We wanted to catch up with Taylor to find out how her trip to Borneo went. Judging by the photographs alone; we think she had a fabulous time. This is her story
“I went away for 4 weeks to an Asian island called Borneo, and it was an amazing experience. The whole point of the trip was to go and volunteer in poorer areas of the island and help improve the conditions of different towns and villages scattered around the northern area of Malaysia; Sabah. Across the 4 weeks my group and I stayed in 8 different places, which included camps, hostels and respite destinations like a tea house and a B&B.
At our first camp, in the town of Bongkud, our main task was concreting the town’s centre. This was important because every Thursday morning, people from Bongkud and surrounding areas would travel in to hold a small market and sell trinkets and similar objects. During the monsoon season these people wouldn’t be able to sell their products and provide for their families because the ground would be too muddy, so the market would be cancelled. By spending time doing something as simple as creating a hardstanding, the locals are now able to provide for their families all year round. We also helped out at the local school by painting the walls for the children (who were of primary school age) and building a small shelter that they could stand under while waiting for their family to pick them up, helping them keep out of the heat or heavy rain.
At our second camp, Widu, we were concreting again. However, this time it was for a volleyball court. Volleyball is a very popular sport in Borneo, with players coming in from nearby towns to play on the closest court, which are often broken or already in use. The village of Widu only had a small number of houses (15 at the most) and was very remote in the mountains and surrounded by jungle. It was so remote that they only got electricity up and working in 2014. Before that the villagers would use candles for light in the evenings. Because the village was so far away from any other civilisation, they weren’t able to really play volleyball because there wasn’t a court in their village. By building them one, we’ve provided a safe area for children and adults alike to play sport together and have fun, helping to improve their quality of lifestyle.
After we left Widu we went into the jungle and stayed at a camp called Batu Puteh. Each day we had to go on a small boat down the Kinabatangan River to get to the project location, with each journey taking 45 minutes. This is where we got involved with the ongoing reforestation project. This involved finding shoots of trees along the banks of the river, and then planting these shoots in swampy areas so they could grow. Our group was split in half with one half responsible for finding the tree shoots, the other half responsible for clearing and prepping the planting site. We then worked together re-planting the shoots. I was in the group that were clearing and prepping the site. This was by far the most physically tiring project we worked on because we were out in the Bornean sun for a couple of hours while we were clearing areas for the trees; wildfires occur quite frequently in the rainforest, which causes trees to disappear and allows weed-like plants to take their place. In order to reforest the areas, these weeds needed to be cut away so that the trees could be replanted and the rainforest could thrive again. This meant we needed to use machetes to cut away the unwanted plants, and then we had to trek back to the project base to collect the tree shoots, which are long heavy poles, back through the rainforest to replant them. Over 2 days our team managed to replant 160 trees, which was a great accomplishment for the group as it was the highest number achieved in a two day period.
After the jungle camp, we were allowed a short but well enjoyed break, where we visited the Orangutan and Sunbear sanctuary and stayed at a quaint B&B. We left the following morning for our pre-trek camp, where we prepared for our jungle trek. Here we learned how to set up the hammocks we’d be sleeping in, had the opportunity to clean our clothes and fuel up for the following 5 days. We left for the trek and spent 4 nights and 5 days in the jungle, where we saw snakes and giant bugs and cool animals like chameleons. Food had to be convenient so we had to eat some rather unpleasant things such as smash, spam and chicken meatloaf. We would double decker our hammocks where two people hang their hammock on the same set of trees, one above the other, similar to a bunk bed. The trek itself was challenging, I found it more mentally than physically, however when we had completed it everyone was in the best mood. Looking back, I’m so happy that I was able to complete it, as was everyone else in my team. After the trek, we stayed at the Sabah Teahouse and were able to relax for an evening, before heading to our last camp, Tiningol.
At Tiningol we were concreting (again!) at the town’s centre. We had to walk for about an hour to reach the town centre from the camp, as that was located just outside of the town. We were tasked with concreting the paths and a small area next to a football field so that spectators didn’t have to watch in the mud. After each day’s work, we’d walk back to camp and then play volleyball as camp Tiningol had a court and a speaker for music. This area was mostly used in the mornings when we were woken up to a pre-project work out to blasting music. On the last night at the camp we all did some karaoke which was really fun, before we left the next morning for the capital, Kota Kinabalu, which was the start of our travel home.
The trip was absolutely amazing, and I wouldn’t have been able to get there without the help of my family, friends and local businesses, Bishopsgate in particular, with your very generous donation. With that help, I along with my team, were able to help so many people and partake in many different activities. I met so many people and was exposed to lots of different situations that I hadn’t even properly thought about; the communities we visited had so little yet were so happy, and how they made the most out of what they had. It was a fantastic experience and I would like to thank Bishopsgate for all their help with getting me there.