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The Base Camp Raleigh Borneo uses for training is a large clearing in the jungle designed for adventure expeditions. It is peaceful and inviting. Activities are well-planned even with twenty-five Volunteer Managers working arduously to train and prepare seventy volunteers for their upcoming deployment across the Malaysian state of Sabah. The weather is hot and humid, the sleeping arrangements – rows of permanent hammocks called bashas, are efficient and comfortable. At night the jungle is alive with the sounds of rushing water, birdcalls, wild-dogs, and nocturnal insects. There is a cool breeze that drifts in from the river. Often, it rains for several hours and then suddenly stops. During the day, the volunteers are trained to handle incidents on project sites, like, how to erect a functional radio antenna, radio protocol, cultural awareness and a host of other skills needed during their three months in Borneo.

Duha watching the volunteers during river safety training

Among the volunteers are thirty-three-year old Duha Abdulrahman and twenty-five-year-old Nur Sara Lina Ahmad Azlan (known as Lina). Both are interns representing two of Raleigh’s Malaysian Societies.

Raleigh International is a sustainable development charity first established in 1984 and dedicated to empowering youths to become positive agents of change in communities and natural environments. Its projects in Borneo include WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), NRM (Natural Resource Management) which aims to conserve and restore unique forest biodiversity and Entrepreneur programs like SALY-B (Sustainable Alternative Livelihoods for Youth in Borneo).

When you have worked hard to develop a responsible and meaningful presence in Borneo as Raleigh International has over the last 31 years, it stands to reason you will want to leave a legacy that will grow and encourage the next generation of Malaysians to carry on the work.

Team Leaders training volunteers in how to safely navigate a river. Duha’s job is to observe and be available in an emergency

“For Raleigh, it has become a constant journey towards empowering more and more national volunteers and staff until our offices and projects are being led by people from the host country,” said Adam Young, Programmes Coordinator at Raleigh Borneo.

“In the case of Borneo, we have partnered with the members of the Malaysian Societies, supporting them to run their own operations and then they are leading the response to the issues themselves. This is happening all across the Raleigh countries [Tanzania, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Nepal], investing in a global alliance of national societies is a truly sustainable legacy,” said Young.

For Young, who began his personal Raleigh journey in Costa Rica and Nicaragua in 2009 as a venturer (young expedition volunteer), this is very personal. In 2016 he became Project Manager then Deputy Operations Manager and now Programmes Coordinator in Borneo.

“In Costa Rica,” Young said, “I was pulled out of my social circles at home. I realized I had the confidence to walk into a room of strangers and be ok, but it is such an extreme environment to be dropped into with hundreds of other young people that don’t know each other. I came away thinking, I’ve got some leadership skills here. I can lead people. I’ve got resilience as well.” 

This is the thinking Raleigh encourages in their young volunteers.

Duha and Lina with other volunteers at Basecamp

A Raleigh experience is a big ask for anyone. Volunteers go on an expedition with people they don’t know, cultures that are foreign both for the host country volunteers, as well as international volunteers and, are pushed to new physical limits on a trek and in leadership situations during projects.

“I knew I was interested in International Development from childhood; my father was a geography teacher,” explained Young. “So I had an appreciation of environmental issues from an early age.” 

Young’s Raleigh experience cultivated his love of the environment and culture until it became his chosen life path. 

As Malaysia’s collective economic development level has grown, this will be the last year for Raleigh to run its expeditions in Borneo. It is now time to trust the continuing work to Malaysians by handing over the reins to two of the National Societies, Raleigh International Kuala Lumpur, and the Raleigh Sabah Society. This change has already begun.

Nur Sara Lina Ahmad Azlan (known as Lina)

Lina, a volunteer for Raleigh International Kuala Lumpur and Duha, a volunteer for the Raleigh Sabah Society, was selected to be part of a three-month internship. The purpose is to give them the experience of day-to-day expedition operations and strategic management that they will take back to their respective Societies. The internship is from June to September 2018 and will finish at the end of the final expedition. After Expedition, they will continue to be mentored as they assume new roles on their Society Committees.

During these three months, Lina and Duha will experience everything an Expedition Volunteer Manager will encounter as well as extensive training in communications, operational safety, budgeting, monitoring, and designing and running their own projects.

“We are working with the Societies right now,” said Young. “We have had several workshops including, “project design tools” and “how to write a funding bid.” To take them [The Society representitives] to the next level we support them to think about the structure of what they are already doing [in their country] and expand on it.”

Lina discovered Raleigh International Kuala Lumpur from its Facebook page.

For Lina, it was an opportunity to meet new people, network and push herself out of her comfort zone. The Society meets once a month in Cheras in Kuala Lumpur and focuses on adventure, environmental issues, and community development with events such as hiking, zero-impact camping, replanting natural resources, cleaning the river, working in the elephant sanctuary and encouraging green spaces. 

Lina’s first event was at Berhenting Island with an “Around the Island Challenge.”

