October 21, 2021

5 Questions with Niken Widyastuti

Our monthly check-in with staff from around the world. Learn more about the people who work at CHAI.

Please tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to CHAI.

I have a medical degree and have always been interested in working with and for the community. After I completed my master’s degree in public health my professional experience was varied; I worked for a private company, an international NGO, a local NGO, and then the UN. Although all my jobs were very different, all involved serving the community. Another common thread across my experience is that I’ve mostly worked in the communicable diseases field, specifically in HIV.

I came to know of CHAI when I first started working in the HIV field, and CHAI had just started its HIV program in Indonesia. My interest in CHAI grew when I learned of CHAI’s willingness to work in areas where people needed access to not just basic care, but quality care. CHAI was paving a new path instead of following others.

1. What does a typical day at CHAI look like to you?

Tough question, but mostly it goes like this: I start with a to-do list for the day. Then the Ministry of Health calls me to support them on something, or I receive a request from my colleagues or directors to support them on something or I have to attend an engagement. Then I have to re-prioritize my list. Usually, I can do most of my planned work for the day in addition to these urgent requests (some other things I must reschedule for the next day). I actually enjoy this because I am an ‘organized chaotic’—that is the phrase I like to use to describe my work style.

2. When do you feel the most inspired by your work?

I feel most inspired when I work with community health workers in primary health centers. Seeing what I worked on being implemented, seeing the light in their eyes when they understand the importance of the work, and the camaraderie between us all—these are the best thing about my work.

3. What is the biggest learning experience you have had at CHAI?

I have worked in the communicable diseases field for years, but last year I was given an opportunity to work in a new one; CHAI’s immunization program. I had to learn the technical and clinical parts of the immunization program as well as the managerial side of the vaccine program. All of this while navigating relationships with partners and the Ministry of Health and all in a very short time. It was a very steep and challenging learning curve and I’m still climbing.

4. What is a motto you live by?

Smile and the world will smile back at you.

5. If you were stranded on a deserted island, and could only bring three things with you, what would they be and why?

Coffee—because I couldn’t live without it; a book—because I can lose myself in it; swimwear—because it is an island! I would absolutely want to spend my days in the water.

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