Life in Kampung Bom Bong Satu by Becky, Alpha 2, Phase 3.

10th December 2014

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Over Phases 2 and 3, Alpha 2 volunteer groups have been working hard to complete a gravity fed water system and construct tandas (toilets) in the remote community of Kampung Bom Bong Satu as part of Raleigh's WASH programme (water, sanitation and health). All their hard work has paid off and Raleigh Borneo 14J venturer Becky tells us about life in the village and the opening ceremony of their completed project. 

For someone like me, the idea of constructing a tandas (a toilet, for those of you who aren’t Malay) is about as foreign as trying to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in Dutch – given that I’m a native English speaker and have only visited Amsterdam once in my life. No clue. If you’d told me a few months ago that I would be part of a team completing one of these grand structures I would not have believed you for a second, but here I am, writing this on the eve of our opening ceremony, a proud occasion.

When you’ve completed a project, most villages want to celebrate and I feel it was always a driving force for us to get our work done so efficiently. We knew about the ceremony early on in the phase which made it a whole lot easier to plan to a completion date. And it’s exciting too, I mean who doesn’t want a big party celebrating how completely amazing and awesome they are?! That’s not to discredit the Phase 2 team though, who grafted long and hard in the scorching sun day after day to give us, the second team, a much appreciated lead-in to the work.

So why are we here? Our job with Raleigh falls under the water sanitation, health and sustainability blanket amongst the world’s Millennium Development Goals. The less wordy version is: we want clean water for everyone. It sounds quite simple really but as with anything related to development it isn’t. “Rural water coverage in Sabah in 2009 was 59% which is significantly below the national average of 91.6%.” Even now, there are still some villages in Sabah completely unconnected by any kind of road or infrastructure. Some people live in very remote places so electricity and other resources cannot easily reach them.

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Our home (‘rumah’ in Malay) is also without electricity, so we regularly have to adopt the cool  head torch look which we all secretly love, although no one would ever admit it. We’ve been staying with Mr Siwol and his family and effectively house sitting as he is all set to move in when we leave. We’ve done some gorgeous home improvements though; namely a back rest for the bench and a state of the art swimming pool (a rough hole in the ground lined with waterproof-ish tarp) which we’re happy he keeps and continues to use.

A2 plaque

Living and working so close with Mr Siwol calls on the idea that ‘the people who know the solutions to the problems are often the people living with the problems.’ The locals have been just as much a part of this process which is perfect as they know exactly what they need. They have distributed themselves amongst the group, painting and hammering with ‘Team Church’ and getting the tandas up and running in the central point of the community, as well as jogging swiftly alongside ‘Team Pipe’ as they slip, trip and stumble through the jungle connecting pipe and installing taps to the last few houses in the community.

A2 Group

The celebration ceremony is as much fun for them as it is for us and I hope they really enjoy the successes. We can only hope that the community continue to feel proud and maintain everything that we have built, and who knows, maybe in a few months every house in the community will have their own state of the art ‘mud hole’ paddling pool.