Saturday, 17 December 2011

Expedition 11K is officially closed

Ten weeks after starting out on six projects in remote and challenging locations across Sabah, 61 Venturers and 26 Volunteer Managers returned to Kota Kinabalu. Feeling tired, proud of their achievements, sad, excited, we joined together to mark the closing of a successful expedition and incredible experience.

Thanks to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Sabah, firm supporters of Raleigh's efforts in Borneo, we celebrated the end of Expedition 11K with a formal ceremony, showcasing traditional music and dancing.

A sea of Christmas red: 11K in their expedition t-shirt designed by the Alpha 1 phase 1 team.
The Bujaiwan dance troupe performed traditional Malaysian dances throughout the ceremony.

Traditional dancing
The Magu Natip (Bamboo dance)
We all had a go.

Datuk Susannah Liaw, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Sabah gave a speech, paying tribute to the hard work of everyone on expedition.

Datuk Susannah Liaw chats to Venturers

Datuk Susannah's son was a venturer on last spring's expedition so she understands the journey that every participant goes on and is proud of everyone's achievements here. She said that apart from never wanting to eat baked beans again, her son gained new skills, learnt about other cultures and made news friends.

Sarah also gave a speech and exchanged gifts with the Ministry in appreciation of their ongoing support.

As well as guests from the Ministry, project partners, guides, sponsors and members of the local press joined us.
Long Pasia trek guides attended the ceremony.
Expedition 11K has built two kindergartens in Kampung Alab and Kampung Lingkabugan II, completed a boardwalk at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok and continued work on a scientist's camp in Danum Valley. We aired a slideshow of photographs showing expedition achievements.

Watching the slideshow, even the rain didn't dampen spirits.

Everyone has lived out of their comfort zone for a three months and throughout the expedition have discovered their own abilities and pushed themselves to achieve more than they thought they could.

Now it is time to say goodbye.

Ready to leave the hotel this morning.

Hard to say goodbye.

We'll be waving everyone off at the airport this afternoon. Good luck to everyone who has taken part in expedition 11K, thank you for being here and giving it absolutely everything.

Merry Christmas everyone!
Finally, a big thank you to you! 

A big thank you to everyone who has been following us on the blog and sending messages through it. We hope it has given you a good taste of the stories in store for you from your friends and family when they return. Your messages had a huge impact and provided so much support, laughter and interest throughout the expedition.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

New kindergarten for Kampung Alab...built by Alpha 1

They built this!!! Alpha 1 outside the brand new two storey kindergarten in Kampung Alab.
Yesterday Shana, Andy, Sarah and Craig went to the opening of the kindergarten that Alpha 1 built in Kampung Alab.

Shana, our administrator outside the kindergarten.
As you walk up the hill and look out over the village the kindergarten is the first thing you'll see in it's bold yellow and blue colours.

Our project partners Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS) work closely with Kg Alab and they identified that the village was in need of a kindergarten that could also be used for adult education and as a community centre.

Project Managers, Matt and Nat have been there from the beginning of expedition and were joined by medics Kirsty, Fern and Nick.

Around 600 people live in Alab and they've all been having a huge party with the Alpha 1 group who were working around the clock to complete the building.

Working with local builders and PACOS and with thanks to funding from the small family-run charity Fondation les Paquerettes Matt and Nat worked with three groups to plan, build and decorate the huge building. It's a huge achievement that will make a lasting difference to the community.

Project manager Nat.

Dr Nick
Alex and Rufus

Celebrations – Alab style!

It is the first time that Raleigh has worked in the village. From the moment Matt and Nat stepped into the village on their project planning visit at the beginning of October they felt welcomed and knew they had a very lively few months ahead.

Ready to dance!
Traditional dress.

During the ceremony there were dance performances from the community in traditional dress and a song performed by Alpha 1. The party carried on until the early hours with amazing food, local drinks and Alab’s favourite – karaoke. Watch the dancing and Alpha 1's song now on YouTube.

Local drinks served in traditional vases.

