The following is a press release issued for the official opening of the Bongkud Community Centre last week. It was a great occasion, befitting the awesome completed building, and the thousands of hard graft, blood, sweat and tears which went into the project over the past 3 years or so. I would like to thank everyone involved along the way, putting their heart and soul into the project.
Helping local communities: Camp Borneo officiates Asang Community Hall in Bongkud, Ranau.
The spirit of altruistic tourism is alive and well in Borneo with the completion of an innovative community building situated in the heart of Sabah’s Crocker Range -thanks to the combined efforts of volunteer tourism, a local NGO and the commitment of the rural folk to improve their social conditions. The Asang Community Hall located in the Dusunic village of Bongkud, Ranau was officially declared open on 8th December 2014 by Camps International CEO Stuart Rees Jones in a special ceremony joined by the local community and headed by its village chief Bindang Mantakag, Camp Borneo staff and representatives of local NGO PACOS Trust.
Camp Borneo is a subsidiary company of Camps International, an international award-winning volunteer tourism company that has branches for volunteer camps worldwide. Over the years, Camps International has organized numerous volunteer projects around the world, which gives young people an opportunity to travel abroad to experience and understand the social conditions of rural communities while assisting them in various ways to improve their social circumstances and to build much-needed public infrastructures.
The new Asang Community Hall is named after the late Trevor White – an Englishman from Draycott, Somerset in UK who some believe may have pioneered volunteerism in the heart of Borneo when he arrived at the village of Bongkud in the 1960s. He later settled down and married a local lady named Konid and dedicated his life towards improving the living conditions of the Dusuns in this area and shared his carpentry skills with the locals by initiating the construction of a school and church building for the village folk. Inspired by the story of this early pioneer, Camp Borneo in collaboration with PACOS Trust was able to reach out to the local community of Bongkud and find out their immediate needs, which included a new community hall or balai raya to replace their old and dilapidated one. “We got to know the local people, asked them about their concerns and welfare conditions and found out that they needed a place to gather, have their community activities as well as a play area for their kids. So based on the feedback of the community, we initiated a camp branch at Bongkud and proceeded to put together our resources to build a community centre”, said Melanie Chu, General Manager of Camp Borneo.
The company also roped in Arkitrek, a sustainable design firm based in Kota Kinabalu to coordinate the design of the building. “When we were brought in, the early design of the building was already in place”, said Sarah Greenlees of Arkitrek. “Arkitrek followed through and introduced some new architectural elements into the building that made it more distinctive while taking advantage of local elements and material as well, to make a more compelling building that would attract both adults and children alike”.
Among the interesting features of the new community hall is its ventilated roofing, designed to siphon out warm air and provide a natural, maintenance-free cooling system for the building. The new community hall boasts a large gathering space as well as a children’s library, a covered play area and several rooms to function as the village chief’s administration office, RELA volunteer operations room as well as a room for Bongkud’s Rukun Tetangga (village watch) group.
Under the guidance and care of Camps International and Camp Borneo, more than 2000 youths from schools across the UK and worldwide travelled to Borneo during their school break to build sections of the community hall building. After four long years, the building was finally completed – and is a great source of pride and accomplishment for all those who had been part of this project from its inception to completion stages. “It was great to see the fruition of so much hard work and collaboration between the community, international volunteers, Camp Borneo & Arkitrek. It truly was a great team effort and I hope the community can now benefit and make full use of the Community Hall”, said Stuart Rees Jones who joined the villagers and Camp Borneo staff to inspect the new community hall’s facilities. The CEO of Camps International also commented that this was one of the organization’s biggest projects in Borneo to date and he hoped that the community would take care of the building and use it for a long time.
Rory Hall, Camps International Director Asia who was also present at the opening ceremony was very proud of the finished community hall. “It is not only an extremely functional building, it will have a wide ranging benefit to all members of the community, providing a place for the community to gather, the community hierarchy to manage its affairs and for young and old to come and use the small library.” Hall expressed his thanks to everybody involved in the conception, design and construction of the Asang Community Hall over the past few years, saying that the building was truly is a monument to team work and cooperation.
The opening ceremony concluded with all parties involved planting several trees around the compound of the new community hall. Yakin Sinit and Lidia White, descendants of Trevor White (Asang) were also present during the opening ceremony and were proud and humbled by the effort made by the volunteers and for the name dedication of the new hall to the memory of their late ancestor. As soon as the formalities were over, the children of Bongkud milled excitedly through the building, picking up books eagerly and exploring their new environment with glee. The Asang Community Hall was completed just in time for Christmas and the villagers felt thankful that they had a new community hall that they would be able to use. It was an accumulation of years of hard work, commitment and perseverance. Finally, the villagers of Bongkud now have a new community hall – all thanks to the goodwill and efforts of the international youths who gave their time and energy to assist humanity in need, as well as to the organizations that made this project a rousing success.