Welcome to the official blog for Raleigh India 12I | July - August 2012

Welcome to the Official Blog for Raleigh India 12J September - December 2012.

Thursday 27 September 2012

PM Phase 1 Project Allocations are Announced

After a fun 2012 Olympics quiz hosted by George yesterday evening, Simon suddenly announced that nail biting could cease, as he was ready to announce the allocation of PMs to projects for Phase 1 of the expedition.

These are:

Charlie 1 – Jenny, Hannah and George

Echo 3 – Sarah and Emma

Tango 5 – Harry, Lou and Jess

Tango 6 – Alex, Laura and Blair

Wednesday 26 September 2012

VMs and PMs Start Intensive Field Training

Sunday saw the start of the practical skills training for the PMs and VMs. This will equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to run their projects in the field when the Venturers arrive in two weeks’ time.

Sunday’s sessions focused on communications, casualty procedures and kit packing ready for the first expedition into the field – trek training.

This began at 06.00 on Monday when we all set off, rucksacks suitably laden, for a 12-kilometer trek and an overnight stay under canvas.
Trekking through the local countryside
To the delight of all, this involved walking through local villages, in one of which we became quite an attraction. Stopping for some local tea (chai) in the village square, we were joined by what seemed like most of the village children and a number of adults.

Local children welcoming the Raleigh trekkers
For a reason as yet unclear, Blair and a local man decided to engage in an (amicable) arm wrestling contest, which Blair won. To restore honour (and possibly avoid Blair being voted the new village strongman), the man then challenged him to a stone lifting and squatting contest, which Blair politely declined. The medics in the team – Harry, Sarah, Alex and George - appeared visibly relieved!

Blair and a local strongman engaged in a friendly game of arm wrestling

The local strongman demonstrating his prowess
Refreshed by the chai and fascinated by this exposure to local culture, we resumed our trek. We eventually arrived - unlost thanks to navigators Laura and Lou - at our destination (a field) in time to set up camp before a lunch cooked on trangias. (Have a look at the RALEIGH LINGO section under ‘Pages’ in the column on the right for an explanation of any terms you don’t understand.)

'It's not much but it's home - well, for a night anyway'
Having satisfied one bodily need, after lunch we set about constructing a temporary facility – known as a ‘long drop’ to meet other bodily functions best glossed over.

The team constructing a long drop
This was followed by the swim test for the PMs in the nearby river – the same as that done by most of the VMs last week. Yours truly, having done the test last week, had the enjoyable task of floating along on a rubber tyre as part of the safety precautions, these being a key feature of all Raleigh activities.

Graham about to start a restful float watching the PMs on their swim test
After a welcome and tasty ‘boil in the bag’ dinner we settled for an evening’s conversation over a campfire, followed by an early night ready for another early start.

Tuesday morning saw us enjoying a porridge breakfast, dismantling the tents and long drop, and doing a brief ‘energizer’ – a Raleigh feature of all expeditions, in this instance a game of dwarfs, giants and dragons. At exactly 08.00 we set off to resume our trek.

A simple trek back to Fieldbase? Oh no. Hardly had we started when Dave emitted an ear-piercing scream and ‘collapsed’. After a second’s real concern, we realized he was acting and that this was a CASEVAC (casualty evacuation) exercise that had been sprung on us.

'Saving Dave' - the CASEVAC exercise underway
George, who was leading the team at the time (and is a medic), handled the situation with admirable calm, supported by an enthusiastic team performing delegated roles, and within an hour Dave had been reassured, bandaged, cursed at for not being lighter (not part of the formal exercise), and stretchered to an ‘ambulance’ in the form of the Raleigh bus.

Dave visibly relieved at his remarkably speedy and full recovery
After a debrief we returned by bus to Fieldbase and hot showers. After lunch came a spell of R&R in the form of a sightseeing visit to Mysore and an enjoyable dinner there.

The PMs are keenly awaiting the announcement of who will be working with whom on which project. Watch this space …

Saturday 22 September 2012

Project Managers Arrive at Fieldbase

Preparations for Expedition 12J moved up a gear this morning with the arrival of our ten Project Managers (PMs). They were collected from Bangalore airport bright and early (or should that be jetlagged and early?) this morning by Harry, Ruth and Kallam.

