Raleigh Borneo: How are our projects having an impact in Sabah?

17th March 2018

Raleigh Borneo specifically focus on improving access to safe water and improved sanitation, conserving and restoring forest biodiversity, and building the social capital of young people so they can participate effectively in society. All of our programmes directly align with and contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Deputy Operations Manager Laura explains, “Raleigh Borneo has been here for over 30 years now so they have built up really really good relationships with project partners and volunteers from around the world. Without exception, the response and the warmth from the villages we work with is overwhelming.”

Our work is delivered through our volunteers who are from a wide range of backgrounds, nationalities and life stages. Raleigh Borneo harnesses the passion and energy of our young volunteers to create positive change within communities in Sabah. We aspire to develop and strengthen emerging leaders who are motivated to be active global citizens by fostering key values and demonstrating the key behaviours required to create meaningful, positive change.

Laura explains, “The biggest testament to that is that on my last expedition the volunteers formed such close relationships with the people in the village that several of those villagers are now Host Country Volunteers. Those young people felt inspired to go on and do work in other parts of Sabah.”

Why are we operating in Sabah?

Malaysia is making massive leaps in development however in the state of Sabah there are disparities in some of the very rural areas compared to more urban areas’ access to clean, safe and reliable water and improved sanitation.

Raleigh Borneo’s Programmes Officer Adam explains, “There are still high rates of poverty in rural communities and a concerning lack of access to water and sanitation. They have unique and vital natural resources but those resources are often being converted and harvested at an unsustainable rate. The communities can be difficult to access because of Sabah’s geography and the low population density has meant a lot of the development funding just isn’t finding its way out to them.”

Laura explains, “It is sometimes hard for people to understand just how little some of these communities have. It’s not just about making life a little bit more comfortable for them. It’s the effect of by building some toilets and giving everyone in the village a safe accessible water supply people don’t get as sick, the children then miss less school, their parents are able to work more and make more money for their families and have a more stable lifestyle for their families.”

What have we achieved so far?

During the 31 years of Raleigh Borneo’s time in Sabah, we have worked with several partner organisations across Sabah to help achieve our goals including the PACOS Trust, The Asian Forestry Company Sabah (AFCS) and Yayasan Sabah. These partnerships strengthened our understanding of and ability to positively impact local issues.

Primary rainforest conservation
Primary rainforest conservation

With our partners we have helped to preserve precious areas of primary rainforest and their biodiversity in places such as Imbak Canyon, Danum Valley and Maliau Basin. The protection of these areas have helped mitigate against climate change and inspired our volunteers to become advocates for the sustainable use of natural resources.

Community Learning Centre
Community Learning Centre

We have built over 25 early learning centres, improving access to early years education in remote communities. We have also helped older women in a remote community to become solar panel technicians, increasing their empowerment in the community and simultaneously providing renewable energy.

Gravity fed water system installation
Gravity fed water system installation

Our Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) projects have provided access to clean, safe and reliable water to over 80 communities in Sabah. We have improved sanitation through the construction of toilets and handwashing stations. We have made efforts to ensure long lasting change by promoting health and hygiene through awareness raising sessions as well as setting up WASH committees within the communities.

Our sustainable green microenterprise programme has engaged over 100 young people in the heart of Sabah to take part in natural resource management training. Many of those went on to develop green business ideas to help conserve forest resources and alleviate pressures on wildlife from illegal trafficking. We have provided seed funding to some of these entrepreneurs to kick start their businesses.

Over the upcoming expeditions Raleigh Borneo will continue projects inline with our three programatic areas.

Contact any of our volunteers by completing the linked contact form. We will pass your messages and words of encouragement on to the volunteers during our project loops.

Keep up to date with the progress on each of the projects by subscribing to the blog and following us on Facebook and Instagram.


Words by Rebecca Raab

Photography by Daniel Buttifant

Climate and Conservation Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Malaysian Borneo