Phua Siew Geck, who was the very first Singaporean to go on a Raleigh International expedition in 1985! The 24-year-old was selected during the inaugural selection weekend organised by pioneers like Ilsa Sharp and Robert.
Some background: After the success of Operation Drake, Operation Raleigh was started in 1984 as an ambitious, four-year scientific and archaeological project involving 4,000 volunteers onboard the Sir Walter Raleigh ship. Its success led to today’s Raleigh International expeditions.
Siew Geck, who now resides in Australia, recalls being based on land but went on the ship for meals and training. She also spoke to Colonel John Blashford-Snell, the explorer who founded Operation Drake with Prince Charles in 1978. Here are some of her memories of Raleigh. (P/S: We no longer conduct selection weekends and we have not handled snakes in decades!)
On her selection weekend: “The last challenge was to measure a python. I asked my partner to hold the head while I held the tail. Feedback from the selection team was that I showed leadership.”
On her expedition to Chile: “One of the scientific aims of our expedition was to survey the flamingoes in the Atacama Desert salt lakes. The physical challenges included desert treks, where it was freezing in the nights, cleaning up the Toconao Bell Tower and repairing schools. There were eye-opening experiences living in a remote desert village for six weeks, abseiling in the local ravines (scary!), and seeing mummies, which had been excavated for a museum.”
On friendship: “At the end of the day, it was the relationships that made the expedition extra meaningful. It wasn’t just the friendships but somehow being in the Raleigh family was being in a deeper relationship – the type where you can be yourself and no judgements are made. There is an invisible tie.”
Upon returning to Singapore, Siew Geck helped to organise a selection weekend and began volunteering in Singapore, as part of Raleigh’s “fourth challenge”. Today, she still keeps in touch with some Raleighians she met during her expedition and in Singapore.