Seven students swapped the classroom for vibrant jungle, unexplored tropical wilderness and exotic wildlife during a humanitarian expedition to the oldest rainforest in the world.
The pupils, from Murray Park School, in Mickleover, spent a life-changing month working with villagers in four locations across Borneo, Asia’s largest island, after each raising £4,000 to fund the trip.
The expedition was organised by volunteer travel operator Camps International and saw the group engaging in various humanitarian projects including building community centres, sanitation blocks and helping to provide clean water.
They also joined young volunteers from other schools to help to tackle deforestation. This is largely caused by illegal logging, which has led to the destruction of almost half of the natural forests, endangering much of the island’s wildlife.
The students were accompanied on the expedition by the school’s Religious Studies teacher Sally Hadden. She said: “The expedition was a fantastic way for our pupils to see a part of the world that very few people ever get around to visiting.
“I was very proud of them before we even left the country because they had worked tirelessly to organise charity events and fund-raising events to pay for the trip.
“Every one of them worked very hard during the expedition and their efforts made a big difference to the conservation projects they helped with. One project involved making cement to concrete a path around a village to stop stagnate water, which would attract mosquitos and the risk of malaria.
“Another challenge was planting trees to tackle deforestation. During a day and a half the group planted 172 trees in 40* heat – they worked incredibly hard.”
The students took an impressive commute to one project on board a boat which took them down the crocodile-infested waters of the Kinabatangan River.
And another project saw them teaching English to a group of indigenous children in a remote village.
The group still managed to fit in some time for leisure activities and they finished their stay on the island by learning to scuba dive.
They also enjoyed a visit to the world-renowned Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary where they saw orphaned and injured orangutans before they were released back into the wild.
Sally added: “In just four weeks the group changed so much – each of them matured and grew in confidence. They gained independence, realised they could be self-sufficient and gained an understanding that the world doesn’t stop if you don’t have an internet connection.
“They made friends with other students from across the world and they are still in touch, which is wonderful.
“One of my highlights was scuba diving with turtles and sea horses, but each of the youngsters has their own highlight, which I know they will treasure forever.”
Sally is now organising a trip to Equador in 2020, giving a different group of pupils the time to raise the funds for the expedition.
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