Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Adventure phase updates, Alpha 7 and 9

After completing their base camp induction, Alpha 9 headed out to the Kinabalu National Park to start their trek. Five days later we caught up with them at Sutera Harbour as they were getting ready to board the boat for their week at Dive Island.
Alpha Nine in the jungle
Steven Clegg  filled us in on how the group were getting on. I am pleased to say that they all enjoyed their trek in the jungle and have been lucky with the weather, mostly! 

Tom and Alex enjoying the jungle
Although it rained hard towards the end of the trek everyone found this a refreshing break after a hot day trekking.

Quick break from trekking for a photo

They quickly got used to life in the jungle and all their new skills learned at base camp, putting up basha's, cooking on open fires and of course digging and using the long drop,  made it that much easier.

Setting up camp
They arrived back in Kota Kinabalu on Sunday (24th February) and after spending the day in the classroom learning their diving theory they went out together for an evening feast at the Filipino market before heading over to Dive Island early the next morning.

Ready to head to Dive Island

Whilst at the harbour, we also had the chance to catch up with Alpha 7, who had just completed their PADI Open Water Dive course on the Island. Scuba diving is a chance for the groups to learn new skills, watch out for each other using the buddy system, experience  a new environment and learn how best to conserve it, including a coral planting dive.

Preparing for the coral planting

In between dives they have been practicing their new camp skills, bonding with each other, taking it in turns to lead the group for the day and putting together meal plans and cooking 
up some treats from their Raleigh rations. 

Before they jumped onto the coach and headed down to Long Pasia to start their trek we managed to get a quick report from the group before they set off...

Tuesday (19th February) and it’s time to set off for our five days on Dive Island.  After a 4.30am start the team was ready and raring to go. We were the last to leave after a lot of emotional goodbyes to our previous Delta groups. They had become like family over the past few days, it was tough to be taken out of our comfort zones but everyone is coping well.

We arrived in Kota Kinabalu at Borneo Divers Office expecting to have a normal lesson in which we learned the theory of scuba diving.  

Ready to start diving
Instead we were greeted with Chinese New Year celebrations, in which we were treated to a traditional Chinese dragon dance, followed by a typical Malaysian buffet. Once the festivities had finished and we were bursting to the brim with king prawns and chicken it was time to get down to business. The lessons finished around 5pm and it was off to Dive Island.

We arrived on the island and were completely awestruck by the beauty and tranquility of the island. Once we had explored we set up camp and went to bed ready for our week of paradise.

James and Christian taking a little down time in between dives

The next week was spent sun bathing, beating the locals at volleyball and scuba diving! Not to mention the excellent food, ranging from pancakes and doughnuts to pizza, which we cooked for ourselves from our rations. 

Nathan rustling up a treat in the kitchen

Our last day came and we went out for a small fun dive in the boat. The group saw some sea horses and sting ray.  
Heading for dive practice
The highlight would have to be getting to see the whale shark, but it managed to evade our search.  Maybe the other groups will get to see this magnificent creature.

We are getting prepared to trek now and you can tell everyone is nervous, but as a group we will have a great time with lots of type 2 fun** as well.

Alpha 7 with their PADI certificates

It was great to catch up with both groups after the first parts of their adventure face and they all left happy and excited to move on to their next adventure.  We’ll be updating you soon with news from Alpha 3’s gravity water feed and how the loop got on visiting all the project sites.

**Type 2 Fun - Fun that doesn't seem like fun until you look back later

Celebrating 10 years of Raleigh Borneo

While Jo and Fiona (our comms officer and photographer) are out collecting stories and photos, we thought we would update you with some other Raleigh Borneo news.

As you know, Expedition 13C has now begun and with that marks the start of our 11th year of running expeditions from the permanent fieldbase in Sabah.

Whilst Raleigh started projects in Borneo in 1987, Raleigh’s Fieldbase here in KK, opened in 2002 and so last December (2012) Raleigh celebrated their ten year anniversary. This began with the expedition 12K climbing 4095 metres to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu for sunrise on the 13th December 2012. Everyone supported each other throughout the two day event with words of encouragement to those on the way up or smiles and hugs of congratulations for those on the way down.

On reaching the bottom, despite the tiredness and sore muscles, there was energy and anticipation in the air as everyone gathered at our celebratory event sponsored by the Ministry of Youth and Sport and held at the Kinabalu Park. We were joined by many of our sponsors, project partners, current and ex-participants, Andrew Clay, a Raleigh International trustee, Andy Wahid, Raleigh Borneo's first Country Director and Datuk Tengku Adlin, Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board and Honorary Vice President of Raleigh International.

