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Raleigh Bermuda: return of the adventurers

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Spirit of Bermuda: Jiqena Furqan gets digging in the jungles of Central America, courtesy of the Raleigh programme(Photograph supplied)

Another group of young Bermudians has returned home from transformative journeys around the globe, courtesy of the self-development programme Raleigh Bermuda.

“The change you see in people can be amazing,” said executive director Tina Nash.

“Young people come back as more independent, creative thinkers, more aware of the world and able to look critically at our community and see what they can do to make it a better place.”

Among them was Jermaé Paynter-Smith, 27, back from a “great, awesome, very busy” stint coordinating volunteers from around the world in Tanzania in East Africa.

“It was a little stressful, but with a team of five others it was great,” said Jermaé, who hopes ultimately to take Ms Nash’s place in Raleigh.

David Simmons, 21, marks a Raleigh Bermuda first, having ventured overseas twice.

Too young to stand as a leader, David went abroad at his own expense to volunteer.

“I don’t think I ever had an easier decision,” said David of joining Raleigh to go to Tanzania after graduating from the Berkeley Institute in 2013.

David’s brother had finished in 2007 after going to Namibia, and hearing his stories “gave me a longing to do something just as great if I had the chance”.

Nepal’s devastating Gorkha Earthquake in April 2015 settled it. Seeing that Raleigh was opening a programme there, David took it as a sign to go there and volunteer.

“This summer, I feel I sparked a passion,” he said.

“Over the last nine months I have worked with some amazing young Bermudians as an Alumni Mentor. Hopefully for the immediate future I can continue working with Raleigh Bermuda and continue giving Future groups this outlet of positivity. This programme means the world to me so hopefully I can continue to challenge and help grow my peers into strong, confident, productive citizens for Bermuda and the world.”

Calling the two expeditions “unmatchable”, David added: “If you are looking for something refreshing, a challenge, come out. Even if you’re unsure about the programme, come to an information night. Hear about what we do, hear about what you can get out of the programme, push yourself to come out to the first camp. The programme could just be everything you’re looking for.”

Makeda Yelle-Simmons, 21, hopes to travel to Africa through Raleigh after her own experience in Nepal, where she also worked on rebuilding homes.

“I didn’t have much growing up, but I definitely had more than people in Nepal,” she said. Like many of her cohorts, Makeda plans to remain involved with the programme as a volunteer manager.

David Lindo, 22, has come back from clearing jungle paths in Costa Rica’s Piedras Blancas national park, and trekking some 260km through Nicaragua.

“It was a chance to do something different rather than spending the summer here working,” he said. “We went out and made a difference, for myself and for others.”

David was part of a team that brought running water to the community of El Waylo, Nicaragua, an experience shared by 18-year-old Jordyn Ming, who found “the nature, the views, the different cultures” opened her mind to a bigger world.

Eighteen year-old Dillon Smith’s spell in Tanzania among the Hehe people showed his “another side of the world”.

“Just chilling with people in their villages, with people telling their stories, that’s what I liked the most,” he said. “Being one with nature, that was another thing. Being up there on top of a mountain — it was just crazy different from everything I’d known.”

KyAsia Scott-Fishenden, 21, can chat in Malay with 20 year-old Nassir Richardson after their arduous trekking in Borneo. Jobs included putting up solar panels in the rural community of Sungai Magandai, and helping to erect a suspension bridge in the rainforest.

“I never want to stop being a part of Raleigh,” KyAsia said, while Nassir advised: “Don’t have your mind set before you go out there. That summer was better than any I’ve ever had. I definitely want to go back out.”

Asiahné Joell, 18, joined Raleigh’s Costa Rica and Nicaragua expeditions after being “intrigued” by a presentation at her school, while Faheem Swan, also 18, found Central America an invigorating step outside his comfort zone: “For some people, this was the first time they got fresh water from a tap in their entire lives,” he said. “I felt a real accomplishment. I just felt free out there.”

Jiqena Furqan, 18, said it “surprised me mentally and physically”.

“If you’re not sure, then you have to do it,” she said. “You don’t want to live the rest of your life thinking what would have happened if you’d done it. You just do it.”

Meanwhile, venturers Corshanté Simmons, 20, and Jahson Fubler, 25, found a new perspective on life in Tanzania.

Fresh out of college, Corshanté realised that he didn’t know what he wanted to go with his life.

“I really thought it wasn’t going to change me, but it did. It opened my eyes to everything. People there can do so much with nothing. Coming from a 21 square mile island and then finding yourself in Africa — not a lot of people can say that.”

Agreed Jahson: “It just wasn’t what everybody says that Africa is. People there were happy, able to make the best out of the smallest things. Interacting with schoolkids really touched my heart.”

So taken is Jahson with his experience, in fact, that he plans to go back and live there for a year: a friend in the Serengeti offered him a job doing tours.

“Don’t be afraid to break your routine,” he said. “Just do it. It opens your mind.”

As Bermuda acquires more and more Raleigh alumni, the programme builds up its own community on the island, Ms Nash said.

“It creates a safe place for people to belong, with a sense of purpose. It’s a lifelong programme where they stay connected as a Raleigh family. We’re rebuilding our community one young Bermudian at a time. It’s something we do that’s unique.”

• Raleigh Bermuda has commenced recruitment for Bermudians aged 17 to 24 its 2017 programme. To learn more, go to their website at www.raleigh.bm

Citizens of the world: Raleigh venturer Dillon Smith makes a new friend in Tanzania(Photograph supplied)