Raleigh India's Country Director Mark Ashby prepares to welcome the the new arrivals.
 On arrival at Fieldbase they were given the traditional Indian welcome of garlands and red dots on the forehead. This was followed by introductions, a tour of Fieldbase, a curry lunch and a gentle afternoon’s admin and briefing together with the VMs.

Ten happy and welcome PMs.

Mark, Simon and Paul briefing the PMs and VMs on the next couple of weeks' programme.

As I write, they are relaxing in the late afternoon sunshine and considering who has the energy for a game of volleyball before dinner.

The intensive two weeks’ training prior to the arrival of the Venturers in two weeks’ time starts tomorrow morning.

Look out for more news once the training has started.

Friday 21 September 2012

Advance Party Hits the Ground Running

Our first week at Fieldbase is drawing to a close and we’re preparing to welcome the ten Project Managers (PMs) due to arrive tomorrow. We’ve been getting to know each other, learning our various roles, and enjoying some of the pleasures of India. We’re all are now more or less up to speed with our roles and are starting to do the things we’re out here to do.

The Fieldbase office - an idyllic rural environment.
Anna has been very busy sorting out the logistics (‘logs’). Yesterday and today she’s been providing entertainment by trying to erect and quality check all the tents to be used for trek training next week.

Gemma has been making sure that everything is properly documented and, more importantly, opened the Fieldbase shop yesterday. Sadly no first-day discounts but it was a treat to be able to buy chocolate, toiletries and Raleigh T-shirts.

Harry has been doing the medical one-to-one interviews and checking that we have all the medical kit needed for the next three months. Happily no casualties anywhere as yet!

Ruth has spent a studious week learning more about previous Raleigh projects in India. She’ll soon be out and about evaluating the effects they’ve had. This will provide valuable feedback to ensure that Raleigh brings real, lasting benefits to the local communities.

David has been very active taking pictures of pretty well everything we’ve seen and done so far. He also has some great ideas for videos and slideshows to add to the fun for the Venturers when they arrive.

Graham (that’s me) has been working closely with David planning presentations and the magazine and merchandise pack to serve as mementoes for all at the end of the expedition. Also, you’ll have noticed that the blog is up and running. An honourable mention at this point to Anna’s mum for posting the first comment. Thanks, and Anna looks forward to many more!

Just to remind you that you can send a message to your friends or loved ones on Expedition here by posting a comment stating the person’s name and team, and we’ll see that it reaches them as soon as possible.

On the social side, we spent a delightful evening at Theja’s parents house in Mysore. Theja is the Host Country Venturer Coordinator here. We were invited to her parents for an Indian meal to celebrate the festival of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god.

Theja welcoming us to her parents' house.

Indian hospitality at Theja's parents' house decorated for the Ganesha festival.

We spent an enjoyable afternoon in the nearby town of Mysore, visiting local suppliers and also the local market. Anna even had an opportunity to make an incense stick!

Anna being shown how to make an incense stick in Mysore market.
The VMs, Simon and Paul with a happy incense and aromatic oils trader.

We’ve had two contrasting swimming experiences. The first was in the pool of the impressive colonial style Lalitha Mahal Palace hotel in Mysore. The second was our swim test in a river not far from Fieldbase. We entered the river next to some bemused local women washing their clothes and men washing their cattle! Our Health and Safety briefing given there by Simon, the Country Expedition Manager, was the subject of earnest attention by a group of the village children.

Yesterday evening was spent playing volleyball, where a variety of talent was on show. Good for team-building if not score-building!

Lastly, some comments on what’s particularly impressed the VMs this week:

All – visit to Theja’s house for the Ganesha festival and the visit to the market

Gemma – proper beds and ‘facilities’

Ruth – hot water in the (bucket) shower

Anna – the river swim and making the incense stick

Harry – ‘proper’ tent and flushing toilet

David – the curries

Graham – the river swim

Look out for the next update when the PMs have arrived!

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Advance Party Arrives at Fieldbase

In the (very) early hours of Saturday 15 September, the advance party of six Volunteer Managers (VMs) arrived at Bangalore airport ready for the five-hour bus trip to Fieldbase near Mysore.

