Expedition volunteer

Keyon, 19, from Tredegar in Wales, joined an Expedition to Borneo in summer 2013. His experience of living in a small rural community was life-changing and helped him to gain clear ideas about his future plans. Keyon is now an ambassador for Raleigh International and for The Prince’s Trust.

“Before volunteering with Raleigh International I didn’t have any motivation to do much with my life. I felt I had messed up my education, I was struggling to get a job, and I had been living on the streets for around eighteen months. Fortunately, I heard about Raleigh through The Prince’s Trust who helped me get off the streets and into some voluntary work.
They told me about Raleigh’s development programme in Borneo and I thought it sounded like an amazing opportunity. I really wanted to get involved in helping people in remote communities to have a better standard of living. I hoped that along the way I would make new friends and have the chance to discover a new country, whilst also gaining a better understanding of myself and trying to get my life back on track after this difficult time.
Fundraising was a challenge, but I managed to raise the money through giving presentations at my old school, local community hall and college, and taking part in sponsored runs. The turning point in my fundraising came when I gave a presentation in front of over a hundred people. During my speech, a member of the audience stood up and offered me matched funding on whatever I raised. I was overjoyed and that pushed me over my fundraising target.

Our team in Borneo was based in Kampung Abingkoi, a small village in the west of Sabah. The team’s project was to take part in the construction of a new kindergarten for the children of this remote area. The nearest kindergarten used to take children half a day to walk to, which was a huge barrier to starting their education, learning English and getting into primary school. The construction work was difficult at times, but we worked closely with the community members who shared their skills and knowledge with us and showed us local construction techniques. The volunteer project managers always made sure everything in our team was running smoothly and helped when we needed it. It was amazing!

Living in the heart of the community at Kampung Abingkoi was the best thing ever. It gave me a real sense of family and our team got involved in everything that the community members did. They taught us some phrases in Malay, we also set up our own little sports team and we would play their local sport called Takro together every night. When we had to leave the community where we had lived and worked for weeks it was so emotional – I loved that place. I had learnt so much about their culture, their world and myself while I was there. I saw first-hand how challenging life can be for people in this community, which made me realise how much we take for granted at home. It was hard.

Since volunteering with Raleigh International, I feel that my eyes have been opened to different cultures and how the world works. I’ve learnt a lot about myself, most of all how to control any negative emotions and to be more responsible.

This experience has made me see my future in a different light and has given me new aspirations. Before volunteering in Borneo, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, but I came out of this experience with clear ideas about my future. I wanted to work with young people and get involved in youth work.

After returning from Borneo, I started working to promote the work of The Prince’s Trust, to help get young people off the streets and encourage them to do better for themselves. I became a young ambassador for The Trust, regularly attending and giving speeches at events. Young people have so much to offer their communities, and if we work together we can make a positive impact.

As I had such an incredible time on the Expedition in Borneo and it has done so much for me, I’ve jumped at the opportunity to get involved in anything that Raleigh has had to offer. I’ve had several opportunities to represent Raleigh, such as taking part in a parade for the Lord Mayor’s Show through the City of London in front of thousands of people which was aired on BBC One, and speaking at the Creative Collisions conference in front of 700 youth sector professionals, journalists and young delegates, as part of a debate on key issues facing young people and youth services.

How would I sum up my experience? Inspirational, life-changing, absolutely amazing! I would recommend it to anyone.”

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