Bridget says: At the age of 51 I decided it was time to take a gap year! I started work straight after leaving university and had spent 30 years developing my HR career and bringing up my children. Now with my youngest daughter starting university and my company agreeing to a career break, it was time for adventure…
I became sold on the idea of going to Borneo, initially because of its wildlife biodiversity. I then discovered that Raleigh International worked there and the more I read, the more their ethos of sustainable development through young people began to resonate with me. I attended an open seminar to find out more about being a Raleigh volunteer manager and immediately signed up for the assessment weekend. It was a tough but insightful event, and I realised my experience was more suited to a Fieldbase role. I was therefore delighted to be offered a post as Administrator to the Borneo country team for the Summer 2017 expedition.
The administration role is vital in enabling the small team of permanent staff to run a successful expedition. The work is varied and whilst a good knowledge of administration is useful, the team in Borneo offer excellent training and support. Importantly the office is great fun to work in. The team love music and karaoke and I can be deep in an Excel worksheet when the staff break into a Disney classic, or completing a visa extension form when a heavy rock anthem is belted out. Dancing round the office is also quite usual – why stand at the printer when you can dance?
During my time in Borneo I have had the opportunity to spend time at some of the project sites. I’ve helped the young venturers with the building of a compost toilet and in caring for sapling canopy trees destined to replenish the rainforest. I have been inspired by the young people I’ve worked with. Their passion and commitment to the projects is uplifting and I’m convinced they will carry this with them and become ambassadors for change.
I also joined the Trek group for 9 days. This is an important part of the Raleigh Borneo programme and is an opportunity for the venturers to hone their leadership skills in a challenging environment, with support on hand from their volunteer managers. I found this experience physically challenging, but was propelled through the rainforest by the good spirits of the young team and the expertise of the guides.
All team members are asked to leave their SIM cards behind before they deploy on project phases to reduce the time spent on their mobile phones. Whilst some of the young people find this difficult at first, it is something that they come to appreciate, as it encourages the teams to immerse themselves in the experience. I noticed creativity blossoming and people became more aware of others and more responsive to helping them with tasks they found difficult. Sitting round the camp fire on Trek, people told stories, played some great games and generally enjoyed each other’s’ company rather than spending time on their phones.
I would highly recommend Raleigh to grown up gappers. I have met some great people from all over the world, had an opportunity to use my skills to contribute to some incredible projects, and developed new skills through working in a different multi-national environment that I can use in my future career.
Thank you Raleigh Borneo!
If you’d like to contact any of our volunteers with messages from home, please use the contact form here and your message will be delivered during project support visits or during changeover.
Coming up at Raleigh Borneo:
August 18: Phase 3 deploys
August 22: Project loop visits begin