My Raleigh India 10K Experience.
My Raleigh experience was so much more than I had hoped for. It was made so amazing by the people I shared the experience with, the local communities we were working with and the guys and girls taking part in the expedition. I often felt like the luckiest girl alive and although we worked hard seeing the results of our hard work and the affect it had on the people I worked with made it all worthwhile.
While I was fundraising for my Raleigh expedition I found it quite difficult to explain what I was raising money for even though there are many resources available through the Raleigh website and head office. I think Raleigh is something you can find hard to fully understand and appreciate until you have seen first hand what they achieve.
Raleigh is first and for most a youth development charity. Their aim is to allow young people to develop personally and improve their leadership skills through experiential learning. This is something I was not sure I believed in before I set off on my expedition. My interest in Raleigh was with the projects they undertake in the countries they work in and India was the country I opted for because I knew the light quality is stunning and as a photographer this is important. I wanted to have the opportunity to make some work that really made a difference to people and had a real impact. To show the importance of the projects and relationships between Raleigh and the communities they work with as this is what I found difficult to grasp from existing marketing material.
I was part of a 20 strong project manager team who after two weeks of intense training were harnessed with the task of running an expedition of about 60 venturers aged 17 to 24. The venturer team was made up of fundraisers mainly graduates and gap year students of several nationalities who raise the funds themselves to take part in the expedition. Their fundraising also contributes to the host country venturers and the partnership venturers taking part in the expedition. These are young people who are all from less fortunate backgrounds who without the fundraisers would not have the opportunity to take part in the expedition. Many of the partnership venturers are from young offender programs in the UK. Raleigh’s Youth Agency Partnership Programme exists to support young people onto a Raleigh expedition who would otherwise not be able to access such an opportunity. It was not until we collected all the venturers from the airport that I realised how diverse the demographic was. We really did worry about how on earth all these people were going to get on and work together to achieve the project goals of the expedition.
My role involved photographing all the project sites so I got to know all the venturers and all the projects. I watched people develop unlikely friendships and in some cases just learn to manage some tricky characters and relationships. I know people who embarked on the expedition with right-wing views of people from foreign lands and watched them change these views while working with local people, a truly life changing experience for all those involved. I was also lucky to visit some previous Raleigh projects and witness first hand the sustainability of the work they are doing in India. The model villages they are creating over time are fascinating particularly the use of Biogas which I can not believe is not used more widely across the globe (read more here).
The venturers work in a rotation of three phases changing there teams every phase so they are always working with different people. The three phases were as follows:
Repaired and built elephant-proof trenches with solar-powered fences for two communities in the state of Karnataka, helping protect precious habitat, boost the income of struggling farmers and decreasing human – elephant conflict.
Built five tribal house and 24 eco-sanitation units for two villages in the states of Tamil Nadu & Karnataka, greatly improving the living conditions and lives of the tribal and scheduled caste communities.
Completed exciting and challenging adventures that included trekking, rafting, cycling and survival skills in remote and wilderness environments in the state of Kerala.
The adventure phase involves trekking 200Km across the Kerala mountain ranges, carrying all of their own equipment and rations with them. I thought this was possibly the least worth while phase but that was before I took part in it. When you stretch people to push themselves harder than they ever thought possible they learn what they are capable off personally and what it is like to be part of a successful team, a sense of achievement that you can never take away. The adventure phase is a real leveler the partnership guys see that they are as good as those from more salubrious backgrounds and visa versa. I joined two separate trek groups for a week as a project manager. On each trip I witnesses surprising differences in the venturers. They also get an amazing chance to see the country they are working in and get a greater understanding of it. Living with very little for 19 days truly shows how you can survive without all the luxuries of modern living and shows you how hard life can be for those communities we were working with on other phases. This phase truly gave you an understanding of yourself your peers and India.
For me personally the most worthwhile project was the Little Doctors Project started by my friend and country program manager Anna Tate. Hygiene is the biggest killer in India and by just doing something as simple as teaching the children to wash their hands can save lives. I was revisiting one village where we had taught the village school how to wash and in the distance we saw two elderly ladies washing their hands in the same way, they were really excited to show us what they had learned from their children. This was a sweet moment for us, a tangible example that the program was working. You can read all about this program and see the images here (Little Doctors Program Blog)
I’d like to thank all who sponsored me in the various events I put on to raise the funds to enable myself and others to have this truly humbling experience.
You can view some of my Raleigh Project work by following the link : Facebook Slide Shows
It was my plan to blog every week while I was away but I was so consumed by the work we were doing there that it wasn’t possible and although I wrote my diary weekly looking back at it now it’s hard to collate it into one blog post. If you want a blow-by-blow account of everything check out the Raleigh blogs skillfully written by my counterpart Polly Carpenter and guests and mainly illustrated by me, although some of the guest photographers were pretty good too.