|AIRO Volunteer Job Overview-What is an AIROhead?
At Austin International Rescue Operations, Inc. (AIRO), we believe in giving people the tools, training and resources to improve their ability to
earn a livelihood. Once people are given an opportunity, they are individually responsible for their own success. This is true whether the job is
fishing in the Indian Ocean, making boats in Aceh, or doing accounting in Austin.
As a volunteer for AIRO, living and working in Banda Aceh Indonesia, you need to know that your life has permanently changed since you made
the decision to become an "AIROhead". AIROheads are unlike any other people in the world. We are stubborn, fearless, resourceful, crazy,
passionate and compassionate. We believe in the natural goodness of people. We have pride and purpose in our lives. All of which makes us
really cool! But this coolness comes at some personal sacrifice:
A Few Guidelines
Prior to Indonesia:
1. Begin thinking like an AIROhead. Look for opportunities to market our story and to get people excited about what we are doing. This can
come in an informal way or it can be more determined and planned. Think about influential people or organizations and how we might get them
informed and involved.
2. Begin slowing your expectations for contact from friends and family in the US. Communications are difficult and expensive. But mostly,
you need to get in a frame of mind that you will focus on the exciting project at hand and NOT on the comforts and conveniences of home.
3. Save money. There are a lot of small costs as you begin to prepare for the trip.
4. Begin preparing for the trip. See our gear list.
5. Go to Barnes and Noble and pick up an Indonesian language textbook and a simple dictionary (kamus). Start studying the language. The
language is fairly simple, but it takes lots of work to become comfortable with it. All study before you go will be greatly rewarded once you arrive
6. Get in shape. The work in Aceh can be long and tiring. It is hot and dirty and polluted. We do have mountain bikes in Aceh and we play
some basketball with the locals. We also have a great room at HQ to work out, stretch, and dance. But consistent exercise takes commitment and
General Terms of Volunteering with AIRO:
1. AIRO Volunteers may commit to a minimum of 1 month of work in the Banda Aceh area. The total commitment should include about a
week for travel to and from Aceh-for a total of at least 5 weeks including travel.
2. Volunteers are expected to pay for their own round-trip plane tickets to Banda Aceh. This usually requires a couple of days’ layover in
Singapore or Kuala Lumpur (which requires hotel stays). Continuing airline tickets, usually through Medan, are then purchased once we get to
Singapore as the prices are generally about half of what we would pay if booking from the US. Typical costs are about $1500 for the round trip to
Singapore, and another $350 for a round trip ticket from Singapore to Banda Aceh. Cheap, but very acceptable hotels, (such as the AIRO-
endorsed Robertson Quay hotel in Singapore) run about $US 75.00/night. Book these rooms early as they are often sold out.
3. Volunteers are expected to pay for other necessary costs of the trip such as immunizations/doctor checkups as necessary, passports,
minimal gear and luggage etc. Also, other food, taxis and travel costs are paid for by the volunteer.
4. AIRO will provide a place to live (our “Big Fish Headquarters” in Penayong, Aceh). The volunteer can live there free of charge. AIRO will
also provide a food allowance of $10/day. This is usually paid monthly. This is much more than adequate in Indonesia as prices are a fraction of
those in the US, and should enable the volunteer to actually grow some savings while there. The volunteer will be expected to pitch in on
food/drink for the house.
5. Volunteers should understand that Indonesia, and Banda Aceh in particular, is a 3rd world country in the best of circumstances. With the
destruction caused by the tsunami, Aceh can be a nasty place, despite huge progress rebuilding the area. Inconveniences, risks and dangers
include, but are not limited to, the following:
Tsunamis, earthquakes, diseases (bird flu, malaria, lots more), and terrorists (although we have never had any international terrorist incidents,
there is an ongoing, local rebellion). Traffic is heavy and dangerous and we travel on foot, bicycles, motorcycles, and motor vehicles. It is hot
and dirty (often better described as disgusting). The food, while often delicious, is very different-spicy and unusual compared to most American
food. The area is nearly 100% fundamentalist Muslim. Muslim law is often the same as the local governmental law.
6. Like all AIROheads, volunteers are expected to be respectful of the local cultures and traditions. Local dating of any kind, including
bringing local women (or men) into HQ is not allowed, and is grounds for immediate termination. There is some opportunity for social interaction
among some of the international NGO’s, but this is limited and infrequent. The rule to follow is this: Assume that dating is on hold while you are
in Indonesia and that way you won’t be surprised when it is, for the most part, non-existent.
7. Everyone living at HQ is expected to share in housing obligations-just do your share. AIRO pays for everything except food (and
sometimes AIRO pays for food too!) We also have a local person who does housekeeping, cooking and laundry.
8. There is a lot of down time in Banda Aceh. While we recently got a TV and mountain bikes, it remains an often boring and slow lifestyle
(we like it that way!) Internet service is slow and expensive and must be used sparingly. So, living in Aceh should be considered a good time to
write, read, cook and eat, study the local languages and cultures and to exercise. Aceh is the ultimate self-improvement course.
9. AIROheads work hard and play hard. You are expected to contribute the same as any other employee. You should actively work to
identify projects that can continue to bring revenue to AIRO so we can continue our work. I have always said that AIRO needs to continue to pay
for itself if we are to continue to operate.
10. The money that funds our operations is given by people from all over the world. It is sacred and scarce. We are very careful and
prudent when it comes to spending these crucial dollars.
Once you really get it, and understand the magnitude of the impact we are making on people’s lives, all of these sacrifices and inconveniences
truly become minor. Anyone who has ever stood on our facility in Krueng Raya at the edge of the ocean, under the coconut trees, (OK, throw in
an Indian-ocean sunset!) has been permanently inspired. The beauty of livelihoods being born, of young men learning to build boats, of families
fishing the ocean and creating businesses and better lives cannot be described here. Yes, there are nothing like AIROheads….come join us!
AIRO is successful by keeping things simple. While no document can describe all the potential risks and surprises, it is hoped that the volunteer
will attempt to comprehend the change in lifestyle he/she will face.
This agreement has been read and understood as follows:
Aaron Lyman, President date
Aaron C. Lyman
Austin International Rescue Operations, Inc.
Big Fish Properties, Austin
AIRO US HQ (new address!):
8804 Appaloosa Run
Austin, Texas 78737
USA Fax: 1-512-301-7154
USA Cell: 1-512-750-5096
AIRO Aceh HQ (new address and number)
Jl. Elang Lr. Merpati No. 43
Ateuk Pahlawan - Banda Aceh
NAD - Indonesia 23241
Intl. Cell: +62-81-36263-7777