Sophie and Lydia get ready to sing!
The scale and joy of yesterday's party shows how much our work is appreciated in Alab. 

Today, as they prepare to come back to Kota Kinabalu the group are having a farewell sports day and party there. They are so much part of the community in Alab, they really won’t want to come back in the morning. 

Hard to say goodbye: Alpha 1 are part of the Alab community where the kindergarten and community will make a huge difference for generations to come.

So, phase three is almost over. We go to the Sea Park Hotel in Kota Kinabalu tomorrow for our Endex. The Ministry of Youth and Sport are hosting a closing ceremony where we’ll celebrate ten weeks of hard work, new friendships and some grand achievements.

On Saturday we’ll put up a final blog with photos from Endex as Venturers head home or travel on.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Loop’s Christmas tour…part two

The Loop is back at Fieldbase now. Andy and Sarah went on to Sepilok from Danum Valley, just in time to be there for the opening of the boardwalk that Alpha 4 have built.

We’ve been working at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to build an infrastructure there since 2009 and the boardwalk will open to the public next year. It will connect the Visitor Centre to the observation tower.

Ready to open the boardwalk.

Hello from Alpha 4!

Project Manager Kirsty cuts the ribbon to open the boardwalk. Congratulations Alpha 4.

As you can see from the photos, photographer Isla was snapping away at the opening of the boardwalk. Isla is staying in Sepilok so until we can upload her photos at Endex here is a video message to say hello from the group.

After opening the boardwalk, Ben and Ali cooked and treated Andy and Sarah to macaroni cheese – this season’s ‘in’ food.

As well as completing the boardwalk and hanging out with orang-utans, Alpha 4 have also been  celebrating Sinterklaas – the thirty day Dutch celebration.

Earlier in the week, the group left their shoes out to receive gifts and the poems that everyone had written to each other and celebrated with doughnuts in the shape of the first letter of everyone's name.

Letter-shaped doughnuts.

The group leave their shoes out for Sinterklaas poems and gifts.

Happy Sinterklaas everyone!

Today, Sarah, Andy, Craig and Shana are going to Alpha 1 to open their double decker kindergarten in Kampung Alab. That's a lot of excitement before Christmas!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Loop's Christmas tour...part one

Hohoho and hello from your Christmas Loop. It’s a short Loop – just the two environmental sites, as we are visiting both community projects for their opening ceremonies separately.
First stop Danum Valley. The PRD. Now known as the Pro-Ski Resort Danum, or the Perfect Relaxation Destination.

Wow. This was a short break before Christmas with a difference.

Before even arriving at Alpha 3’s camp – 8km into the Danum Valley primary rainforest, we spotted signs of pygmy elephants. Bravo 3 (Christmas Loop’s sleigh) pulled over and for the hour that followed we saw three separate duos of elephants.

Watch a video of this pygmy elephant live here.

Completely speechless and mesmerised from a rare glimpse of this endangered species, we were unable to remember where we’d got to in our A-Z of Christmas songs as we drove on to Mengaris Camp. Alpha 3 have been in Ulu Purut Camp for a week now and have been trekking their kit, tools and supplies for the camp construction in from the half-way point. 

We woke up still in awe of elephants and set off from the Field Centre to trek into Ulu Purut after paying tribute to our wildlife experience.

Santa hats and elephant impressions.

8kms later on the outskirts of Alpha 3’s camp we got ready to deliver your post, blog messages and fresh food for the group.

Hohoho: Christmas Loop Katie, Sarah and Andy.

Two thirds of the Bravo 3 Santa sleigh team are huge Glee fans. Imagine the excitement on entering tropical virgin rainforest paradise to Alpha 3’s rendition of Glee’s signature tune. Providing the bass were male trio Elliot, PM James and Gordon and the girls sang us into Ulu Purut Camp that had been transformed into the Pro-Ski Resort Danum. Watch their welcome on YouTube.

Glee boys: Gordon, James and Elliot.

