Not even the students, nor the teachers or the Camp Leader, Rich, knew of the exciting and once in a lifetime opportunity that lay before them. Prior to the trip, money was raised via different individual fundraising endeavours, including; a music concert performed at school, part-time jobs and even a golf day! 

After transferring flights to Brunei, and then Kota Kinabalu, the group made an eight-hour bus trip to Batu Putih. There, we met Martin, the leading tree conservationist at this camp, who explained that our group would be the first to attempt their new method of tree planting, in order to preserve endangered local tree species. After two and a half days at Batu Putih, another bus ride took us to Sepilok, where both the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre are located, who both aim to improve welfare and rehabilitation for these endangered species and helped illustrate the importance of our tree planting work over the previous days. Following this was a bus transfer to Bongkud Village where two days were spent undertaking cultural activities, brick laying the new community centre, transporting stone drains and playing a soccer game with the locals. 

The next stage of our trip was a five day jungle trek. Each day presenting its own challenges: an undulating path, a knee-height river crossing or traversing up a steep cliff face of rock. We were rewarded with a rest each afternoon, as well as a dip in the river or stream near the camp. After arriving back at Camp Bongkud, two more days were spent concreting a main road, repairing numerous desks at the local primary school prior to the students’ return to school, bead making and cooking local dishes. Following our stay at Bongkud, a three hour bus trip took us to Camp Tinangol, the group’s final opportunity to be able to make a difference to communities we visit. However, consistent and torrential rain halted this process, and some sessions of project work was replaced with the art of bead making and weaving bamboo leaves, project work around Camp Tinangol, such as fixing up brick paths, cleaning the basketball court and fixing up locks in bathrooms and showers. Yet still, project work of concreting a road, installing a draining pipe and washing out the water and dirt from the unbuilt volleyball site and positioning a tarp over the site, was completed while working vigorously in the heavy rain. 

Our second last day in the country was spent with some light project work in the morning and playing games, singing songs and interacting with about 35 kids from the local Tinangol area. Despite some initial hesitation of interrelating with unknown children for two hours, by the end of it, most, if not all of us, had worked up a sweat and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Our final whole day in the country began with a four-hour bus drive back to Kota Kinabalu, a stopover at the Sumangkap Gong-Making Village, which boasts the biggest gong in Malaysia, and the rest of the afternoon was spent in the markets and shopping centres. Our final dinner was at a burger joint near our accommodation and then we visited three night markets to make any final Christmas or souvenir purchases. 

Whilst a total of 35 kilometres in the hike, constant hours of community and project work and three weeks away from home seemed quite daunting, the group have learned multiple valuable lessons and skills, not only practical and factual but also the ability to work as a team and independence away from family. We’d like to thank Mr Devine and Mr Mason, who co-ordinated from the school with Camps International, who planned the whole trip and its activities expertly. Our gratitude also goes to Rich, our Camp Leader, whose experience across multiple trips around the world not only kept us safe but also gave us insight as to the knowledge you can inherit by merely exploring the earth. 

Liam Ly (Year 11)