Anna, Gemma, Harry (Harriet), David and Graham had flown in from London, while Ruth had arrived from Singapore.

After a traditional Indian welcome of garlands and red dye on our foreheads, and introductions to some of the resident Indian and British Raleigh staff, we were treated to a tour of Fieldbase, our ‘home’ for the next three months.

During our first week we have been getting to know each other, learning and starting our new jobs and enjoying some cultural visits in the local area. The training programme for the Project Managers (PMs), who will arrive on Friday, is well underway.

Yathish, Paul, Anna, Harry, Simon (top), Kalam, Ruth, Theja, Gemma, Graham and Swarmana pose by the bus which brought us from the airport to Fieldbase. David is the one behind the camera!

Here are a few words from each of the new VMs:

Anna (Logistics Manager)

‘I’m Anna, the Logistics Manager for our expedition, known around here as ‘Logs’. It’s my job to make sure everyone has everything they need to do their job, from honey to hard hats and tea to toilet paper!

I’ll be asking the PMs to help by recognizing the value of Raleigh’s investment in supplying the gear, using equipment and food sensibly, and inspiring the Venturers to return things in the same condition as they’d like to receive them. 

As the Aussie on the team, I bring a love of cricket, a laid back attitude, a sense of humour and an apparently hilarious accent!’

Gemma (Administrator)

‘I’m Gemma, the Administrator for 12J. My role is to do all the boring but necessary paperwork, to keep us stocked up with stationery and to manage the shop. If people need anything that isn’t in stock, I’ll try to find it for them. I’ll also lock up people’s valuables for them.

I’ve come to Raleigh because I was living in the USA but my visa expired. So I decided to do Raleigh until I figure out the rest of my life!’

Harry (Medic)

‘I’m Harry, your advanced medic. I’m here to look after everyone (hopefully!)

This is my first time in India and I’m loving having a break from hospital work in the UK. I love travel, so will be happy to hear about people’s holidays anytime!

Stay well!’

Ruth (Monitoring and Evaluation Officer)

‘Hi! This is Ruth, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of 12J. My role is to assess the impact that Raleigh’s projects have on the communities, through interviews and focus group discussions.

Sounds boring? Not at all! This involves first-hand interaction with local people, be it over a cup of chai in the comfort of their home or during their breaktime at work amidst the beautiful tea plantation. I’ll be looking for Venturers to join me who want to gain real insights from the people they are working with.

Coming from the small island of Singapore, I look forward to this Raleigh experience as a break from my city lifestyle that will help me to slow down and appreciate the finer things in life.’

David (Photographer)

‘Hi! I’m David, your friendly (and slightly tortuous) expedition photographer. My job is to document everything that goes on both for Raleigh and for participants. If I can provide team members with mementoes of their time on expedition to take away, then my job is pretty much done.

Venturers and PMs can help me by taking pictures themselves and passing them on to me. I look forward to receiving some awesome ones!

I came to India with Raleigh to experience something new and challenging, different from the day-to-day photo and video work I do at home. This mostly involves messing about like a big child with a camera.’

Graham (Communications Officer)

'Hi. I’m Graham, and my job includes updating the expedition blog (around twice a week); producing a magazine for people to take away at the end of the expedition, an Expedition 12J T-shirt and some other mementoes, and a set of case studies for the people at Raleigh head office to use as a marketing tool. Much of my work involves close cooperation with Dave.

We’ll be on the lookout for stories, anecdotes and images from Venturers and PMs to help bring the blog and magazine to life - a chance for them to get their name in lights and make their loved ones proud!

I came to Raleigh India to try to refresh my creative juices and to make a difference, albeit in a small way.’

WELCOME TO EXPEDITION 12J - How to use the blog & what you can expect

My name is Graham and I’ll be keeping you all up to date with regular updates about our teams on Expedition 12J. You can use this blog to keep up with all the news from our teams on the community and environmental projects and on trek, and from our team at Fieldbase.

This will also be the best way to communicate all non-urgent messages to your family or friends in the teams. Post a comment below any post stating the person’s name and team and we’ll see that it reaches them as soon as possible.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on what is going to be an exceptional experience for all involved. There will be more to come very soon.