For Caesar Crasemann, every moment of the two months he spent in the Bornean jungle was life-changing.
“I'd always dreamed about going to Borneo, and I wanted to combine my dream with working towards a social cause,” the 19 year old says of his decision to volunteer with sustainable development charity, Raleigh International.
“A Raleigh Expedition gives you the unique chance to experience being in nature and making a difference in communities that can really benefit from it.”
Caesar had always dreamed of going to Borneo
Each year, the UK-based NGO runs several Expeditions to Malaysian Borneo, which are open to anyone from North America, Europe, or elsewhere, aged 17-24 years old. Don't count yourself out if you've passed the threshold -- you can still apply for Volunteer Manager roles if you're between 25 and 75 years old.
Along with his fellow volunteers, Caesar set out to improve the lives of people living in local communities in meaningful and lasting ways. From start to finish the Expedition was an experience that opened his eyes to many of the issues facing people in less-developed countries.
“I'm from Germany, which is a very well-developed Western country. It was hard for me to imagine how different the standards in other countries can be. In Europe, we hear a lot about it in the media, but to actually see it is another thing altogether. It really changed my mind.”
Caesar was part of a small international team that he worked with daily and would often lead on tasks. It made him recognise that making change is hard, but it's just that little bit easier when people work together.
It also gave Caesar the chance to hone his leadership skills.
“I learned a lot the days I spent as a team leader. Motivation, tolerance, and efficiency were all things I cultivated. It also helped me to understand different personalities, and how everyone has a different way of thinking and acting. These skills will help me a lot in the future.”
Caesar with his team
Teamwork was the most important lesson Caesar believes he learned. And it really came into play while working on the construction site in Danum Valley Conservation Area, a 438 sq. km tract of lowland forest in Sabah, Malaysia.
“We were helping to build a suspension bridge, and had to work really quickly. I realised how vital teamwork is in so many situations. Everyone has to do their jobs to keep the team going.”
But in hard conditions, morale can drop -- and Caesar became no stranger to lifting it back up again.
“On the adventure trek, I learned how important group motivation is. You have to take care of everyone in the group otherwise morale is lost and everyone's demotivated. Living in a jungle for two months and being together 24/7 with a group of people I'd never met before was a new situation for me. You learn more about them than you do your friends back home! I could have had a really bad time if I hadn't been part of such a great group.”
Ultimately, Caesar developed skills and made memories that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. It was a singular experience that gave him the exciting chance to have a real adventure, and discover things about himself he otherwise wouldn't have known.
“It offered things I hadn't done before and couldn't do anywhere else, like sleeping in the middle of a jungle and cooking food over a fire. Being in a real jungle was like being in a movie -- I'll never forget showering in the river!
“I realised things about myself as a person from my time in Borneo, too. When I look back on my trip and think about how I trekked for three weeks straight, wearing the same shirt and drinking water out of a river, I think, ‘I can't believe I did that!'. I'd recommend doing the same to anyone.”
If you want to follow in Caesar's footsteps -- or know someone else who might want an #AdventureWorthSharing -- click the link below or share this article with a friend.
This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Raleigh International.