought it would be good to try and do something beyond the 'normal' levels of charity donations we typically undertake."

After traveling coast to coast in Java for family holidays, Maynard realized a person could walk across Java. The idea was born — and then he enlisted the help of colleague Jon Elliott, a consultant operations geologist based in Perth, Australia, for ConocoPhillips Indonesia.

Both men said this walk was a more personal effort to help the local population, particularly children. Elliott has sponsored students and funded cleft palate operations for children during his time in Indonesia. Maynard made similar contributions in Burma.

"All you have to do is look at the picture of a little girl who has had the cleft palate operation and realize for just a few hundred dollars you can change the life of a child," Elliott said. "That's what motivated us."

Making A Difference

The pair initially planned to just e-mail friends and colleagues to sponsor their walk, but the response was phenomenal and the project quickly grew into something much bigger. Maynard and Elliott raised over $40,000 — primarily from individuals and companies from the oil business.

"Many saw this as an opportunity to make a donation and actually see where that money goes," Maynard said. "We were able to assure people that 100 percent of the money would go to specific causes — for instance, the doctor who would perform cleft palate operations.

"We actually see the children who are helped, and contributors get something back for their aid," he added. "Before and after pictures of children who have received cleft palate operations are provided and those who donate to sponsor students get three progress reports annually."

In addition to individuals, several companies sponsored the project. ConocoPhillips topped the list of corporate contributors.

The distribution of funds was coordinated by a volunteer charitable organization, which identified the most urgent needs. The charities that will receive funds cover a broad spectrum, but all will impact children.

These include:

  • A deep water well will be dug at Batu Ceper, Tangerang, to provide clean water. Toilets, showers and laundry facilities for 500 hundred people in West Jakarta also will be constructed. This project will cost $8,500 to $9,000 (US).
  • Harelip and cleft palate operations will be funded through local doctors at a cost of just $330 (US) for both procedures.
  • Tuberculosis cures, which provide six months of medication for one child at a cost of $30 (US).
  • Yayasan Balita Sehat clinic in South Jakarta to combat malnutrition through health, education and hygiene. The funds will provide essential supplies such as milk, de-worming syrup and vitamins as well as a teacher's salary.
  • East Bali Project: Moringa Tree Project. This program offers sustainable organic farming for the poverty-stricken people of the infertile mountain slopes of East Bali at a cost of $3,300 (US).
  • Student sponsorship for high school students at a cost of about $72 (US) per year per student.
  • A three-month supply of milk for 30 children in a nutrition program in the extremely poor area of Kamal Muara. The cost is $111 (US).

Ready, Fire, Aim

Of course, a great deal of planning must go into a 200-kilometer walk for charity, right?

Not for these guys.

"We did next to no planning for this trip — we are two very irresponsible individuals," Elliott laughed.

The two did have the foresight to plan for guides the last four days of the trip when they would be traversing miles of rain forest — but otherwise they walked by the seat of their pants, with no support vehicles or other help.

"One of ConocoPhillip's contractors was kind enough to donate our first night's lodging, and we found out the day we left that we had secured our second night's accommodations," Elliott said. "Beyond that, we weren't sure where we would be staying along the way."

The trip was so "free spirited" that the pair picked up a third participant who was in it just for the adventure.

"Chris Pazera, my old mate from the Adelaide Hills area, called just a couple of weeks before we were to start the walk to let me know he would be in Java on holiday that same week," Elliott said. "When I told him I wouldn't be around because we were doing this walk, he wanted to know if he could come along. It must have been a good experience, because a couple of weeks after we got back he e-mailed me to ask what we were doing next year."

Elliott said as expatriates living in Jakarta there is little opportunity to see the natural beauty of Java.

"Indeed, at the ConocoPhillips office it is hard to focus on anything other than the 16 lanes of smoke-belching traffic on Jalan Gatot Subroto and the appalling smog that hangs over the city on all but a few mornings of the wet season," he said. "While the walk was primarily a publicity stunt to raise money, Keith and I were both aware that there might just be some beautiful country out there only a short distance from our office. Rumors that tigers still survive in the Halimun National Park suggested that there was some pristine rain forest remaining in central Java.

"We planned the trek to take in as much of this country as logistically possible," he added. "The walk ended up covering 220-kilometers, as we made no attempt to take any short route between the north and south coasts.

"In fact, we took a highly torturous route to negotiate the most beautiful part of the quickly disappearing rain forest."

Day By Day

Java is a mountainous island 800 kilometers long and an average of 100 kilometers wide. While it is considerably smaller than many of the other Indonesian Islands such as West Papua, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Sumatra, Java is home to over half of Indonesia's population of over 200 million. The reason for this staggering population density is the fertility of the new volcanic soils on the island.

Unfortunately much of the great rain forests that once covered the island have been destroyed to provide farmland for the people.

"After extensive training in which I did two, four-kilometer walks around the streets of south Jakarta — on the assumption that the first four kilometers would likely be the worst and the other 196 would be no problem — and Jon managed a pub crawl on two successive Fridays in a very shady part of the city, the coast-to-coast walk finally got under way Sunday, September 29," said Maynard.

The threesome never left Jakarta the first day — they spent the night at the staff house of an oilfield services company near the Jakarta Zoo. However, on the second day the walkers left the polluted streets of Jakarta behind them and were greeted by smiles and encouragement along the quiet back lanes.

Both Maynard and Elliott said the trip will always be a highlight of their lives.

"Definitely the highlight of the trip for me was walking north to south across Java for eight days and never coming across anyone who wasn't pleased to see us and willing to help," Maynard said. "Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world and there was never a hint of tension between their culture and us. The Indonesian people have left an indelible impression on me."

He also said the opportunity to experience the beautiful countryside was wonderful.

Elliott agreed.

"There was a real trust on both sides everywhere we went," he said. "None of these people knew we were coming and these three sweaty, dirty westerners were welcomed everywhere — even as the guests of honor at a wedding. "

Both men count the experience an enormous success.

"What started as an irrational idea when we were both a bit tipsy is certain to be one of the highlights of my life — it was a tremendous experience," Elliott said. "And the icing on the cake is that we were able to demonstrate that one person can make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

"How can you not step up and help when it takes so little to do so much in a country such as this?"

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