Helping clean water to flow

1st November 2017

Bobbie reflects on her time with Alpha 1, as they settle into life within the community and what they’ve been up to:

It was Sunday morning and with the final Delta groups returning from their practice Trek, everyone gathered at the bamboo hut to be assigned into their new Alpha groups. We were no longer inexperienced venturers still getting to grips with the art of surviving a night in a basha. We were fully fledged volunteers ready to embark upon any phase selected for us come sun, wind, rain or mosquitos.
Well, we hoped…

Each venturer was handed a slip of paper labelled with a unique dance move. I recall performing the can-can, whilst travelling towards those also kicking their legs madly up into the air. It was exciting to meet the people who I would be spending the next three weeks with. Within 12 hours, bags were packed, equipment selected, and crisps brought in excess supply, as we (Alpha 1) prepared for the very first phase of our Raleigh volunteering. It was an early start but, despite the occasional yawn, spirits were high!

Travelling to Kampung Buruni

Bobbie and Doug levelling the tandas
Bobbie and Doug levelling the tandas

We were travelling to the Kampung Buruni community in style: four 4×4’s piled sky high with all our necessities. However, much to our dismay, we had to watch our precious cheese rations fly free onto the road. Kampung Buruni is situated in the remote northern region of Sabah. Quickly upon arriving, our team experienced using the communities’ squat tandas (toilet in Malay) and the regular water shortages. It was a clear reminder of our purpose here. Further emphasised by our baseline surveys – interviewing members of the community – we could see the need for a clean, reliable water supply and toilets.

There was a noticeable divide between the basic hygiene facilities that families had. Some were living without toilets and a source of clean water, thus being resulting to collecting water from rivers contaminated by plantations upstream. Unfortunately, water isn’t accessible for all members of the community and many struggle to meet the high price set for water that is often only available twice a week.

Community life

We have been welcomed into the Buruni community. Our home is a wooden house next to the local school and we have made it our own – building camp fires, creating a shower and our very own tippy tap.

Alpha 1 carefully putting in the septic tank
Alpha 1 carefully putting in the septic tank

Our work here has mainly consisted of building a tandas. Every day we undertake a long, steep uphill walk to reach the work site. The villagers found it hilarious to watch us sweat and groan in the heat whilst digging. The image of Fedde being pushed, bottom first, up a muddy hill by two young boys is one that caused much entertainment to us all, including many of Buruni’s school children. Our efforts have been rewarded with opportunities to immerse ourselves in the native Borneo culture.

A trip to the Christian church was important in us integrating with the locals and turned into a rather spontaneous photo-shoot! Moreover, a workshop in which we were shown how to make traditional Borneo food, included using tapioca – a vegetable that Malaysians survived off during the Japanese rule. So far, we are making good progress and we are constantly kept amused by Doug’s inventive energisers! Before we leave, we will be running a WASH session for the local school-children and starting to lay the piping for the gravity-water fed system.

Stay tuned to the blog for updates on Alpha 1’s progress.

Word by Bobbie, supporting words and photos by Florence.

Up next:

4 Nov – Changeover

7 Nov – Phase 2 deploys

10 Nov – Loop begins


Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Malaysian Borneo