Excitingly, the summer Expedition has seen the highest number of host country volunteers participating on a Raleigh Borneo Expedition to date: twenty-six young volunteers and four host country volunteer managers. It means this Expedition has almost equal numbers of international volunteers to Malaysian volunteers on every project site!
Ester, a host country volunteer from Peninsula Malaysia, expresses her view, “It is really interesting because a lot of the host country volunteers have never had the chance to meet international volunteers, and vice versa. We are all learning from each other and it is helping us grow as global citizens. We are not only getting the job done; we are growing as people and growing as future leaders. We are having to understand and adapt to other people. I think all of us will go home with a much wider picture of what the world is about.”
Living on a project site with people you are yet to get to know, from different countries and backgrounds, is one of the challenges Expedition life presents. It means project groups having daily discussions to figure out what is best for the whole group, through being respectful, compromising and accommodating the differences between them. It is this challenge however, that often provides some of the biggest learnings and Expedition life would not be the same without it.
James, an international volunteer from Sydney, Australia, explains, “Even though I am surrounded by different cultures in my everyday life, I am learning so much more than I would normally. When you have half the group that are from another culture and you are living with them in their country, you really have to adapt your own behaviour and be respectful to their customs and culture.”
Dana, a host country volunteer, states, “As a host country volunteer from Sabah, I have never been with people from international backgrounds for a long period of time. This experience has opened my mind. I have learnt a lot.”
The partnership that develops between the meeting of cultures over the course of the Expedition is a special and dynamic product of Expedition life. Storm, an international volunteer from the United Kingdom, further expresses, “It is really hard to put into words what is special about it. It has been really interesting getting to know a group of people you would never usually interact with even if you were travelling.”
Storm continues, “Not only that, the host country volunteers create a link between the group and the communities we are working in. I feel as though it is a less intrusive and more inclusive way of volunteering.” James further explains, “The host country volunteers and volunteer managers have such an important role, especially in the community projects. They are able to consult constantly with the community to make sure everyone is happy with the project. They are aware of their cultures and bridge the gap for us international volunteers.”
By the end of Expedition, volunteers often find they now default to looking at what connects them rather than what differentiates them. It is this journey and the learnings from it that continue the young volunteers on their journey into globally aware citizens, continuing the wider impacts of our Expeditions long after they have ended. Ester agrees, “When you bring everyone together, that is when the magic happens.”
Words by Communications Officer Rebecca Raab.
Photographs by Photographer Daniel Buttifant.