That event and the Society impressed Lina to volunteer with Raleigh Borneo’s Sustainable Alternative Livelihoods for Youth in Borneo (SALY-B) project in 2018 as a Volunteer Facilitator responsible for supporting young Malaysian entrepreneurs to kick-start their own green enterprise. It was following that project that the president of Raleigh International Kuala Lumpur suggested the intern position. Naturally shy and hesitant, she was overwhelmed by the offer and could not accept it. Her mother, erring on the side of caution hoped her daughter would pursue employment in the corporate world. Lina’s father encouraged his daughter to explore non-profit work.

Searching for her own voice, Lina feels Raleigh has shown her a path direction in environmental and humanitarian work, one that she is fast becoming very passionate about.

When asked about her Raleigh volunteering experience, Lina said, “It taught me I have to take risks, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Duha Abdulrahman sitting by the river at Basecamp

Duha Abdulrahman, with a degree in business and town planning, has been a manager for previous Raleigh Sabah Society projects and is knowledgeable in waste management.

After the birth of his son seven years ago, Duha felt a growing need to engage in work that would bring meaning to his life. He decided to make a difference in his community and seek volunteer work. That’s when he discovered Raleigh and the Raleigh Sabah Society. Duha’s commitment to the Society began in 2015 with beach clean-up on Memutik Island. From there he moved smoothly into a leadership position and was recently invited to Kampung Buruni (a Sabah village) to talk about waste management.

When asked how he felt about being offered the internship, Duha said, “This is a very good program.” Having trouble finding the right words, he indicated it just made him happy. “I want to learn more about how they [Raleigh] manage their projects,” said Duha, “how they manage their financial [affairs], and how they get fundraising.” 

All of these skills will be included in the 3-month internship as well as the practical experience of working with volunteers. Finding ways of bringing Malaysian and International volunteers together and working through cultural and language barriers is challenging, but it seems natural for him. Duha has worked with volunteers in other Raleigh Sabah Society programmes and will continue as the Society expands its volunteer projects.

The Raleigh Sabah Society is collaborating with WWF Hong Kong, a Hong Kong-based charity that is sending volunteers to Borneo to learn more about local species and conservation efforts and receiving Malaysian volunteers in exchange. There are also volunteers coming from the UK to work with the Society.

Duha Abdulrahman setting up a communal tent on trek

The Societies are dedicated to the spirit of volunteering, and the training they have received from Raleigh is the experience and skills working with youth and community.

Forty-one year old, Norhayatie Ann Markus (known as Yatie), mother of three, is retiring from her job in the Ministry and planning on dedicating her time to the Raleigh Sabah Society.

Norhayatie Ann Markus (known as Yatie)

“I have the patience to work with young people,” she said, describing why this life choice is so meaningful to her. She continued after some thought, “And I would like our community to improve.”

The Mangrove Conservation Project was a Raleigh Sabah Society project that Yatie has been involved in since its inception in 2015. Mangroves are a species of tree that grows in swamps and are home for monkeys and fish. In northern Sabah, in a village in Pitas, 280 hectares of Sabahan Mangroves have been cleared for a Prawn Farm. With the help an alliance of local communities, the Society is currently replanting the trees surrounding the farm border and working with the village youth in innovative ways to bring in tourism adding additional revenue streams to alleviate poverty.

Yatie was one of the committee members involved in selecting this year’s interns to represent the Raleigh Sabah Society. About Duha, she says, “He has been instrumental in planning and running various Raleigh Sabah Society Projects,” and describes him as energetic, patient, consistent, and committed. These are qualities that many of the volunteers have cultivated.

Yatie is currently a Volunteer Manager for Raleigh Borneo’s summer expedition. It is also her time for learning, and she is honing skills that will serve her in her commitment to the Society. She desires to see the Society grow and fully realize its potential as a representative of Raleigh and as a charitable organization in Borneo.

For now, volunteers that come to the country through the Society stay at Yatie’s home. Her three children, nephews, and cousins have been recruited into Raleigh projects. She jokingly says, “We are a Raleigh family.” 

Toward the end of Phase I (19 days) Lina and Duha have returned to Fieldbase. Both have been on different missions, have experienced a wide variety of training, have met with Raleigh leadership and are ready for the next phase. 

During the recent Borneo Legacy Meeting, Lina and Duha presented what they have learned from the internship so far and have integrated Raleigh’s goals for the future. In the last two phases of Raleigh’s 2018 summer program, Duha and Lina will continue as project managers for volunteers, participate in an upcoming SALY-B monitoring evaluation and then deploy with the volunteers to a project site in the last phase. 

When the three months have finished, then the work will truly begin. Each intern will bring something new and unique to their Society.

As Operations and Project Secretary, Duha will create a proposal for restructuring the Raleigh Sabah Society, and he will implement the work once the direction is agreed upon by the Committee.

Lina, whose future role is Introductory Weekend Officer will complete a project proposal using Raleigh Borneo’s project design template and will lead the organization and delivery of Raleigh International Kuala Lumpur’s Introductory Weekend for volunteers who are beginning a Raleigh expedition.

Yatie, Adam, Lina, and Duha are all excited by the progress and development of the Societies’ roles in the future of Raleigh in Borneo;  all agree, as Lina said, “It is becoming real.

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