A special anniversary report also commemorated the milestone and documented the full impact of Raleigh Borneo's achievements in Sabah over the last decade - such monitoring and evaluation is going to be an integral part of Raleigh Borneo's next 10 years.

Mac McCarthy, Country Director presents gift to Y.B. Datuk Jahid Jahim, Deptuty Minister of Youth and Sport, Sabah

Over the past 10 years 2992 volunteers have completed 31 expedition and over 200 projects, working alongside 15 partner organisations. We would like to take this opportunity to share our celebratory video and say a huge thank you to everyone that has been a part of our success; our expedition participants and staff, project partners, sponsors and friends.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Updates from all Alpha groups!

Despite some reports to the contrary, it's not all endless sunshine here in Borneo! We've been deluged with torrential rain here for the last few days and all of our project groups have found their work affected. In true Raleigh style however, despite the challenges, they've all coped really well with the difficult conditions and have spent their time productively on other projects around their camps. We're keeping our fingers crossed that good weather is on it's way so they can all get back on track with the projects and everyone can have a chance to dry out!

Updates from the last 48hrs...

Alpha 1 have unfortunately had to take the last two days off from the Kindergarten build as the lead carpenter in the Village’s Aunt died yesterday. They integrated so well with the local community already that they were invited to join the villagers in a local church service today and to pay their respects in support of John. The rest of their time was spent finalising their plans for their night with the loop next Sunday (as there is a Come Dine With Me type competition in play amongst the groups during the loop).

Alpha 2 in Bulud Batu have been experiencing very heavy rain, but despite this spent yesterday moving the header tank which will hold the water and have taken delivery of their pipes. Their plans for the rest of today were to learn how to set up a hammock in preparation for their trek phase and to take some time out as they eagerly await the delivery of the rest of their materials tomorrow (Monday). They are looking forward to getting stuck into the gravity water feed and I shall be visiting this group later in the week and will provide a full update on my return.

Alpha 3 spent yesterday laying pipe along the road in towards their first gravity water feed project in Pinapak. Last night they experienced very heavy rain but were in high spirits during Raleigh Radio this afternoon and have clearly enjoyed their day off after working hard these last few days in the run up to their first opening (for around the 8th March).

Alpha 4 are also experiencing terrible weather and haven’t been able to move on to their second camp site because of the rain – as recommended by the local Ranger. This means that unfortunately they have not been able to start shuttling the tools on to the next site and instead have been working on making improvements to their first camp - Mengaris. However, with the loop promising to drop off their post and some treats on Tuesday there is something to look forward to and if the weather improves they will move on to the camp at Ulu Purut on Tuesday.

Alpha 5 had a rainy night and a rainy day yesterday and unfortunately woke up to more rain today! As the terrible weather has made work difficult they have been spending their time making their current camp more comfortable by making general improvements. They have managed to get to and from the BBC camp over the past few days to shuttle tools and camp equipment though and so their project goal to rebuild the camp will hopefully get underway properly over the next few days.

Alpha 6 experienced a torrential downpour last night and so spent their time improving the tarp covering and communal bench and floor areas. They spent their day checking the animal traps and went for a short trek. Unfortunately, with the poor weather continuing today they have been enjoying a day off and the opportunity to dry out. Reports during Raleigh Radio this evening confirmed that they have been spending their day baking in their little mini oven. I’m looking forward to visiting the group for a few days from tomorrow so fingers crossed the weather improves a little.

Alpha 7 completed their dives on Mamutik Island and so the group have now achieved either their Open Water or Rescue Padi Certificates. Today on completion of their training they enjoyed a visit from our photographer Fiona and also started planning for the upcoming trek aspect.

Alpha 8 are currently trekking and so a brief update is that yesterday they completed their days trek with lunch and a swim and they were eating and then preparing to continue trekking on to Rekong today. They have radioed in to confirm that they have finished their trek and set up camp this evening. Tomorrow they are having a rest day after five days of straight trekking as they are almost halfway through.

Alpha 9 after their last 5 days of trekking, have spent today in a classroom learning all the theory for their diving courses on Mamutik Island tomorrow. As such they are out and about in KK today in high spirits and with a little bit of spare time before spending this evening in a hostel – luxurious!

Apologies for the lack of photos, I will have plenty to upload and share with you shortly following the forthcoming Loop visit.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Kindergarten Project Update (& The Loop)


I’m briefly back in at Fieldbase after spending five days in Bonor Sook, which is the gorgeous village where the kindergarten (Alpha 1) is being built.

