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There is nothing more humbling in life than seeing your own efforts bring happiness to others.

In my role with Camps International, I work with schools across Queensland to provide expeditions to our locations across the globe. I help prepare many teachers, students and families for their travels, along with encouraging them with their fundraising efforts. Seeing students excited and encouraged to sign up to an expedition is amazing because I know how much they will grow and develop into thoughtful young adults from these experiences and know how projects help not just individuals but entire communities and a large array of species and wildlife habitats.

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But to truly witness it first hand with one of our Victorian schools, ‘Team Katak’ was certainly a rewarding experience. On Good Friday we flew to Borneo for a 2-week expedition.

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Once in country, we settled into our first Camp, Camp Tinangol. Surrounded by jungle and mountains it was a picturesque landscape of what you imagine Borneo to look like. Our Camp Manager Kenny – was a bundle of joy and knowledge, with a strangely familiar Australian accent as he previously studied at Surfers Paradise in the Gold Coast! (Small world isn’t it). Every morning we ventured out on a beautiful walk through the jungle and into the village to do our project work on a community centre which will be used as a ‘Traditions / Culture’ Court. Together with our Project Manager, local tradesman, students and teachers we got to work; measuring and cutting of wood and nailing them into long pillars which would later be filled with cement by the next school group coming through. Our aim was 13 wooden pillars in 3 days – and we did it!

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Camp Bongkud is nestled in the foothills of Mt Kinabalu. Here we did some hard labour but balanced it out with some epic cultural activities! The students and teachers certainly now know the local way of cement mixing as they finished off the grand stand seating for the community’s volleyball court and laid the cement flooring for the corresponding public toilets. To break up the work, we went on jungle canopy walks, bathed in natural hot springs, put our Masterchef hats on with cooking lessons, learnt how the locals danced and learnt some traditional songs.

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Our last destination was the Jungle nestled along the Kinabatangan river. This was the most exciting but challenging destination for all. The insects, leeches, the heat and the clear concept we were along way from home set in. But together, we supported each other and found by the end of the trip it was actually their favourite part! Our 3 conservation projects were also a great change from our low-level grade construction community projects. We collected seedlings and planted them (to help create homes and edible plants for the Orangutans), jungle maintenance – yes we used machetes! (for reforestation work), and salvinia weed clearing (to ensure it does not suffocate the oxygen in the lake for the otters) made everyone work even harder knowing that we were helping the wildlife. Our blog Team Katak Vs the Jungle is live for you to see our pictures and read more about our conservation work ☺

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By the end of the trip everyone had a nickname which came from a funny scenario, everyone had a hundred pictures, a million stories and will now be blessed with an experience that not only enriched themselves but left positive imprints on everyone and everything they came into contact with; the communities, wildlife, staff and the country of Borneo.

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For many of the students this was something they worked hard to achieve through fundraising along with the support of our staff in Australia.

  • Tara – The Cadbury Queen –  Tara who is only 15 years old, sold 1,500 Cadbury boxes over the space of a year and made $3,000! Her dad’s electrical company sold them all year round and she sold them at all her basketball games. Such a simple yet effective fundraising idea for students.
  • Kasey + Brianna – Community Event Queens – Best friends for life, Kasey and Brianna hosted not one but two community events. Athletes and spectators need food – so at their local Football Club, they supplied hungry bellies with bacon + egg rolls raising over $1000. For patients at a Mental Health Clinic, they wanted to help them relax, so they hosted a pamper day with nail painting and face masks raising over $300.
  • Aiden – the odd Job king – Aiden is certainly a handy man from helping his Dad by fixing trucks, to doing odd jobs for his neighbours. Aiden went about this by making flyers advising his skills; cleaning, mowing, etc and explained the money was going towards Borneo.

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It is opportunities like these that show students it is not about how much money your parents have, it is about taking ownership and working hard so they themselves can have an experience of a lifetime.

All the best