Ben’s Story: “I think we all realised how easy water was to take for granted.”

22nd March 2018

Raleigh Borneo’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects aim to provide an increased access to reliable, clean and safe water, and improved sanitation facilities. We often forget that while the project is being undertaken, volunteers will experience the same limited access to water and sanitation for the time they are there. While it is a daily reality for many people living in rural communities in Sabah, for the short period of time the volunteers are on the project, this will be the first time they have experienced such conditions.

In recognition of World Water Day, volunteer Ben talks about his experience of volunteering within a community with limited access to water and sanitation.

Kampung Tikalod

Kampung TIkalod is situated along a one kilometre track of road through Sabah forest.

Kampung Tikalod is situated along a one kilometre strip of road and consists of 11 households. The houses are spread out in groups along the road; three at the top, a couple in the middle and then two more groupings at the bottom.

The village currently has three water sources; one very murky one on the side of the road and the other two that run from streams into local ponds. They are all positioned about a 40 minute round trip walk from the village. The water sources are very slow running and a single container take between 20-30 minutes to fill. These water sources are generally reliable during the wet season but during the dry season they are subject to drying up. When this happens, the villagers have no option but to collect water from an even more distant source that constitutes a two hour round trip.

A pool of water identified as a potential dam site for the ram pump water system.

The community of Kampung Tikalod have told us that their lack of access to reliable water is very detrimental to their lives. It is their main concern and they really hope the partnership with Raleigh Borneo for this project will help. Additionally, the community have no toilets and currently have to openly defecate in the forest.

Life as a volunteer

The team of volunteers in Kampung Tikalod taking tools and equipment to the work site.

For us as volunteers, we shared the same challenges. Most of us didn’t shower very often. If we did it was in the rain. In terms of water for drinking and cooking, we had people on water duty every day; half of their day was solely taken up by collecting water.

An average day in terms of water consumption began the night before. We would always make sure we had at least three of our jerry cans filled with purified water ready for when we woke up in the morning. The day would begin with brushing your teeth, which we would use the water out of our own water bottles for, followed by breakfast. We’d boil one and a half to two kettles which equates to roughly half a jerry can’s worth. We’d have to set up our three-bowl system to ensure we were safely cleaning our utensils. That would use up another half of a jerry can. After breakfast, everybody would fill up their water bottles for the rest of the day. By that point you would be down another two jerry cans.

Volunteers collecting water for the team.

The water team would have already headed down to the water source to collect more water. What we would generally do is take the jerry cans down. We would leave them under the water source tap because they would usually take 20-30 minutes to full up. We would go back to work and then head back down after the time was up. One jerry can would be done filling. They would put another empty jerry can under the tap and then grab the full one and bring it back. It was just a constant day of getting water.

We would then use the water for lunch; so, the three-bowls, refill water, anytime we wanted a hot drink. Just constantly filling up water.

It made us all think about water consumption. We take it for granted back home and we shouldn’t. We were only there for three weeks and I think we all realised how easy water was to take for granted. Just turning on a tap and being able to drink from it, washing your hands, jumping in the shower, having a toilet – just don’t take it for granted.

I think the WASH projects that Raleigh Borneo are undertaking are so important. Just from what I have seen, access to water is a necessity for everyone. The community were really appreciative of us being there and I am appreciative for having the opportunity to live alongside them. Water is just a common necessity that we grow accustomed to. The villagers in Kampung Tikalod are just so unaccustomed to having a reliable water source and sanitation. Having a water source they can rely upon is just huge for them. I think it is great.

Project update after three weeks

Volunteers celebrated as they completed the construction of their first toilet.

While we were there we were working on a ram pump which would pump water from a lower water source and to a higher point. We were pumping the water up to the top of a large hill which we ended up concreting which was supposed to be done in phase two but because the ram pump wasn’t fully working we couldn’t make a dam which was supposed to be our job. The ram pump is currently pumping water three quarters of the way up the hill and will be completed in the next three weeks of expedition.

We completed building a toilet and ran several community awareness sessions on sanitation. We did many sessions with the children in the village to facilitate an increased awareness of handwashing. We ran a flour demonstration which involved covering the children’s hands with flour. We get them to run around and then see where flour ends up just to test it.

The WASH project in Kampung Tikalod will continue over the second phase of expedition.

Words by volunteer Ben.

Interview and write up conducted by Communications Officer Rebecca Raab.

Photography by Photographer Daniel Buttifant and Volunteer Project Manager Chris.


Contact any of our volunteers by completing the linked contact form. We will pass your messages and words of encouragement on to the volunteers during our project loops.

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