Meet the Interns and Associates!

Aarthy madan (june - august 2017) freeman fellowship

Poornima bhagwat (june - august 2017) freeman fellowship

Gabbriella neus (june - august 2017) boren fellow





I’ve know from a young age that I wanted to have a career in the environmental realm. At ten years old, I told my parents that I wanted to be a forester. That passion led me to Colorado State University where I got my undergraduate in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with honors.

After school I spent three years working for a progressive and rapidly growing city in Colorado. I worked in urban planning protecting environmentally sensitive areas from development and then spent two years doing land management on conserved open spaces for wildlife. Many of my duties involved the conflict between the urban-wildlife interface, e.g., agriculture vs conservation, human access vs wildlife access, growth vs protection.

Working in an urban setting made me more aware of how many environmental issues are linked to social problems. This is one of the things that attracted me to Planet Indonesia. I am excited to learn more about PI’s integrated approach to solving environmental problems by focusing on the underlying social and economic issues facing the region. I hope to take the knowledge I’ve gained in the past and what I learn here to continue towards a career in sustainable development.


George Washington university



Rachel tan (June-july 2016)

yale-nus college, singapore

I’m currently studying at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, the first liberal arts school in my country. I came to Planet Indonesia at the end of my freshman year after being inspired by an environmental studies class I took one semester, and was excited at the opportunities offered by Planet Indonesia to go into the field and interact really closely with locals and nature. This internship has also furthered my interest to major in Environmental Studies in college. 

My previous internship was as a journalist with The Straits Times, a Singapore-based newspaper. I brought the skills I learnt there to Pontianak to help Planet Indonesia make videos to document their projects in Indonesia, and also worked on communications and branding with the organisation. 

Pontianak is a vibrant city and the diversity of cultures here allows for different languages, types of food and races to mix with ease. The food here (especially seafood!) is great - street food is delicious and inexpensive. I’ve met very warm and welcoming people during my stay here, and have even made friends with people whom I barely speak the same language with. Hopefully I’ll be able to return here in the future and see how Planet Indonesia has grown and spread its programmes across (and maybe even beyond) West Kalimantan!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at


Isabel Berdeja (June-August 2015)

Funding George Washington University

I am currently a master's student studying International Development Studies at the George Washington University. My area of focus is Private Sector Development and Social Entrepreneurship. I am very interested in how different business models can help indigenous communities around the world. I studied International Affairs as my undergraduate degree in Mexico City. During college, I was a member of Student Board and headed several initiatives to improve the University's multicultural approach, including the organization of the Middle- East and Africa week. I took six months off college to work in a development project in Quintana Roo, Mexico with a community of former Guatemalan Refugees who are now an established community called Kuchumatan. These Mayan indigenous groups who came from Guatemala are both socially and economically excluded, and have few opportunities for education and economic alternatives. This project evolved to an ongoing effort to build a community center and it has developed into a small scholarship fund that supports children who want to continue their education.  

I did an internship in the Bethlehem, Palestine with Holy Land Trust, an NGO that advocates for the Palestinian plight and promotes non-violent solutions among the community. Here I worked on a research project on the diaspora of Palestinians in Latin America. I also supported the initiative to help families whose homes have been demolished by the Israeli military for being close to the Wall.

Finally, I worked for two years in the Energy Business of General Electric in Mexico, where I was part of the Volunteers Committee. Currently, I am a full time student and treasurer for the Organization of International Development Board at GWU. I enjoy reading (Harry Potter is my favorite series of all time, but I also like Jules Verne, Salgari and Dumas) I like hiking, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and traveling.


Roman Torres (June-August 2015)

Funding George Washington University

Roman Torres is a student of International Economics at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. His focus while at the Elliott School is data analysis and strategy, so Roman wanted a summer position that would give him some practical experience working with data and economic issues in the real world. He found a perfect match with Planet Indonesia.

Roman has diverse experience, which he now brings to enrich Yayasan Planet Indonesia. Roman graduated with honors from the University of Central Florida with a degree in international relations and conflict resolution.  During his time at UCF, he was selected to become a National Science Foundation research scholar, and published a heavily quantitative research article on ways to reduce drug trafficking in the Americas.  He also published a research paper on the effects of official government discourse on the diplomatic relations between the Iran, Venezuela, and the United States. Lastly, he was selected to attend the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs at the West Point U.S. Military Academy where he studied issues of international political economy.

