Saturday, 25 June 2011

Help us build more kindergartens!

Raleigh is committed to following the United Nations Millennium Development Goals whenever possible.  One of these goals is to achieve universal primary education, and with 18 million school-age children in southern Asia out of school in 2008, this is particularly close to our heart here in Borneo.
 In order to gain a place in the Malaysian school system, a child must achieve a basic standard of reading, writing, and numeracy.  Despite the Malaysian government's commitment to education, there remain many remote communities here in Sabah without access to pre-school education.  Working with trusted project partners, such as Asian Forestry Company and PACOS Trust, Raleigh has been building an average of two to three kindergartens a year since establishing a base in Borneo, and there is plenty more of this work to be done.

With  the aim of raising enough money to fund a brand new kindergarten, a team of ex-Raleigh Borneo volunteer managers are currently tackling the Three Peaks Challenge, climbing the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in just 24 hours.  Please help them to meet their fundraising target by sponsoring them.

To see how your money will be spent, look at a kindergarten we built earlier (in summer 2010 to be precise), by clicking this link

PMs persevere with project planning

After an arduous few days on their project sites, the PMs are now safely back at Field Base, where the paperwork has begun in earnest.  There are risk assessments to be filed, casualty evacuation plans to be discussed and tools to be ordered.  But in between tasks, we all want to know what the projects are really like.  Here are the highlights:

Alpha 1 travelled up into the Pitas hills to Kg. Sonsogon Magandai, which will be their home for the next 10 weeks.
Caroline, Martin and Rhiannon were accompanied by Asian Forestry Company's Parasol and Herrley, who will be providing support and expertise throughout the project.
Having assessed the group's accommodation, both by day,
  and by night,
the group experienced the generosity of the locals, who gathered to help our team carry their kit for the hour and a half's trek back to their vehicle.
Alpha 2's Rob and Julie had their first taste of  public transport Maliangin style,
and their initial glimpse of the island that will become their home for the next 10 weeks.
They spent time with the locals, who helped them gain an understanding of the challenge that awaits them with this project,
but there was still time for Julie to test the relaxation amenities for any free time the group might have once their work is done.
Meanwhile, Alpha 3 headed down to Danum Valley, where stunning views of the beautiful virgin rainforest awaited them,
not to mention a quick peek at some of the residents.
In between David Attenborough moments, Petr and Emma checked out the research camp built by a Raleigh group in 2004.  During this expedition, we will be building a new, similar, camp deeper inside the forest.
Alpha 4 had plenty of time during their seven hour journey to get used to carrying large quantities of kit around with them.
 Safely arrived at their camp, they enjoyed the view from their new accommodation,
and got to know some of their new neighbours.
Alphas 5 and 6, our trekking groups, headed down to scenic Long Pasia, which will mark the start of both their routes.  
They enjoyed the famous local hospitality,
and a touch of the local competitive spirit,
and got to know expert local guides, Nooh, Hanry and Fauzie, who they will be working with over the coming months.
So, the planning and the training is almost over for our volunteer managers.  We're counting down the days until the venturers arrive! 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Road trips and radios

Laden with kit and new-found knowledge about their projects and the challenges in store, the new PM teams headed off at the crack of dawn on Sunday to visit their project sites.  During their three-day planning visits, they will meet with project partners and local contacts, assess the nearby emergency facilities and establish a plan to help them complete their projects.   A sleepy Field Base team was ready to wave them off on their travels.

Meanwhile, it's all go at Field Base too, as the team learns what goes on behind the scenes during expedition.  The logistics team are honing their off-road driving skills,

and organising the supplies for the first project phase.

We are all putting our radio training into practice as the PM's dial in to update us on their progress;

and getting our first chance to sleep in the radio room, as we start manning the radio around the clock while our colleagues are scattered across Sabah on the project sites.

It's a true taste of what life at Field Base will be like once the projects commence, and we can't wait!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

PM's ponder their prospects

Since arriving at Field Base, we have been hearing about the fantastic projects that we will be working on over the course of the expedition.  All venturers will take part in a community, environmental and adventure project, each phase lasting  three weeks.  They will find out which project they will join the day before each phase commences.

For the project managers (PM's), however, there is much to prepare before the groups can deploy, and the question on everyone's lips is: "which project will I be working on?"  The mood was full of suspense as the team gathered to learn their fate for the next three months!

First the community projects:

Alpha 1 – Kindergarten in Kampung Sonsogon Magandai 

In order to enter the Malaysian school system, a child must first achieve a certain level of education.  Without easy access to a kindergarten, this is next to impossible.  Kampung Sonsogon Magandai is a remote village of 160 people located in Pitas, the poorest region of Sabah.   Despite the presence of two teachers, there is currently no dedicated space for education, and our teams will be building a kindergarten to widen the opportunities for the youngest residents of this community.

