Howard Stanton has a seriously colourful past which includes jungle and sea rescue; being the only white guy in a national kabaddi team; a hedonistic party boat and a suspicious fire at his mum and dad’s house. All I can say is that you have to meet Howard for a beer to find out more!
I met Howard through a friend-of-a-friend. I was looking for cool people and stuff to get involved with in Borneo and I ended up right up at the far north-west tip of Borneo in June 2011 and I offered Howard a hand with whatever he had going on.
Howard is a natural social entrepreneur although I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t know, or care, about the title. He works by instinct, and seems to get it exactly right.
He’s working on a number of ventures up at The Tip. He wants to build a secure future for himself for sure, but he has become completely embedded in the local community there which also benefits from his presence.
Howard has set up a restaurant close to the beach and paid for women from the local village to be trained in hospitality management to work in and run the place. They’re all super nice and are paid a very good local wage. The interesting thing is that Howard expects this area to become more developed for tourism in the future and knows there’s a good chance his staff will leave to take better paid jobs in bigger new establishments. He sees this as a win and not a loss – his business will grow if the area develops and it’s a win for the community if good new jobs go to local people and not to outsiders.
He’s also set up an eco-campsite and employed local people to build it for him, using traditional techniques to construct a dorm building in the style of a traditional long house. I am proud to have helped clear a load of stuff off the site, build some steps and a pathway there 🙂
The thing I found most incredible was the way Howard had become a local person. He could speak the local dialect of Bahasi Malay perfectly. I watched him instructing the workers on the site and had their full attention and respect. But the respect was two-way. By understanding the community and culture, he allowed them to work in their way (which was not always the most efficient by western standards!)
Thinking ahead to when the campsite was finished, Howard realised that there would be less work for the local people and so was working on ideas like creating handicrafts from the plentiful driftwood on the beach to give the people their own business.
From what I saw, this approach just came naturally to Howard and he just wouldn’t have done it any other way.