Roman also worked as an instructor with HOPE Community Center in Orlando, Florida, where he helped eligible undocumented immigrants – a lot of which were illiterate – prepare to pass the United States citizenship test. His experience at Hope Community Center gave Roman an appreciation for working with communities, and for the benefit of empowering individuals so they can achieve their fullest potential. It was here that Roman was exposed for the first time to the kind of community organization that PI strives to achieve in all its projects.

Additionally, Roman worked for former Florida congressman Dick Batchelor’s management consulting firm, where he worked in designing strategic plans for clients regarding business development, public affairs, and strategic government relations. He was also involved in the creation of Change 4 kids, a nonprofit organization that managed to unite the business community, the civic community, the school system, the parent-teacher organizations (PTAs), and labor unions to set aside their differences and focus on infrastructure issues in Central Florida’s public schools. Change 4 Kids managed to secure a half-penny sales tax after six referendum efforts had failed to generate some level of taxation to support school children in the poor districts.

Planet Indonesia has asked Roman to assist in increasing staff members management capacity. Particularly in areas like long-term strategies, monitoring and evaluation of programs, project management, and data analysis. Roman has held several workshops, introducing concepts and tools to help the PI think about the organization’s mission, ways they can achieve their goals, how to measure their progress, identifying good indicators, generating and tracking data, and effective ways to communicate this information to donors and potential donors.

Roman plans to enter the field of international consultancy after graduation. His time with Planet Indonesia is giving him valuable experience working with a client from a completely different cultural background and with a different language.  Roman hopes that the skills he nurtured during his time at Planet Indonesia will make him a more competitive candidate in the job market later on.

He will also really miss Indonesian food! You can reach Roman with questions or comments at


Becoming a Planet Indonesia Intern

Our flagship internship program at Planet Indonesia is strategically different from the majority of international volunteer programs in Indonesia. Because of this it is important that all interested individuals carefully read the following information and consider whether or not our program is suitable for you.

Objective: The overarching goal of our program is for interns to gain experience that is relevant to their future career goals while bringing valuable skills and ideas that help our organization grow and develop. Our program is designed to be a two-way street. We rely on interns to help us with a number of tasks, and through this process we help interns gain skills that they can bring back to their universities, institutions, and other work places.

Roman Torres (intern summer 2015)  facilitating an objective tree workshop with our staff

Roman Torres (intern summer 2015)  facilitating an objective tree workshop with our staff

Roles: We place a heavy emphasis on project design. In other words, all interns are expected to come to our organization with previously developed proposals, plans, and projects they will implement during their time here. Our program is heavily focused on developing the capacity of our full-time Indonesian staff. Therefore, we expect interns to submit proposals, guides, and plans for workshops they willhold with staff prior to their arrival. In the past interns have worked to develop objective trees, stakeholder analysis, and logical frameworks with our staff for each program. Almost all interns will play an integral role in grant writing.

Funding: All interns are required to secure a small amount of their own funding. This can be a $2000 travel grant from a local university or donor to a $25,000 1 year long Fulbright research grant.

Why do we do this? This in some ways helps us weed out applicants. By requiring each intern to secure some amount of funding we are ensuring that interns are going through an application process of their own at their home universities, institutions, or organizations. This further demonstrates our emphasis that interns are here to work on projects, build capacity, and contribute to the overall impact of our organization. With that said we are happy to work with interns to help them find funding and develop programs. Please contact our organization for funding advice. Places to start looking are: American Institute for Indonesian Studies, American Indonesian Exchange Foundation, National Geographic Young Explorer's Grants, US Indo Foundation. Terra viva green grants is a valuable database of various grant making organizations as well.

TopicsWe do accept interns who work on a variety of topics. From training our staff on the use of social media, to generating biodiversity databases in our agroforestry plots, to helping us map global stakeholders, interns do it all. Interns, before contacting our organization, should read through our website to familiarize themselves with our approach, projects, and impacts.

