Helen Pananggung of Lembeh Foundation: Blue Green Personality of the Year

A Clean Sweep at the ADEX 360 Blue Green Awards 2019 for Lembeh Foundation’s Helen Pananggung and Lembeh Resort.

By Sarah Ann Wormald

The ADEX 360 Blue Green Awards this year were a reflection of the hard work, dedication and commitment of the Lembeh Foundation (founded by Lembeh Resort) and the Foundation’s driving force in sustainability and the local Lembeh communities, Helen Pananggung. Lembeh Foundation entered 2 categories at the 360 Blue Green Awards this year (1) Dive Operator of the Year (as Lembeh Resort) and (2) Helen Pananggung was entered for the Blue Green personality of the Year Award.

Guess what? They won both categories with Lembeh Resort taking the Dive Operator of the Year trophy and Helen taking the Personality of the Year award due to her efforts in Pintu Kota village with the Green Library and the Trash Bank efforts. Well done, everyone!

We did not tell Helen that we had entered her - so when she found out that she had won, she was over the moon, stunned and for the first time ever - totally speechless! In Helen’s application form, we submitted that:

They say it takes a village to raise a child but (Helen) has raised awareness of sustainability to an entire village. Helen has approached village leaders and senior community members to gain their trust and support for recreating the village as an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable model community”.

We are so proud of Helen and everything she has done as part of the Lembeh Foundation - of which she was a founding member.

Helen was born, grown up in, and still lives in our neighboring village of Pintu Kota Kecil. Helen has worked tirelessly to turn the villagers’ hearts and minds to the beautiful environment which surrounds them and how to protect it.

While it has not always been easy, challenging, and trying to change generations of mindsets and beliefs, Helen has done just that. She has never given up, and through Green Library activities on a two weekly basis, Helen has had the children of the village cleaning the beaches and finding innovative uses for the plastics which they find. The village streets are now adorned with colorful “flower pots” which upon closer inspection, are actually old plastic water bottles which have been collected.

As a passionate nature lover, Helen has taught the children from the village about the endemic species of the Lembeh Strait – not just underwater but on land too. The attitude of the villagers has changed from one of taking for granted their natural environment to one of gratitude and appreciation for their surroundings. There is now a “buzz” which Helen has generated within the village for sustainability and previously socially acceptable practices such as dropping plastic or litter are now frowned upon.

Helen has worked with the adults of the village – especially the women, through a series of workshops, teaching ways of upcycling used plastics into sale-able items – this has brought new industry and sources of income to the village which is exciting for all.

Helen is also an English teacher at the village Sunday School and head of the children’s choir. The children’s choir performs almost weekly at Lembeh Resort and donations from guests are used to further the aims of the Lembeh Foundation and to provide much-needed school supplies for the village children. Helen has been a member of the team at Lembeh Resort since 2003 when she started working as a cooks assistant in the kitchen. After one year Helen worked her way up to becoming a cook and then later, as her English improved, went on to become one of the servers in the restaurant. Helen is now the restaurant supervisor, and she continues to impress us all not only with her bubbly smiles and a great sense of humor but also with her keen knowledge for details and her excellent organizational skills.

Helen now also loves to lead guests on village tours and treks to show off her local village, the Lembeh Foundation developments (including the trash bank and green library construction) as well as introducing guests to members of her local community.

Helen has managed to gain the support of key stakeholders in her village of Pintu Kota Kecil and the village continues to thrive and looks set to continue developing towards a brighter, healthier and more sustainable future.

Thank you to everyone on the Lembeh Foundation Team, especially to Helen for being such an inspiration and to Pak Ray (owner of Lembeh Resort) for his ongoing support and a HUGE congratulations to Helen for her Blue Green 360 Award – she certainly deserved it!

If you would like to help the Lembeh Foundation to continue to make a difference by developing our trash bank and green library (both of which are now under construction), it’s easy to make a donation by credit card. We will send you a credit form and a tax receipt once the funds have cleared so you can claim back tax.

You can contact us on via email - thank you in advance - every dollar makes a big difference!

About the Author

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.