A team of young Bermudians shared tales of transformation yesterday as Raleigh Bermuda started recruiting for its 2018 programme.
Donnikae Baker, 19, said her summer in Borneo was a “once- in-a-lifetime opportunity”.
She added: “Everything else, you can always get back to. You can never go back to experience this; you have to do it now.”
Trekking and lugging cement and gravel for community work pushed Donnikae to the limit, but she said she came away “knowing that I can do it and it’s not that hard”.
Layla Stewart, 18, signed up for Raleigh with best friend X-onna Stevens and visited Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
She said she had little travel experience and taking the plunge was “a big deal”.
Layla added: “I wanted to meet new people and experience new things. All my life has been in the comfort zone, and Raleigh is all about going beyond that.”
She said she battled homesickness and found, despite the gruelling exercise, that “Raleigh isn’t physical, it’s a mental thing”.
Layla added: “If you tell yourself you can do it, you can.”
She said that living with a local community also offered a chance to improve her Spanish.
Raleigh alumni often stay on and, like many others, Layla said she hoped to become a project manager for other groups.
Keisha Butterfield, 19, said she had to reach into herself to trek through the heat and rainforests of Borneo this summer.
She said reaching mountaintops and looking back across the countryside she had crossed was a “wow — I made it” moment.
Rickie Williams, 17, went to Nepal for the physical challenge, but was also keen to meet new people after her sister Seleta, who earlier visited Borneo with Raleigh, told her: “It’s time to sign up.”
She added: “I really want to venture again. I want to be a girl version of David.”
David Simmons is Raleigh Bermuda’s top venturer, having made several journeys to faraway parts of the world.
Rickie said she learnt patience from a little girl, Dipa, in a remote village, and picked up snippets of Nepali that stayed with her.
Milvin DeRosa, 18, also visited Costa Rica and Nicaragua and went beyond his personal limits in tough climbs to forge friendships with local people.
Milvin said he got the “Raleigh blues” on his return home and that the organisation works with its venturers to help them transition back to normal life.
Demetria Packwood, 25, an aspiring nurse, said she had previously travelled for community work in Africa and South America before but applied to Raleigh Bermuda after the information session at the start of this year and went to Nepal.
She added that community work, like the installation of plumbing, was a project “worked out in stages”.
She added she was impressed by Raleigh’s sustainable development goals, set down by the United Nations.
She added: “I love everyone I’ve met in Raleigh Bermuda. We’re like different flavours that come together to make great food.”
Asanté Darrell, 19, had to “dig deeper in my life” in Borneo to get the strength to press through his trek.
He signed up for Raleigh after a stint with Habitat for Humanity,
Asanté said he looked at the Raleigh programme and said: “This is what I’m doing. I’m going for this.”
In remote villages he found every part of the community working towards basic goals.
Asanté said: “These were humble people trying to get to the same thing and it was enlightening to meet them.”
Tina Nash, executive director of Raleigh Bermuda, singled out Keri Pacheco of the 2013 Tanzania expedition for volunteering as a project manager with Raleigh Borneo, and Neville Vanderpool from Borneo 2014, who was this year’s project manager with Raleigh Nepal.
Both spent 13 weeks looking after the latest recruits.
To learn more about Raleigh Bermuda and its stories of personal transformation, see the group’s Facebook page.
Raleigh Bermuda is for locals aged 17 to 24 who want life-changing experiences.
To attend an information session, contact Ms Nash at email@example.com, or at 333-5678.