The Raleigh family in Asia: national societies and the ‘spirit of volunteerism’

14th November 2015

National societies are found in countries where Raleigh International has, or has had, a presence – either through direct operations or as a result of motivated alumni returning home after expedition. The societies share the values of Raleigh International, contribute towards the Charity’s overall vision and mission but do so through their own activities and organisational structures. Raleigh national societies are organisations who engage youth to volunteer in their local communities and beyond.

The RARC is the opportunity for the Asian national societies to come together to exchange learning and best practice, to share their passion for the legacy created by Raleigh International’s programmes, and to support and encourage one another in the future. The conference is now in its seventh year.

The 2015 conference was hosted by the Raleigh Sabah Society, and kindly supported by both the Ministry of Youth and Sport Sabah and Raleigh Borneo. The Ministry were directly represented at the conference by Senior Officer, Faridah Masi. Raleigh International Chief Executive Officer, Stacey Adams, and Alumni and Donor Development Manager, Emily Prince, flew in from London to participate in the conference. There was strong representation from Raleigh China, Raleigh Hong Kong, Raleigh Kuala Lumpur, Raleigh Singapore and the Raleigh Sabah Society. The Raleigh Borneo team, led by Country Director Dr Brandon Charleston, was also involved. Other notable delegates were a Japanese alumni and local youths from Kota Kinabalu and the surrounding areas.

‘We are here. We are together…the Raleigh family…in the spirit of volunteerism’. Kinalus ‘TG’, president, Raleigh Sabah Society.

On the Friday evening, in a restaurant overlooking the Meruntum lagoon, delegates were welcomed to Sabah and to the 2015 RARC. Speeches were given, short films played, and a delicious Sabahan buffet and traditional dancing enjoyed. The films showcased wonderfully the conference theme of the ‘spirit of volunteerism’, and reinforced the tangible impact of volunteering on people’s lives. Whether that be a result of installing a gravity-fed water system, refurbishing a community learning centre, the efforts to support conservation, or the leadership development a young volunteer experiences during the challenges of trek. And finally that participating in volunteering, and in this instance Raleigh, is just an incredible experience.

‘In January 2016, the global goals for sustainable development will come into effect. So it’s an important time to think about volunteering, to create active citizens…you are part of that movement.’ Stacey Adams, chief executive officer, Raleigh International.

RARC KL presentation

The programme on the Saturday was hugely insightful. Presentations from the societies demonstrated what can be realised with energy, enthusiasm and drive. The societies have achieved a huge breadth and scale of activities over the past twelve months. From introduction weekends to attract and mentor new volunteers, to organising fundraising challenges such as Raleigh Hong Kong’s Wilson Trail and Raleigh Singapore’s ‘Let’s take a Walk’. To community and environmental projects such as Raleigh Sabah Society’s beach clean ups, or Raleigh Singapore’s project in Myanmar to improve local teachers’ English skills. Active citizenship is alive and well in the Raleigh Asia network. We also heard about the social responsibility demonstrated by members of Raleigh Kuala Lumpur when they responded to communities in need following a natural disaster in West Malaysia. If further proof was required then here’s a statistic; in the last 12 months members of Raleigh China have contributed a staggering 87,600 hours of volunteer service. The volunteering capacity and commitment across the network is awe-inspiring.

RARC group discussions

The afternoon sessions were devoted to workshops. The first session pulled together the key points from the morning’s presentations on the ‘spirit of volunteerism’. Words and phrases used to describe this spirit were ‘unity’, ‘paying it forward’, and ‘giving without expecting anything in return’. The afternoon closed with a presentation from Freddy, a Sabahan volunteer, who participated in a Raleigh Borneo programme in 2006. He spoke of the impact of Raleigh on him and his life after expedition, particularly his career in youth and education. The day was brought to a close with a fantastic BBQ on the beach.

‘Sharing best practice and recognising that each society has something special to offer, or some area of expertise that other societies could learn and benefit from’. Garrison Lu, president, Raleigh China.

The final day of the conference was devoted to a committee meeting; to reflect on the weekend’s discussions and to start to identify subsequent actions for the Raleigh Asia network. For the coming year it was agreed to continue to build on the sharing of information and learnings, by attending each other’s events, and offering support on areas of expertise. The network will also start to work on developing workshops and the agenda for the Raleigh International Global Alumni conference, which will be held in London in September 2016.

Throughout the RARC it was wonderful to witness how much the societies’, Raleigh International and Raleigh Borneo valued the opportunity to come together and share their stories, and to learn from one another. The Raleigh Asia family play a vital role in achieving lasting change through youth. Now that is something to be celebrated…    

Youth In Civil Society Malaysian Borneo