Aid for Indonesia

SAMARINDA, Indonesia — Mount Desert Island High School alumna Riley Heist, currently teaching on the island of Borneo on a Fulbright scholarship, is working with her school community to support victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Indonesia.

“As it is often true in many situations where natural disaster strikes, no amount of help will ever be enough,” Heist said. “This earthquake and tsunami caused whole neighborhoods to be swallowed by mud and rubble, communities to be flattened, and thousands to have lost their lives and homes.”

Following the earthquake, students and adults in Samarinda, the city where she’s working, a little over 200 miles away from Palu, got to work immediately raising money to support relief and rebuilding efforts.

Many members of the MDI community have gotten in touch with her since the earthquake, she said, wanting to know if she was safe but also wanting to know how they could help those in Palu.

She is collecting donations to add to the funds raised by her students and neighbors.

“The US dollar is strong in Indonesia,” she said. “One US dollar is equivalent to 15,000 rupiah making even a small donation of five dollars go a long way.”

When Heist arrived in Indonesia, she said, “I was greeted with an overwhelming amount of love and generosity. It became evident that my new friends and family would do anything to make me feel at home.

“Despite the vast cultural differences, my transition was seamless with the love that surrounded me every day. It was immediately apparent that despite my best efforts, I will never be able to ‘repay’ these people for all that they have offered me, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t try.”

Seeing a community that’s so supportive was familiar to her, she said.

“I see the people of my new home helping one another in a similar way that I watched my family, neighbors, and teachers help each other during my childhood on MDI.”

Donations may be made via Venmo (rileyheist) or by mail to Heist’s parents Kim and Jerry at 67 Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor.

“If you would like confirmation of your donation as well as updates on what exactly the money will be used for, please reach out to me through email [email protected],” Heist said. “You can also access information of my travels thus far at

“I’m hoping to just begin to demonstrate my love and gratitude through this effort to raise funds from my Maine island home to another island in desperate need,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.