Going ‘Off the Grid’

Living with the Dayak tribe in the jungle of Borneo, restoring habitat for orangutans, and fishing for her own food is 2007 EMU grad Liza Heavener’s idea of one of the best adventures she could have.

Liza was one of 15 people chosen from nine countries to embark on a 100-day mission, DeforestACTION – Borneo. Their goal is to film a 3D documentary that looks at illegal deforestation in the jungles of Borneo and the impact it has on the local tribes and endangered orangutans.

“The destruction of the rainforest is harming the local tribes and negatively impacting the animals trying to survive on this beautiful land,” says Liza. “Although being in any type of film, much less a 3D movie, was never a dream of mine, I’m honored I could use this tool to raise awareness on a global scale.”

Part of a global team

Liza was one of hundreds of applicants from 26 countries to apply for the 15-member “eco-warriors team.” Other countries represented on the team are Australia, Canada, France, England, Holland, Indonesia, Kenya, and Singapore.

The group will work with Willie Smits, PhD, founder of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, to help restore the natural habitat of orangutans by replanting sugar palm trees and maintaining an orangutan preserve. The eco-warriors will also help install a satellite monitoring system, Earth Watchers, which allows students from across the globe to observe and report illegal activity from their classrooms.

Going ‘off the grid’

Heavener left Sept. 8 for her first of two trips to Borneo. After being stationed “off the grid” with the Dayak tribe in West Kalimantan for 20 days, she returned to the United States. Her second trip to Borneo will be in February 2012 when she’ll be on the island for 80 days.

The group expects to learn sustainability skills from the Dayak tribe, fish in the river, and venture on short expeditions to explore the jungle habitat. That means spending a few nights sleeping on the jungle floor, according to Liza.

EMU, Capitol Hill … Borneo?

What a jump, huh? But after graduating from EMU, Liza had an internship in the U.S. Senate – thanks to a contact she made when in EMU’s Washington Community Scholars Center program. She also served as campaign manager for a Long Island town councilman and as a lobbyist for the Faith and Politics Institute in Washington, D.C.

She currently serves as a director for a political action committee in Washington D.C.

As a middle-back on the EMU field hockey team, Liza was involved on both offense and defense, but her biggest goal, as co-team leader of eco-warriors, is still to come.

“Typically, when I dive into something I spend weeks and weeks researching it,” she says. “But with this journey I purposely only learned what I needed to know in advance. I want to experience this journey to the fullest.”

More info and updates are available through Liza’s blog.