Real Talk: “A Trip To Rural Sabah Changed My Life!”

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2. They don’t just build. Volunteers also serve as role models.

It’s not all fun and games being a volunteer, it also requires a lot of hard work physically and mentally. I might not have experienced the whole expedition, but just being there for a day made me realise that I would never have been able to survive it entirely.

Nonetheless, all the volunteers I spoke to only had good things to say about their experience.

Sue continued to explain that “All the volunteers come in with their different backgrounds and cultures and all of them leave taller and bigger literally. They teach other and pull together whether it’s on a bad day or during a monsoon rain. There’s a real sense of togetherness and it makes you realise that whatever life throws at you in the future, you can pull through. Just imagine never once exercising at home and suddenly, you’re thrown into the jungle and having to trek in 40 degree weather. Which is why a lot of people end up learning more about themselves.”

Besides the toilet project, the volunteers at Raleigh also serve as role models for the youngsters in the village communities. I saw first hand how attached the children were to these volunteers, that even at the slightest mention of them leaving soon brought tears to their eyes. The children would copy everything the volunteers do and that’s how the concept /education of hand washing and good hygiene are passed across.

A hand-washing station built by the Raleigh volunteers

“There used to be no water source in the village before this, so communities became ill from bad hygiene and from the transference of diseases. Washing our hands is such a norm for us, but for them, they aren’t brought up to waste water on washing hands when they have to walk hours to the river just to get it”, Sue further justified.

During their stay, the Raleigh volunteers aged between 17 and 24 from Britain, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Bangladesh, Poland, Bermuda and France also made the effort to learn Bahasa Malaysia so that they could teach the children a song to help them remember that washing their hands is an important part of daily life.

“Cuci tangan, cuci tangan,
Cuci tangan, jangan sakit;
Selepas tandas, sebelum makan,
Selepas lawan, jangan sakit.”

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