Raleigh teaches us about Active Citizenship and that is exactly what I so desperately wanted, to be active; to use my hands to be an active member of society.
My first phase was environmental and before we left our Volunteer Managers made us write our hopes and fears. My fear was getting sick. My hope was to finally be comfortable with who I am.
Environmental was fantastic. I know you’re thinking ‘how fun can it really be building an eco-toilet’. But being able to acquire skills I didn’t think I would was great.
My next phase was trek which was by far the hardest phase for me. You have a lot of time inside your own head and I feel that’s where a lot of personal change occurs. When you’re walking with your entire life on your back it can be both mentally and physically draining. But as someone once said to me you have to break yourself down to build a newer, stronger you.
Trek taught me to be resilient. To keep going and pushing no matter what because if you stop you won’t reach your goals. For example, the day of aptly-named ‘sexy bum hill’, around 4 or 5 hours in I thought to raise the white flag: I’m done. But I had to keep going because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to set up my hammock… well, Ben, Kevin, or Kunor wouldn’t be able to set up my hammock, but that’s besides the point. I wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t keep going.
This leads to my last phase: community. It was a special to finish the project: all 3 tandas complete, working dams and water being piped right to the doorstep – or reachable distances – for everyone in the village.
On the morning of the opening ceremony I was at village leader Uncle James’ house with Ewa. As we were drinking our coffee we could hear running water and she asked – what is that sound? And Uncle James replied that the dams are working so well that the tank is overflowing. I don’t know about you but I that made me feel pretty damn accomplished, and all the venturers who spent time in Pandan should too.
The mental strength I built up during trek was already benefiting me as community it was a lot of hard work in what I’d call extreme weather conditions. But as I said it was worth it, to bring not just good change but lasting change. As 1 person that’s all I ask for, all I can do, my part.
I know I’ll never be the same Raleigh has inspired me to continue doing my part and to take more control over my life. At home I plan to start an Equalist Active Citizen society at college to try inspire more young people to take part in things like Raleigh, as well as take action effectively for not only our futures but for the futures of those after us.
Shout out to Rachel, Ben, Jawonday , Ujang, Along, Andrea, Sadie and Liam those who made expedition a better time than I could have ever imagined. I’ll forever be thankful to the friend that told me about Raleigh and I hope to be that friend for someone else – and I hope that the other ventures will be too.
Going back to my hope I can truly say I do now feel more comfortable with who I am. To finish here is a quote from Margaret Mead that resonates with me so well – and in fact sums up the whole expedition for me:
“Never doubt that a small group of devoted citizens can change the world, in fact it’s the only thing that ever has”
Words by Ify
Photos by Amy and Saoirse