The journey to Sonsogon Paliu was going to take seven hours. After a relatively smooth bus ride to Kota Meruda, we took to loading our newly arrived 4×4’s with all the equipment needed for our project. Spades, bags and buckets secured we entered the jungle for a bumpy ride. The drive reminded me of a rollercoaster but I still somehow managed to fall asleep. ‘Sleep’ being used as a loose term in this context!
We were soon met by trees, branches and logs blocking our path. Having been cooped up inside vehicles for the past four hours, the team were eager to jump to the rescue and we marched towards the obstruction, thirty minutes later we had got nowhere despite our best efforts. Luckily for us our Malaysian drivers had a little more experience in dealing with such events and, in next to no time, working together the road ahead was cleared.
As we cruised into the village we were met by many curious faces – finally, we had arrived! The instant our feet touched down on Paliu soil the sky begun to pour once again. There was no time to lose. Rapidly we scurried from our vehicles to our new home and began unpacking for our three week stay. After a rushed and slightly damp dinner we trotted off to bed exhausted from the unforgettable day.
And now I sit here, writing this with a smug smile on my face. I’m impressed with what we have managed to achieve in such a small space of time. We’ve built ourselves a home here and our work is already making an impact on the lives of the people living in Sonsogon Paliu. Thanks to the invaluable work of Raleigh, the project partner the Asian Forestry Company, and the community members this village will benefit from both a reliable water system and two brand new toilets. We have made striking progress on both these projects having dug foundations for both in only two days and our work effort only continues to improve. Over the coming days we will continue with the infrastructure of the toilets and pipe work. We will also be completing baseline surveys and Water Sanitation and Hygiene awareness sessions.
On 20 November 2015 Raleigh expedition 15J will depart Sonsogon Paliu for good. But what we will leave behind is invaluable. The memories of working side by side with the villagers in order to provide them with something so basic to me is a time I will never forget. The gift of water and sanitation is just that; a gift. Priceless. And being able to give that to someone, well, I think that’s pretty damn awesome.