“It made a change in my life. I was quiet shy and it made me quite comfortable to be friends with all people even though they were different races.”
If you meet Linda Ross, 19 years old, when she first came to SHELTER 2 (home for teenage girls) in December 2002, you would think her reserved and hesitant. This young teenager took a plane flight (her first) alone to Sabah and spent about two months Kota Kinabalu as a Raleigh Venturer. “I was late so I had to travel alone to KK (Kota Kinabalu). It was very scary,” said Linda.
Raleigh International Malaysia’s brochure states: Raleigh International is a UK-based youth development charity formed in 1984 to inspire young people across the world to reach their full potential through participation in challenging projects worldwide. Each expedition is manned by volunteer “venturers” aged from 17-25 years, plus a staff team and runs for 10 weeks. Each Venturer has the opportunity to experience an environment, community and adventure project and is allocated to a different group for each project phase.
Linda believes that she was chosen because they were looking for people “who could speak good English” and were more than 18 years old in SHELTER.
Before going to Sabah, she first met the HSBC leaders who sponsored RM 18,000 for Linda to attend the Raleigh International Malaysia, held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from February - April 2004. The programme had 120 Venturers and about 30 staff.
One of the Raleigh staff met her at the airport. She went to the field base and a rucksack was given with a sleeping bag and boots. It took an hour to go to the campsite. When she first saw her bamboo bed with the mosquito net and the toilet (“like tandas awam”), her immediate thought was: Huh? For three months have to stay here?
Her constant fear was: “I don’t know whether can survive.”
She especially liked the community part of Raleigh Malaysia. “We lay gravity pipes for the village people. It was fun teaching the kids and learning the culture and language.”
Linda likes the outdoors. She likes to play football and is used to mixing with the boys. Despite this she found the adventure part of the programme the hardest. Walking in the jungle, sleeping there – she was scared of scorpions, snakes at night and ghosts. Carrying a heavy bag was difficult, especially going uphill.
“I hate jungle trekking. I wanted to give up but the staff encouraged me that I can do it.”
Finally at the end of the three weeks adventure project, she hiked up Mount Kinabalu and saw the sunrise. “Everybody cheered me because I could go all the way,” said Linda. She was happy and excited. “I didn’t believe I could do it.”
In her thank you letter to HSBC, Linda wrote that she had new friends, new experiences from this programme. “I had the chance to do things which I never had before like teaching, working and discussing with people in a team and how to survive and learn to deal with them.”
Linda has definitely been changed by the experience. SHELTER is grateful that caring corporations have given yet another of the SHELTER children an opportunity to develop further and have an experience beyond their dreams and wildest imagination.