My Home Away From Home
I remember walking into the Kota Kinabalu airport on 7th March. If they say you are what you eat, I don’t remember eating a jaded, anxious human being hurrying around with a heavy rucksack. More than just feeling excited, I was feeling shy, nervous, and unsure of what the next 7 weeks will bring me.
Because nobody told me that those 7 weeks were going to change my entire life.
Before I went on this expedition, I barely knew the Sustainable Development Goals. I barely understood the rapid changes that our planet is going through every day. I barely realized the huge impact our daily human activities can make by the smallest of things. But after spending seven weeks in Borneo, I finally understand what happens “behind the scenes” that not many would care to look.
During my community phase (Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Kampung of Komburaon), I had the chance to work alongside my two friends, Arthur and Asmita, on a risk assessment of the dam and pipes that supply water to the whole village. For two days, we spent our time walking through highs and lows of the jungle just to observe the running of the water. Coming from totally different parts of the world such as Belgium, England and Malaysia, together we discussed ideas and solutions and make use of our knowledge from our hometown to solve the conflicts and issues that the village was facing.
With the aid of community members, we have established an underground network of pipes from three mountainous sources, directly connected to households and to a tank to store the water during the dry season. Whilst living alongside this community and learning about how their customs and climate are affected by the lack of water, we have all begun to reconsider the importance we place on clean water back at home.
At Raleigh we learnt to break down cultural barriers and achieve mutual understanding. At first I saw my international friends as totally different people, but when we discussed about climate change, poverty, inequality and other global issues during Active Citizenship sessions, I realized that we’re all facing the same issues together.
Though I was miles and miles away from my family and friends back home, the people of the village I stayed with for 3 weeks welcomed me into their home as if I was their best friend, sister and a kin of their own
My time in the heart of Borneo during the 17 days of trek had exposed me to some of the incredible beauty this planet must offer and the importance of its protection as well. Every day you wake up, pack your tarp and hammock (or tammock, as we normally call it), trek for 4-7 hours, eat, sleep and repeat all over again. As boring as it sounds, I assure you, it’s not. Every day you wake up to a different day of conversations, fall records and experiences you will never forget.
Yes, there were days during my trekking phase where I felt completely weary physically, mentally and emotionally. But I knew I wasn’t the only one when all my teammates were fighting the same battle too. Though I was miles and miles away from my family and friends back home, everyone treated me as their own best friend and welcomed me as their own sister.
On my last day in Borneo, I claimed a piece of its wonderful nature in my head, and in my heart. Now I’m more determined than ever to fight for its preservation and protection so that another person can claim their piece too.