This summer three YMCA DLG residents joined Raleigh International expeditions and each had a life changing experience. Raleigh International was launched in 1978, known then as Operation Drake. Now Raleigh provides volunteering opportunities for young people on overseas projects designed to empower local communities to create lasting change and become more sustainable.
Of our three residents, Gwen (Guildford Y Centre) spent ten weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and Emilee (Brighton & Hove) and Dylan (Horsham Y Centre) went to Borneo. All three had an amazing time that pushed them out of their comfort zones and challenged their preconceptions.
Gwen was part of a team that set about installing wells to provide safe drinking water for a community in Costa Rica. They also taught school children about the effects of logging on the rain forest, seeking to educate the next generation about preserving their environment and being sustainable. Gwen says, “It was an awesome experience working with the local community on different projects. I was impressed by the faith and confidence they had in us, that we would accomplish what we set out to do for them.”
Gwen says that this experience has made her more confident and taught her that she can do anything that she sets her mind to. “I used to stay in the background and would just roll with the punches. I feel that I can be more assertive now, I’m more outspoken and believe that I can be more open with my thoughts and feelings”, Gwen says.
Emilee faced several challenges at once during the trek element of her trip – dealing with heat and humidity, not being able to wash every day, as well as negotiating narrow pathways alongside sheer drops. Yet she coped far better than she expected. She says, “It’s the best thing I ever did and I have learnt so much, had so many new experiences and met some amazing people who I now call friends. It was scary at first but so worth it in the end.”
Dylan also travelled to Borneo but joined a different team to Emilee. He took a leading role on a building project for a community learning centre. This involved woodwork, painting, digging and concreting as well as rewriting the plans. Dylan says, “Being site coordinator gave me a chance to work as a team leader and to find peoples strengths to ensure the job got complete.”
The team went on to building a suspension bridge at the picturesque Imbak Canyon. It was heavy physical work that required a half-mile human chain to move building materials down a hill. This was the phase where Dylan mixed with the locals. He says, “I really enjoyed meeting the locals and getting to know their culture and teaching them English.”
The trip has been the catalyst for Dylan to move on from the Y Centre, having realised he has the skills to live independently. He has gone from struggling to cope in supported accommodation, and trying to manage his alcohol and drug issues to being drug free and one step away from independent living. Dylan has already signed up for a further overseas trip to Africa.