For nearly two weeks I have been part of a team of twelve Raleigh Volunteers working every day to help build a Community Learning Centre (CLC) in the small village of Kibinut.
The group before us did an amazing job of digging the foundations of the building and putting up the first posts for the framing, so it has been up to us to build upon their work. Our days have been occupied by a variety of jobs, all of which are completely new to most us – from levelling the ground to painting and cleaning wood for the walls and roof. During our first week here we completed the enormous task of digging a six-foot-deep hole in the corner of the site which will be used to contain a septic tank. The ground was extremely solid with rocks of all shapes and sizes so we all learnt how to swing a pickaxe, which is simultaneously very hard work and a lot fun.
All our work is physical, but every day we come away from it with an enormous sense of satisfaction because each one of us is doing their part to make a real, lasting difference within this community. Every day we achieve something and even in the short time, we have been here a good level of progress is visible to anyone who looks at the building site.
The importance of Education
We are living in the community hall here in Kibinut, in the very centre of the village with house all around us. The locals have welcomed us with open arms. I think of London where I come from, with everybody silent on the tube avoiding eye contact, then I compare it to here where if I walk past a house, the people inside will always wave and say hello regardless of the whether or not we’ve met.
Our small team is made up from people all over the world, all of them were strangers to one another a few weeks ago and we now we have come together in a country that most of us have never been to, and we hope that we are making a valuable and lasting impact within the community of some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever come across.
Every evening the local children come and play games with us and teach us new dances in a variety of different languages. We are constantly learning phrases of Malay, as well as the local Dusun dialect and the children are gaining more English from the time they spend with us. Most of the young children in the village haven’t started school yet. It blows me away to think that the first education that they receive might be in the CLC we are in the process of building.
When playing with the children last night they started singing ‘London Bridge is falling down’ in Malay, so I asked them if they would like to visit London one day and they said they would. Education changes lives and opens doors and I hope the CLC will give them the opportunity to do this. I hope that the generations of children who will use this CLC in future are given a start in life that allows them to go on and achieve whatever they put their minds to. I also hope that myself and the other volunteers will always remember our work here and use it as inspiration to actively contribute to create lasting change wherever we go and whatever we do for the rest of our lives.
Words by Natalie, Photos by Florence and Gurpreet
16 Dec – End of expedition celebrations