My Camps International journey started with a slightly daunting amount of money to raise and a countdown until takeoff!
The first idea I tried was selling different styles of bracelets I had made to local people, which were quite popular with the women and girls. A lot of my customers were staff and children that attended RAFters- a youth club that I help out at. Similarly, I also sold paintings online as art is a passion that I have always had; I sold a variety of paintings but my most popular ones were of orangutans which were very relevant to my trip to Borneo.
To further my funds, I got a Saturday job at Moutan Gardens and saved all of my wages to pay for the upcoming trip. At the same time as my Saturday job I accepted a cleaning job every afternoon at the local pre-school and babysat whenever asked by the other families on the RAF camp (which was a lot!.)
As a team we collected bags of old clothes which were weighed and exchanged for money by ‘bags 2 school’ and to try and maximise the amount of money we received I asked people in the local area to also donate their old clothes which helped to add a lot more bags to our total. It was hard to earn money with no immediate benefit but after a quick ‘google image’ search of Borneo all negative feelings disappeared.
Generous friends and family donated spare money which was paramount in boosting my funds. After writing a letter to different companies I managed to convince some to sponsor me for varying amounts of money and in return I helped to advertise their business- my biggest contributor being ‘Edison Swan’ (not a plug I promise!.)
Whilst fundraising was a difficult addition to an already busy schedule it was a vital part of my experience as I learnt how to manage my money and extend the boundaries of my comfort zone by applying for jobs. It was also a constant reminder of the exciting trip that was rapidly approaching.
When I arrived in Borneo it took a while to adjust! everything was different to what I was used to: glorious sunshine; the local food; queuing for a ‘shower’; squatting toilets, the people I was around and the interesting clothes I had to wear. But I quickly came to appreciate these things, for starters the awful cargo shorts had loads of pockets! A novelty all of the girls enjoyed.
The work we did was hard, whether it was mixing cement or planting trees in the rainforest the heat and humidity was unforgiving. However, the projects we worked on were amazing, we could help each community and have the knowledge that we had created something that would help people for years after we left. This made up for the muscle ache and it was wonderful to see outcomes of all of our hard work- a solid manifestation of all of our efforts.
In between all of our work we did day trips and other fun activities to learn more about the culture. We went to the Kundasang war memorial and learnt all about the death marches of Sandakan. Whilst we were there we also got to walk around the beautiful gardens and enjoy the view over the mountains which was a nice break from our long coach journey! Arguably the best day trip was when we went to Sepilok to see the Orangutans and sun bears as it was an experience the entire group was looking forward to. It was amazing to see so many Orangutans in one place and to watch them eat and play in front of us- one brave Orangutan jumped onto the path and almost landed on Chloe (who wasn’t quite as brave!)
During our stay on Mantanani island, which was extended due to storms, we made cool bracelets out of left over wrappers and were taught how to make hammocks. I also learnt how to play scrabble which would prove invaluable when we were stuck for an extra couple of days and had to entertain ourselves with games that we had created. We also had a fun little bracelet making session in the rainforest in which I taught some of my friends how to make bracelets using their leftover paracord as we we were in the middle of a very heavy spell of rain and couldn’t leave the main area. On our last day we went to Sapi island and enjoyed a bbq on the beach (which was delicious) as well as going on a zipwire that went over the sea onto another island! We had a wonderful day in the blazing sun and even saw a monitor lizard and a proboscis monkey whilst eating!
One of my favourite days on the trip was when we visited the school at camp Bonkud. The children were unbelievable- clever and so full of life. The entirety of our group learnt to appreciate what we have from these children; many things were put into perspective for us and we thoroughly enjoyed playing outside with them. Their gratefulness and joy had a lasting impact on everyone that spent time with them.
Team Tuhau (us) were competitive and hardworking and from this group I made some wonderful friends. I formed a group of caring and funny friends that supported each other throughout the trip. I am incredibly grateful for them and of the amount of bite cream they lent me! We are still able to spend a lot of time with each other and continue inside jokes that were started on the trip which is something lovely that I hope everyone else found when they came home. As the trip progressed we all became much more comfortable around each other and were able to do strange things such as form a human toilet door when faced with public (squatting) toilets that lacked doors- a true bonding moment. Some of my best memories are of laughing with my friends and their ability to make every situation fun.
The wildlife we encountered was breathtaking. We saw different species of monkey at almost every place we visited and were lucky enough to see crocodiles on a sunset boat ride. The variety of what we saw was unreal and only got better after our stay on Gaya island for our scuba diving certificates. We also faced many mosquito and insects that unfortunately took a shine to us! after the rainforest there wasn’t a single place I hadn’t been bitten. Anna and I were stung by a mysterious insect and as a result we got swollen sausage fingers!
The staff were wonderful, Georgie and Alex will never be forgotten by Tuhau (neither will Kendall and Elsie) and Mantanani’s leader Ida was titled a legend for her humour and kind nature. We were all also amazed by Jim’s amazing ability to spot animals hidden in the rainforest whenever we went out on the boats. Lastly we were all fond of our expedition leader Anna who managed to put up with us all for a month. We often found ourselves saying “just ask Anna” when faced with an unsolvable problem, which was always solved by Anna. We were also amazed by her large repertoire of talents end experiences.
My trip to Borneo taught me many things about coconuts, it also taught me to appreciate everything I have and many other indispensable lessons. I have made friends and memories that will last a lifetime and am very proud of how hard everyone worked to try and help.
On behalf of team Tuhau, thank you Camps International.