Surfing With A Purpose
Hey SurfAid, thank you for spending the time in chatting with us today about your mission! We’re excited to share your vision and excitement with the world.
Thank you for having us– one of my favourite things to do is share stories about SurfAid!
Firstly, give us your elevator pitch. ‘What is it that you actually do?’
SurfAid does three things: clean water, access to basic health care and improved nutrition in very remote villages close to world class surf breaks. We operate with a “hand up, not a hand out” philosophy, so empowering positive and sustainable behaviour change is at the core of all of our programs. I like to say we want to put ourselves out of business.
Where did your inspiration stem from?
Our founder, Dr Dave Jenkins took a surf trip to the Mentawai over 16 years ago. He visited some villages and was struck by the needless suffering and death caused by things for which there are simple, low-cost solutions – like washing your hands, breastfeeding your baby, sleeping under a mosquito net and feeding your child vegetables. He was so moved by what he saw, he quit his job, sold his house and connected with a bunch of Kiwi mates, to start SurfAid in 2000.
Have individuals amongst the communities shared some impactful stories with you about their lives? If so, can you please share one with us?
There are so many to choose from, but one of my most personal favourites is when I visited a village in Nias. Being a mother myself, I was drawn to speak to some of the teenage girls about their lives and hopes for the future. They said that before the SurfAid programs in the villages, their life path was only about getting married and having babies. Now, they see midwives, government health care workers and community members trained as volunteers in the community health clinic. Before SurfAid, their opportunities were limited, now there’s choices.
You’ve spent a lot of time invested in helping the aid of youth health in these communities. Is there the potential growth in helping educate them too?
All of our health programs have an education component. For example, when we do a clean water program, we include a hand washing campaign in the local schools. We look for creative ways to educate the children about healthy behaviour – using songs and other techniques. They take this education home and it helps drive the behaviour changes for their parents and siblings too.
How do you aim to create sustainable, long-term relationships with these communities in helping continue to provide them with clean water, insect nets etc.?
We build sustainability into all of our programs so that the communities do not need the constant presence and support of SurfAid. One of the best examples is clean water. SurfAid provides the technical expertise and hard materials – like pipes – that are not locally available. The community decides where the water taps should be located and then the community digs all the trenches and lays the pipes. Through this, they gain knowledge of how to fix it should something go wrong. They also gain a sense of real ownership of the facilities. Once the water is up and running, with a reliable source of water, we can help the communities plant vegetable gardens – both for improved nutrition and for an additional income source. If a pipe breaks, there is additional income to pay for it from the sale of surplus vegetables.
What have been some of the challenges in launching SurfAid (language barriers, not sure where help is needed etc.)?
We work in incredibly remote areas, so attracting and retaining good staff is a challenge. Often times, they live in the villages and might only go home to see their families every few months. They are incredibly inspiring to me!
What project is the team currently working on?
We are working on implementing mother-child health programs that encompass our core elements – clean water, access to basic health care and improved nutrition – to four areas in Indonesia – Nias, Mentawai, Sumba and Sumbawa
What has been your biggest ‘success’ to date?
In Nias, after 28 months of SurfAid’s program, we saw maternal deaths drop from 8 per year to zero. During that same period, deaths of children under five plummeted from 22 per year to just 5. Clearly, 5 too many, but on a visit in December 2016, we found that there had been no further maternal deaths and only one death of a child under 5. We are really proud that the programs are seeing significant results and truly saving lives.
What has been the most rewarding part about launching SurfAid Foundation?
Those results in Nias – to know that what we are doing in collaboration with our donors and supporters is working!
I’m sure that you’ve had the opportunity to meet some inspiring and well-known individuals since SurfAid all began, who are some of these people?
Our founder, Dr Dave Jenkins, who changed his life to change the life of others. So many of us visit these places and want to do something, but just get caught up in our daily lives and never actually do it. And the people in the field – both SurfAid staff and the community members that we are lucky enough to work alongside. They are brave and embrace change for the better – not always an easy thing to do!
And what’s the forecast for the next 12 months? Can you share any exciting info with us?
We are looking to continue to expand our programs. This year, we are working with over 50,000 people – a big number for us, so more clean water, more health care and better nutrition equals healthier mums and babies!
Thank you for taking the time in chatting with us today! We can’t wait to help spread the word and share your movement! SurfAid is a real inspiration to encourage us to lend a helping hand in doing something for the better good of this earth!
PHOTOGRAPHY: Fabian Von Holzen