Expertise: In almost all cases interns are currently in a master's program or have a degree of higher education. We do not require this but we rarely accept interns who have not finished their bachelor's degrees. With that said, we do realize the value of undergraduate projects and their impact they may have for our organization. We encourage you, if you have a project or an idea, to contact our organization. We are open to collaboration, but want to make it clear we have limited spots [at most 2 at a time]. Our philosophy is we would rather have a few interns working on very strategic projects and objectives than many interns who feel unused or ineffective. We want interns to feel they have gained valuable skills that are useful for their careers.

Time: Unless an intern has previous experience in Indonesia they are required to stay at our organization for a minimum of 10 weeks. Why? We find it takes at least 1 month to get oriented, adjust, and get settled into our organization. For applicants who have previous experience in Indonesia the time commitment may be less (e.g. they have experience with Indonesian culture and/or can speak Bahasa Indonesia).

Costs: In Indonesia (and most of the world) volunteer programs are simply ways for non-profits to leverage fundraising. It is not uncommon to see orangutan conservation volunteer programs in Borneo that charge an upwards of $1000-$1500 a month. We don't do that and will never do that. Interns will be required to pay a few small fees associated with rent and operational costs. In most cases, interns are unpaid (but see section Funding).

Research: The topic of research is sensitive in Indonesia and requires a long application process through the government. Moreover, there are many restrictions on how much research a NGO can do in Indonesia. However, we are allowed to generate data that helps us evaluate and design our programs. With that said, we are well connected with local Universities and the department of Research and Technology in Indonesia. One of the requirements to do research in Indonesia is every foreigner must have a written letter of support from a local counterpart (usually a professor in Indonesia). We can help researchers make contacts with professors who work with our organization. Please contact us for more information.

Isabel Berdeja (intern 2015) experiencing the wonderful Indonesian tradition of being "floured" and "egged" on your birthday. :)

Isabel Berdeja (intern 2015) experiencing the wonderful Indonesian tradition of being "floured" and "egged" on your birthday. :)

Interns Not Volunteers: We like to call our dedicated group of international helpers interns and not volunteers. As previously stated interns come to our organization with a developed set of goals, projects, workshops, and objectives. The word volunteer occasionally carries a lack-luster stigma for international [vacation] development programs. We don't agree with this global trend, and we don't want to follow it. We want our interns to feel useful and feel proud of their work at our organization. Interns should leave our organization feeling like they directly contributed to the economic development and conservation of the world around them.

Language: We do highly encourage interns to participate in an Indonesian language program prior to arrival. There are many located in Indonesia that are quite effective. However, with that said nearly all of our Indonesian staff are quite fluent in English. Many of our staff have participated in well-known international fellowships in places such as Australia, United States, Netherlands, and Canada. Therefore, the ability to speak Bahasa Indonesia is not a make or break deal for interns.


Areas of Interest

Below are a few areas and fields interns may work in:

  • Strategic Planning and Management (e.g. Objective planning, logical frameworks, vertical objectives)
  • Program Evaluation
  • Global stakeholder mapping
  • Communications and Social media
  • Biodiversity monitoring
  • English lessons
  • Art preservation (particularly related to textiles and weaving)
  • Environmental Education
  • Global market access and carbon banking
  • Grant writing and development
  • Donor relations
  • Reforestation and agroforestry
  • Veterinary medicine (related to avian species)
  • Business pathways and sustainable development


Interested in applying?

After reading this and if you feel like our program is a good fit for you, there are few steps to take:

  1. Read all of our website and our blog to familiarize yourself with our programs
  2. E-mail our director [ and CC] introducing yourself and include:
    • CV
    • A 1-page project description (what would you like to do at our organization)
    • A 1-page personal statement highlighting relevant experience and how the internship will benefit your future career goals
    • If funding has been previously secured (if not list at least 2 possible potential donors for your project and application plans)
  3. If it looks like a fit we will then e-mail you an application
  4. Submit your application and wait for a response from us (usually 2-4 weeks)

Again, we can provide places to look for funding and advice on supporting materials. When interns contact our organization they should either have previously secured funding or have an idea on places they may apply.


Final Note

If you have questions concerning this program, please contact our organization. We are open to developing projects together with interns, and can give interested participants specific areas our organization is currently seeking. We are so thankful for our dedicated group of interns and for the valuable skills they bring to our organization.