Summer Journeys: Jasmine Pun ’25, Perspectives on Effecting Change

“I often gravitate towards people and experiences that require me to exit my comfort zone and usual life,” says Jasmine Pun ’25.

And that, she says, is why she chose to participate in a service program last summer that took her to halfway across the globe.

“I was interested in completing service at a destination which would allow me to do something I cannot do in any given week and that would teach me new skills. This was a grand and rare opportunity for me.”

For 18 days, Jasmine engaged in a range of service activities in Sumatra and Bali: she worked to preserve orangutan habitats, supported local non-profit organizations by painting area schools, and did preservation work on a coral reef.

“Sumatra is one of only two countries where Orangutans can be found, and they are listed among the top 25 most endangered primates in the world,” Jasmine explains. “During our six-hour jungle trek through the Bukuit Lawang Forest—an Orangutan safety forest in Sumatra— we learned how orangutans live and thrive.”

Jasmine put that knowledge to work through service projects that included planting trees in remote areas to support orangutan habitats. The work was physically demanding, and arduous in the heat and humidity of Indonesia.

“Jungle trekking for six hours and scuba diving twice a day were not only physically but mentally challenging,” says Jasmine. “Although they were fun, I often pushed myself to fully complete my service with positivity and ambition. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the challenge which was unique to me during this trip: in Sumatra, I experienced racism from the local children. They stared, pointed, and even called me names. Initially it made me uncomfortable, but I came to realize that there is simply a lack of exposure, knowledge, and awareness. My group leaders and peers tried to educate the children while expressing compassion for me. It was very eye-opening to experience that from people who were similar in complexion. Although it didn’t define my trip, it did impact me.”

To prepare for her work on Bali’s coral reefs, Jasmine was required to complete 20 hours of Open Water Diver education online through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Once she arrived in Bali, she completed the underwater portion of her training and received her full scuba certification.

“We dove into the reefs of the Bali islands and spent a week cleaning trash and overgrown algae under the water,” Jasmine says. “We also worked to create artificial reef systems to encourage new reef growth.”

Each morning, Jasmine and her peers began their day with kindness and connection; leaders would ask for “shoutouts,” where students would recognize their peers, and take the lead in “sending the pulse” through each other’s hands. The evening gathering always began with a silent reflection on the day. That reflection has left Jasmine with new insights and perspectives.

“My entire experience in Indonesia was meaningful to me. From reaching new physical heights to connecting with the children in Sumatra, this experience was truly life changing," says Jasmine. "Something that will always stay with me is watching and learning about the ways in which the people in those countries live. People often talk about tourism in Bali without regard for the real state of the country; without understanding the conditions that much of the population lives under. Having access to clean water, proper refrigeration, or adequate sewage systems are things that I have taken for granted, but having experienced not having that access has made me hyper-aware of these luxuries and has left a lasting impression on me. I wake up each day with so much gratitude in my heart. Almost daily when I open a bottle of water, flush a toilet, or drink milk, I think about the children in Indonesia. From my vantage point, the problem can seem so overwhelming, and the solution can feel so out of reach, but I plan to continue to work with initiatives like Taft’s Global Leadership Institute (GLI) so that in the future I can come up with actionable methods to bring forth effective change.”

Jasmine’s travel was made possible in part by a Robert Keyes Poole ’50 Fellowship.

Established in memory of Robert Keyes Poole ’50, Taft teacher from 1956 to 1962, Poole Fellowships are awarded each year to enable Taft students to engage in travel or in projects consistent with Mr. Poole’s lifetime interest in wildlife and the environment.