Alpha 1: Digby, Hogan, Daniel, Lee, Rob, Belle, Lucy, Beerend, Hatty, Josefien and James
with PM's Jude, Alyrene and Natalie

The journey in via bus and then 4x4 cars was amazing. The breathtaking views had everyone really excited, despite the fact we’d got up at 4am to be ready to leave basecamp at 6am promptly.

The views are not done justice in this picture

We arrived a little after 2pm on the 19th and were welcomed by the villagers who helped us unload the cars into our new home – the community hall. This was a really big luxurious space which was quickly divided into sleeping and eating communal areas. The Project Managers (PMs) Alyrene, Jude and Natalie were delighted to find that since their project planning visit (PPV) the locals had installed a tap connected to the rain water collection for us to drink from and cook with and built us an outside kitchen area. With a long drop already installed, the kindergarten site is perfect, which as the kindergarten will be constructed just off the back of the community hall is a blessing.

Alpha 1's afternoon welcome snack
The group planning the layout of the hall

Setting up mozzi nets and the sleeping area

After an afternoon settling in, at 6pm (longs o’clock) the locals invited us to their meeting room for a second and more formal welcome dinner of banana chips, banana fritters, crackers and something resembling pink and coconut nougat (but a slightly wetter consistency).

Hogan, Beerend, Lucy, James and Daniel and our welcome dinner
We were each asked to write our names on a white board, along with where we were from, so they could learn who we were. They even went to the extent of taking a photo of each of us to help jog their memories. As I was sitting next to Yeoel, our local contact I asked him to get the villagers to each introduce themselves to us as well. Many of them were a little nervous and shy, but all were willing to interact with us and it was a lovely welcome to their small community.

After a luxurious lie in – until 7.30am – the day was organised around group planning sessions to ensure we were ready for Thursday when the locals were eager to get the building started. The venturers drew up a timetable of when and what they would be doing each day, factoring in the locals working preferences, English lessons for the community, playing sports with the kids and some time off. They did a great job and even incorporated a chores schedule for the group.

So far the timetable has worked brilliantly and we have enjoyed some great food! Who knew Raleigh Rations could taste so good? The standard has definitely been set for my next project site visit and I must say a big thank you to Beerend and Rob particularly, who got up early to make us all scrambled egg and beans for breakfast on my last morning.

The group is loving the interaction with the local children. Football and volleyball went down a treat – despite the children being far better than the Venturers and PMs.

The Bonor Sook kids showing Digby and Daniel how to play football
The English lessons are also going really well and the kindergarten kids have already been taught ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes’ and ‘If your happy and you know it’. In the lessons with the older children, Hatty and Connor (aka Hogan) were surprised and delighted by how well they grasped the basics and the group are very excited about the future sessions.

Day 1: Before the work started
The team assembled and ready for work
The building work got properly underway on Thursday and we cleared the area; dug 15, 2ft deep square holes for the supports and then positioned the posts in place. Our host country Venturers (HCVs) Daniel and Lee are absolute stars and are insuring communication between the locals and the group is clear - as the sign language can be a little tricky at times.

The girl hole that at least 7 of us worked on
Rob being supervised by the Head of the Village

The work was (and is) tough and we ached in places we didn’t know we could ache but were buzzing! We were grateful for the break (and a nap) between 12pm and 2pm as it was very hot, but with someone constantly on hydration duty we finished as scheduled at 4pm.

Pleased with our first day’s work we promptly went down to the river for a soak and wash to cool down before longs. Our review sessions each evening found people in high spirits and eager to do more of the same.

Success! 15 (2ft deep) holes!
On Friday, after more translation between local Carpenter John and our ‘Alpha 1 Translators,’ we used the plumb line to align the posts and then filled in the holes. Getting the base of the structure just right took time but after the arrival of the materials in the afternoon it was once again time to pop down to 'the creek' to chill out and cool down.

The most recent photo of construction (after two days work)

I have been so impressed by the fast progress of the Kindergarten project and am really looking forward to keeping up to date with its construction so make sure you have subscribed to receive email notification of the blog updates and stay in touch with your comments. 

There will be a general update coming from all the projects shortly and as I am off to both Alpha 6's bio diversity site and Alpha 2's gravity water feed site over the next 10 days, there will be a full update next week! In addition to this, I am please to inform you that the first Loop is also starting from Fieldbase tomorrow morning (Country Programme Manager, Ellie; Kath from Admin and Josh from Logistics in one of the Bravos) and will be travelling to and around the six static sites, there will be more updates to come - hopefully including some guest blog posts from our Venturers.