Let there be light: Opening ceremony in Sonsogon Magandai

28th August 2014



On Monday 25th August, Country Programme Co-ordinator Dickie and Communications Officer Victoria travelled to Sonsogon Magandai, a small village within the Pitas region, to join the team in Alpha 1 for their much anticipated opening ceremony.  

During expedition 14E, teams were tasked with constructing a rural electronic workshop, a building to house transformers for solar panels and also a teaching space for the project.  They were also tasked with GPS plotting the village to create an asset map and surveyed the area for a feasible water source and plan for installation of a gravity fed water system and toilets for Raleigh projects in 2015.  The opening ceremony marked the completion of the building and was a chance for the villages and the venturers of Alpha 1 to come together and celebrate the magnitude of the project undertaken.


Currently, almost one in four people live without power worldwide. Of these people, 85% live in rural areas or on the fringes of cities. Without electricity, these people are at a disadvantage in nearly every aspect of their lives. Having electricity means the ability to cook cleanly and safely. It means they are able to study at night and get an education. It means the difference between subsistence farming and back-breaking labour, and having the technology to create large enough crop yields to make a living. In fact, a recent Time article suggests lack of electricity or power is one of the largest barriers to overcoming poverty.  According to the article, "as long as those hundreds of millions remain in the dark, they will remain poor," and yet bringing electricity to areas that have none lacks global funding and attention.  The project that Alpha 1 has been part of will have an enormous impact on the lives of those living in this rural community with a sustainable clean source of energy.

Over the course of the expedition, 3 Alpha groups have worked hard alongside the community to ensure the project was on time and built to the highest of standards. The Alpha 1 group in Phase 1 were greeted with little more than a patch of bare land. Over the past ten weeks they have carried materials to the building site, laid foundations, created the structure of the building with floorboards, a roof and steps and completed countless layers of paint. They have also built a sanitation unit, a toilet, kitchen and a water supply for the building.


A project to be proud of

On Monday evening we arrived to an excited and paint splatted group who had all been hard at work that day making the finishing touches to the building and ensuring everything would be perfect for the opening ceremony.  The group then began preparing food for the morning and spent some time together reviewing their time in Sonsogon Magandai and the journey they had all been through.


The next morning, as we made our way to the hilltop church, the excitement in the air was palpable. Over 100 villagers had arrived, including those who had worked alongside the venturers to make this project happen. Those in attendance also included the project partners; Asian Forestry Council (AFC), Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Small Grants Programme (SGP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Barefoot College, Partners of Communities Across Sabah (PACOS), the Sabah Women’s Entrepreneurs and Professionals Association (SWEPA), Raleigh International and the funding partners Sabah Credit Corporation (SCC), who all had a vital role to play in ensuring the project was financially possible, planned and implemented.


As the opening ceremony began we all gathered to hear the speeches presented by Wilvia from Asian Forestry Council. She thanked the Raleigh team for their hard work and determination and for everyone who had been part of this pioneering project. 

We then heard from Datan Jeanette the President of SWEPA who also thanked everyone who had been involved in the project. Next up was Dickie from Raleigh International who spoke about the importance of team work and long standing partnerships in this inspiring project and of the work he hoped would continue in the village of Sonsogon Magandai:


“Raleigh International has returned to Sonsogon Magandai, we have come home.  Many years have passed since we worked with you and Sr. Dorothy to complete the kindergarten here in 2011.  I make the commitment today that we will not allow so many years to pass again before our next return.  Because we share with you the vision you have for the future of your village, the vision you have for your children.  Your vision is our vision, your commitment is our commitment.

We may never fully comprehend the impact of this project as it reaches into the future and across the generations, but there is one thing we know in truth - and that is, we did it together."

He then passed the floor to the Volunteer Managers of Alpha 1, Tom (who has been on the project for all three phases) and Welly who had been working alongside him in the final phase. They gave thanks to the community for their hospitality and to the venturers who have all worked hard alongside the villagers with enthusiasm and dedication throughout. Parasul from Asian Forestry Council was next to speak, followed by the Ketua Kampong (Village head) and the District Officer of Kota Marudu. The final speech was provided by Elysisious from Sabah Credit Corporation, without whom this project would not have been possible.


A venturer from Alpha 1 also spoke on behalf of all the teams who had been part of this project, and reiterated his thanks to the community for welcoming the team into their village with open arms. It was a special moment and one to be truly proud of. This was not just any old building; this was a building which had brought individuals from all over the world to work in partnership with the villagers in Sonsogon Magandai, learning new skills and forming strong friendships along the way.

Ray “I could speak for hours about the work that has gone into this project, but the building truly speaks for itself. Through sweat and hours of hard work we have come together to make this project happen. I would also like to thank our predecessors in Phase 1 and 2, whom without their dedication we would not be standing here today.”

If you wish to travel fast; go alone. If you wish to travel far; go together.

As the speeches concluded it was time to make our way to the building to mark its official opening. We all walked together up the winding hill towa rds the workshop, with breath-taking views around us and excitement in the air.  


The building stood tall and proud amongst the surrounding greenery, as did the venturers and team who had been part of this project.  The building was officially opened by and Dickie from Raleigh International and Datan Jeanette from SWEPA before a plaque was uncovered.


This building will provide electricity to the village and a space to teach others and about the repair and installation of solar panels into the homes in this village.  It will also provide people of the village with new skills and a way to make an income.   In collaboration with Barefoot College, two women from the village will be travelling to India to learn how to maintain the solar panels and on their return they will be able to teach others how to keep this project sustainable long into the future.  The project undertaken here will be felt in this village for generations to come and the community can now feel empowered to strive forward together.




As we made our way back to the church, it was a time to reflect on the hard work that been put into the project. Venturers from all over the world had contributed to the successful completion of this building, and during 3 phases 37 venturers and 7 Volunteer Managers made their mark on this incredible project.


Back at the church it was time for a performance from the Raleigh venturers who took to the floor with a dance to reflect their time in Sonsogon Magandai.


This was followed by a wonderful performance by the villages who provided a traditional dance and music.


The future impact of Alpha 1

Through the successful completion of the solar panel transformer building and workshop, the teams in Alpha 1 have made a huge impact on the lives of the people in this community. Through their determination and hard work they have contributed to Millennium Development Goals 3, 7 and 8 (to promote gender equality and empower women, to ensure environmental sustainability and to create a global partnership for development). In addition, through the surveying of the area for a feasible water source and plan for installations of toilets, they will also support the achievement of goals 4 and 6 (to reduce child mortality and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other disease) with future Raleigh projects in 2015. The impact the teams will have on the village of Sonsogon Magandai will continue long into the future. 


Before leaving the village, Dickie gave a special thanks to the venturers and volunteer managers:

"I don't need to tell you how hard you have worked here, you know how much you have put into this.  You have stood on the shoulders of venturers who have who worked here in phases 1 & 2, be proud in knowing you have given justice to their efforts.  You have made many sacrifices to be here, people have supported you on this journey. I can honestly say that support and those sacrifices have been validated today.

This was never a building project, never a construction project, it was from the start, a community project.  Be proud of what you have achieved now this project is finished and be proud that you were instrumental in smoothing the path for achievements in the future" 


“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

A special thanks go to the teams of Alpha 1 who made this project happen:




Click below to view a time lapse of the completion of the building.

Victoria Riley

Communications Officer