Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Moves afoot in Mapan Mapan

by Ed Ptilidi

Mapan Mapan is a remote rural community of Sabah's Pitas District. The sleepy village, nestled on the warm shores of the Sulu Sea near the border with the Phillipines, has a mostly Muslim population who just manage to get ends meet through fishing and subsistence farming.

But for the last two and a bit weeks, a team of Raleigh's venturers and two project managers have commenced something that will undoubtedly bring about an positive change to this distant place. Sponsored by Nestle with support from the local authorities, the team have been busy working on a project that will see a kindergarten built for the children of Mapan Mapan.

It is a requirement of the Malaysian education system that to be accepted into primary school children must possess a certain level of literacy and numerical skills. While this idea is completely sensible, it often works against remote communitites such as Mapan Mapan with no kindergarten of their own, with the nearest one located many kilometres away. As a result, many children end up not getting through the early education system, so when the time comes to attend primary school they are put at disadvantage. This is why the kindergarten project is so important to the Mapan Mapan community, its children, and its future success.

I've spent almost a week working on the project with the volunteers, after deploying from Likas on July 9, to gain a much better insight into the intricacies of the project and the challenges the team had to face.

Five hours of travel on the bus and four-wheel drives, and we arrive into Mapan Mapan. The first hurdle to overcome - the keys to the unused building arranged as our accommodation for the duration of the project cannot be found. After some lengthly discussions with the local village chief where we go in circles in both Malay and English, it turns out we can use the building but needs to be thoroughly cleaned first. However, the team needs to stay somewhere for the night so we negotiate to set up our tents in the local nurse's backyard. Success.

The following day was spent setting up our lodgings and looking around the site. It is hot and sweaty, as expected. But come evening, and Mapan Mapan turns it on. Looking over the sea from the "Baywatch Tower" near the primary school, nearly every night one can witness a lightshow consisting of distant firestorms over the sea, fishermen on their boats nightfishing, and fireflies circling the trees.

My week in Mapan Mapan disappeared in a flash. In between clearing of the project site with our parangs and unloading the building materials for the site, I've visited a nearby island with Sandra, one of the PMs, and two venturers. A ten-minute boat ride away, the island is good for swimming if the team decide they want to relax and spend the afternoon in bath-warm Bornean waters. The villagers are also keen on football, so that is another way for the team to relax after a day's work. And of course there's always the fun of making all sorts of culinary delights from the Raleigh rations.

I had to leave Alpha 1 at the end of the week to visit another project team. But I was lucky enough to come back to Mapan Mapan with the Loop vehicle on our way back. The progress the team has made was astonishing. It was clear the team and the PMs have been getting stuck in that week. The building site was cleared and marked, the massive holes for the extremely hardy belian wood posts were dug, and many of the the posts were already standing upright. These guys have not been wasting any time. From what we hear, they have also been taking advantage of the local produce, with fishermen supplying them with freshly-caught fish and even lobster! Nice one. Everyone looked happy, with people telling me they did not want for the phase to finish. It also looked like the team had also really bonded over the last two weeks.

Below are some of the photos myself and Dom managed to collect while in Mapan Mapan.

Welcome to Mapan Mapan/Alpha 1's home.

The kampung houses, in accord with the local tradition, are built on stilts in the water.
The kindergarten site before the team cleared it for the building.

Building supplies arrive..

..and everyone gets stuck in with unloading the trucks!

Precision, precision: the team putting up one of the bullion wood posts that will hold the building.

Jesse is all business holding one of the posts.

A stick in the mud? Mike gets stuck compressing the soil.

Dom the photographer gets roped into helping.

Perfectly aligned: Alpha 1 spring into action at their project site.


Sarah said...

Hi Colin, Looking good hon!! Liking the beardage!!- You guys are doing an awesome job, and it looks like you're having fun too!! The kids of Mapan Mapan must be very excited to be getting their own Kindergarten- it's a really great thing you are all doing, hats off to you!
Missing you like crazy Colin. Take care. Sarah xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

Great work Alpha 1. Good to see Mike has worked up a sweat! Didn't know he could dig so well, will keep some gardening tasks for your return. Have you picked up any Malay? Remember any from Indonesia? Love the photos and looking forward to hearing the tales that go with them.
xxx Mum

Marilyn said...

Hi Duanette, Aneisha and A.J. I have seen you guys pictures from your adventure in Mapan Mapan.Duanette you have put up a sweat proud of you and you are doing a great thing. II am so proud of you all and I can not wait to hear the sotries that you have to tell on your return. Be strong and keep up the faith and good work. Before you know it you will be back home.

aunt marilyn

Anonymous said...

Hi Will (McNess)- you look like you're having a great time and hard at work too. Will be great to hear from you - letters from us are one their way.
Missing you as its too quiet here, hugs galore Mummy and Daddy
PS haircut is great!

Anonymous said...

Hi Will

Looks like your'e working hard - but it also seems like fun! Looking forward to hearing all about it when you return.
Elizabeth, Adrian, James and Andy

Anonymous said...

HEYY AJ it d wifey :'( i really miss u!!! U WUD NEED TO PUT A SHIRT ON... um been getting all ur updates n wat not n im proud of wat ur achiving. try to contact ur mom or write a letter plz... um goin to send u a letter wen ur mom does cuz i really need to talk to u n its all of the above.. love ya babes HOLLA


Hi geralvonno looks like your doing well!! You also look like u have lost a bit of weight. Keep away from those mosquitoes. Your mother is driving me crazy!!!!!!!! Everyday she tortures me. I cant wait until u get back!!! Everyone here says hello n take care of yourself! Keep up the good work HUGS n KISSES!! MUAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

well done all you venturers,keep up the good work
and Mike,I still haven't received your postcard! all the best your old-fashioned uncle!!