Project Orion IX - Rovering with Turtles
Project Orion IX
Rovering with Turtles
Having joined 2 past Orion projects, I was thrilled to be able to join the project team again. I participated in the entire duration of Project Orion VI in 2015 and was inspired by how close and hands-on we were with the community work in Setiu. At first, 3 years ago I thought Project Orion was only a turtle conservation project and that we would mainly be spending time looking after work related to turtle conservation. However, the previous project experience opened my eyes to the reality that it is not just about conserving the turtles directly, but also indirectly through efforts done to improve the quality of life and awareness of the surrounding community. I've always wanted to come back whenever I could take long breaks away from my usual routine, and I went back once for 3 days (in 2016) and had always been waiting for an opportunity to join the full project again, which finally happened in 2018.
2. Learn & Decide
Before heading for the project, I also had to update myself on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the United Nations as during my Discovery Workshop, we learnt the older Millenium Development Goals instead. Through the Scouts.org portal, I also learnt how Scouts are making huge efforts in playing our part as a global citizen to move everyone closer to the SDGs. I was very sure that Project Orion is one of the long-term projects commited to making an impact in the local community. Equipped with the inspiration, knowledge and experience, I was ready to head over for Project Orion IX and another dose of eye-opening awareness.
Finally, on 10-24th June 2018, the team headed over to Kampung Mangkok in Setiu, Terengganu. Among the activities we carried out there were:
- Beach Patrol
- Nest Excavations
- Mangrove Seedling Planting
- Construction projects for the local villagers
- Hari Raya Celebrations
- Learning how to make Wau (traditional kite) and Keropok Lekor (traditional snack)
Throughout the project, we worked with a local chapter of the conservation group, WWF Malaysia, to ensure that our efforts and project was in tandem with the ongoing conservation and sustainable efforts being conducted by WWF.
Beach Patrols were conducted at nights - the rangers do this regularly during nesting season for the purpose of keeping the turtle eggs, which are still considered a local delicacy, safe from poachers. Besides keeping poachers away from the beaches, the eggs are also collected and transferred to a nearby hatchery which provides a safer and constantly monitored atmosphere to enable the eggs to hatch well.
At the hatchery, nest excavations are done to ensure that all hatched eggs are accounted for (by counting the eggshells) and unhatched eggs are then cracked open to determine the cause e.g. virus, eaten by crab, etc. This data helps WWF monitor the situation and environment.
We also learnt how to prepare mangrove seedlings for planting. The previous time I was here, we went to a jetty area to pick up wild mangrove seedlings and planted them in plant bags, but this time we learnt about an innovative new method by a villager, Pak Mi, in which he is able to grow and fertilise the seeds in bulk without using much space.
The other highlight of our project was providing additional manpower and assistance in various construction projects around the village. As the village is small, there are a few local contractors who are usually assisted only by the villagers themselves. Hence, progress of construction is usually slow. Furthermore, as it was fasting month, the working hours were shorter to cater for their physical needs and recuperation. Our added manpower was useful to them to complete their projects, which will eventually be income-generating such as at a laksa stall, the expansion of the local provision store and also helping to cement the floor of one of the food stalls. Besides that, we also built a toilet for the future generations of Project Orion and other volunteers who may come over to the village in future.
The rest of the activities were mainly learning about and experiencing local culture such as Wau (traditional kite) making and learning how to cook Keropok Lekor (a traditional fish paste snack). We also joined in the Hari Raya festivities, in which on the 2nd day, we treated 100 villagers to lunch in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Rover Scouts.
Upon my return to Kuala Lumpur, I was contacted by Kate from the World Scout Bureau HQ to share about my experience in Project Orion. The interview was conducted on 19 July 2018 at WSB's Kuala Lumpur office. Through this interview and subsequent publication of the article on their website, I was able to play my part in sharing what Project Orion is all about and what I have learnt from the project in terms of sustainable community, no poverty, life below water and gender equality, being the SDG's that are related to our project.