Two groups of students travelled to Sarawak, Borneo at the end of Term one to spend close to two weeks living and working in remote Indigenous villages called Kampong Mentu and Kampong Tuba.
The people inhabiting both Mentu and Tuba are from the Iban tribe. Historically they were the most formidable head hunters on the island of Borneo, but today the Iban are generous, hospitable and placid. They grow rice, pepper and fruit, and hunt and fish. Even though they continue to have a strong spiritual connection to the rainforest, many modern facilities are now making their way into these remote places, changing many of their traditional customs.
The group of students working in Mentu had the task of completing a bridge that connected the village to the local school. Whilst it was hot and humid, the project was completed well ahead of schedule allowing plenty of time to engage in cultural activities, to work and play with the children in the village, swim in the river, to go kayaking through limestone hills and amazing rainforest and go on challenging hikes to spectacular hidden waterfalls.
After completing our project in the Village our group was transported in four-wheel drives and traditional longboats to Kampong Nyogol which has a literal translation meaning ‘Village in the Clouds.’ Getting up early and watching the sunrise in this incredible and remote part of the world was the highlight of the experience for many.
Immersion and service learning programs like Fulfilling Lives, encourage self-reflection on attitudes towards cultural difference, provide opportunities to build relationships, to serve and work with those less fortunate and invite the application of knowledge and skills as outlined in the Contributing and Identity dimensions of our Vision for Learning. Programs like this can be a transformational experience for our students as they see that their participation is effecting real change. They see that their actions can make a difference.
Seeing a part of the world that few have ever seen, integrating into a community, interacting with local people, learning a new language and understanding the way others live, no matter how briefly, enables a cultural immersion grounded in deep learning and rich memories. The thirteen students that travelled to Mentu should be proud of what they achieved, not only in the village, but also in the way they conducted themselves, worked together as a team and grew from the experience.