The PMs for this project will be: 

Phase 1: Caroline, Martin and Rhiannon 
Phase 2: Caroline and Stacey 
Phase 3: Caroline, Graham and Simon

Alpha 2 – Gravity water feed on Maliangin Island 

Pulau Maliangin is a tiny island off the northern coast of Borneo, with a resident population of just seven households.  Cut off from mainland Borneo, the community lacks basic amenities such as running water.  Our aim is to build a new gravity water feed system, allowing us to install a tap for each household on the island for the very first time. 

The PMs for this project will be: 

Phase 1:  Rob and Julie 
Phase 2:  Rob and Emma 
Phase 3:  Rob and Julie

Next, the environmental projects: 

Alpha 3 – Research camp in Danum Valley 

Danum Valley Conservation Area is an area of pristine rainforest and one of the world's most complex eco-systems.  Before it became a conservation area, there were no human settlements within the area, making it almost unique.  Unsurprisingly, the Danum Valley Field Centre is one of the world's leading rainforest research centres.  To facilitate the ongoing scientific research there, our teams will be working with rangers to build a low impact research camp in the heart of the forest. 

The PMs for this project will be: 

Phase 1:  Petr and Emma* 
Phase 2:  Petr and Sam* 
Phase 3:  Emma, Martin and Sam 
(*Communications officer Paula will be deploying with Petr and Emma for  phase 1.  Sam is a late addition to the PM team, but Lee was happy to step in for the sake of the camera!)

Alpha 4 – Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre at Sepilok 

One of the least known species of bear, the sun bear is mainly found in the rainforests of South East Asia.  Despite its designation as "Totally Protected" under Sabah's Wildlife Conservation Enactment, poaching and the depletion of its habitat have brought this small bear into danger and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is being developed as a rescue, rehabilitation, education and research centre.  The Raleigh team will be helping build important infrastructure to help prepare the centre for completion.

The PMs for this project will be: 

Phase 1:  Jodie and Graham 
Phase 2:  Jodie and Julie 
Phase 3:  Jodie and Nem

Last, but by no means least, the adventure projects.  Raleigh's primary focus is the personal development of the young people which volunteer on our expeditions.  The adventure phase will challenge each individual in a different way, as they trek through the jungle or while they learn to dive. 

Alpha 5 – Dive-Trek 

The Alpha 5 adventure begins on beautiful Pulau Mamutik, a small island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu.  During their five days there, our groups will gain a PADI dive qualification, before heading off to the jungle for a 12 day trek near the border between Sabah, Sarawak and Indonesia's Kalimantan.

The PMs for this project will be: 

Phase 1:  Jock and Nick 
Phase 2:  Jock and Rhiannon 
Phase 3:  Jock and Stacey

Alpha 6 - Trek-Dive

The Alpha 6 teams will head down to the village of Long Pasia in the south western part of Sabah to start their adventure phase.  During the course of their 12-day trek, they will learn how to survive in the jungle with the help of experienced local guides.  Their efforts will be rewarded with a five-day stay on our dive island, where they will aim to complete a SCUBA qualification. 

The PMs for this project will be: 

Phase 1: Nem and Stacey 
Phase 2: Nem and Simon 
Phase 3:  Petr and Nick

Now the mystery of allocations is over, it's back to Field Base where the hard work begins! 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Getting busy at Base Camp

Bright and early on Wednesday morning we packed our jungle gear and left the safety of Field Base, heading off to beautiful Base Camp, which would become our home for the next few days.

With the venturers' arrival just a week away, we had a lot to learn, so there was no time to enjoy the views and wildlife...

Instead, it was straight down to business.  First on the agenda was the all-important radio training.  Once we deploy to our project sites, the radio will become our primary means of communication with Field Base, so it's important that we master this skill quickly.


But that's just the start!  There are rivers to be crossed,

 new tools to be used,

 and first aid skills to master,

before we can trek off into the jungle for the very first time.

 Safely arrived at our jungle camp, it's time to put the training into practice and see if our hammocks will last the night.  It looks like some will get a better night's sleep than others!

An awkward night’s sleep for some, blissful comfort for others… and a rude awakening for just one, who came down to earth with a bump!  Nonetheless, 21 out of 22 is a pretty good success rate, so we left the jungle feeling proud of our efforts and headed back to Base Camp and the excitement that is project allocations.  Check back tomorrow to find out who’s going where!