After being checked in and shown our programme of events, we had a peanut butter and jam cracker lunch feast followed by popcorn and then headed to the construction site for our cross country ski lesson with Chas and Mikey aka Elliot and James.

The PRD's itinerary.

Lunch with Alpha 3.

Time to ski

Safe in James and Elliot’s expert hands we were strapped into PRD skis made from spare wood and given tips for skiing in the jungle.

Elliot aka Chas leads a ski lesson.

Ready to race!

Gordon explains to Country Programme Manager Sarah how the group trekked in this piping.

We were given a tour of the work site and being shown the supplies that the group had trekked in including a ceramic toilet, a quarter of a tonne of cement, piping, roofing and a lot of paint.

Looking at the amount that Alpha 3 had trekked in, the tranquillity of their camp and warm welcome we received is even more special. The group have been trekking every day since their arrival and the trek is tough – thick and arduous jungle. 

It was easier to understand how they’d taken it in their stride when we moved on to the next part of our holiday programme – the relaxation centre. Ulu Purut’s most stunning highlight is the waterfall and Alpha 3’s jacuzzi, bath, shower and general pool of paradise.


Fresh and relaxed, we were treated to hot chocolate with marshmallows and doughnuts made by Paige and Ru.

Paige and Ru preparing apres-ski treats.


We then delivered your blog messages and post and caught up with Alpha 3’s news whilst Julie and Meg prepared macaroni cheese for dinner.

Followed by Elliot and James’ peach and apple cobbler.

Our evening entertainment was the Danum Valley Show Choir who performed a tribute to their trekking achievement in a Christmas mash up of the “ten days of Danum”.

The Danum Valley Family Show Choir. Watch this performance, along with their PRD welcome on You Tube.

The next day we left early to give us enough time to trek out and back to Mengaris Camp. Feeling so fully refreshed we packed our bags full and piled extra supplies to save the group some extra weight for their return trek.

Trekking back parts of Alpha 3’s camp including their army oven that the team used to bake bread.

Feeling well and truly spoilt we didn’t think our visit could get any better until we were back at Mengaris Camp about to have lunch when we had a visitor.

Not Santa. The Dad of an orang-utan family that have befriended Alpha 3 groups swung and fed from the trees around us.

A week earlier, when Alpha 3 met him for the first time, Meg wrote about their experience.

Meg's piece really sums up how special project life in Danum is:

It’s these moments of indescribable companionship, like spotting your first orang-utan that bring you together in the toughest of times. As we settled down to eat our crackers after a speedy four and a half hour trek, carrying everything from paint to toilets, suddenly Julie shouted! “Orang-utan, orang-utan!”

After knowing Julie 24 hours a day for 5 weeks. I thought it might be another funny joke.
However, upon looking about five metres from our dining area into the surrounding trees, sure enough, there was one of the extremely fluffy, infamous orang-utans.

We all immediately and wordlessly stopped salivating over the food (which at 1pm after a hard days trek, is amazing in itself) and went to get a closer view. Flabbergasted doesn’t even cut it. Over the next hour the magnificent creature proceeded to go from tree to tree, grazing at ease on the jungle fruits. Its deliberate moves and ability to hang from any limb it may choose was incredible. After a while it nonchantly swung down the tree and plodded off, unaware of the huge excitement it had caused.

I know that any time we find that there are 50 more sheets of roofing to carry, when we fall down, get covered in mud and leeches or have to get up in the dead of night to stop various animals stealing our food, that these small character building incidents pale into insignificance while watching endangered species in the primary rainforest, its natural habitat. This is what we came here for!

The loop will be back from Alpha 4 in Sepilok where they have had a grand opening of the boardwalk and on Tuesday Alpha 1 are opening their kindergarten in Kampung Alab. We’ll have news up from them on the blog.

The only group that we won’t have a story from is Alpha 6 because we won’t see them until Endex now. But, we know that they are happily learning to dive on dive island and merrily singing Christmas songs, having had a brilliant trek from Long Pasia.

Danum's 70m canopy.