What started as one man’s vision of providing preschool to the indigenous children of Bahia Honda has blossomed into the leading educational nonprofit organization of Bocas del Toro serving eight communities on five of the islands. Now in its sixth year of operation, Give & Surf continues to grow and expand its programs, projects, and services and 2017 is already looking like it’ll be the best year yet!
In 2016, Give & Surf constructed a two classroom expansion complete with solar powered electricity at the Boca del Drago school, built a teacher’s house in Solarte, and added a children’s playground & water system to the Bahia Roja community. They also opened the Old Bank Community Center which has an infocenter run by the local government that is open seven days per week and has extracurricular activities for children provided by local and international volunteers. Furthermore, the higher education scholarship program expanded awarding over 40 students with scholarships to attend high school and university, and the English as a Second Language classes and other extracurricular programs exponentially grew thanks to more volunteers and partnerships with local businesses. All of this was above and beyond the “normal” operations of the year-round preschool & kindergarten “Escuelita” in Bahia Roja and Bahia Honda which were the flagship programs started in 2011.
While one might think eventually things will slow down, exactly the opposite is happening. One door after another continues to open as more people both locally and internationally get involved and understand the impact Give & Surf has and the needs of the local communities. As a tourist or even local living in town, it’s easy to forget that there are impoverished communities throughout the archipelago without electricity and running water and limited access to education and medical care. “The keys in making decisions on what projects and programs to take on are ensuring that they are community driven and sustainable,” says Give & Surf president & founder, Neil Christiansen. “The last thing we want to do is give something to a community that they don’t need or want or that’s going to stop a year from now because it’s not sustainable.” More volunteers, international organizations, local businesses, and government agencies are partnering with Give & Surf which helps to sustainably facilitate the expansion of educational programs and projects.
So what will 2017 bring? “Who knows?” asks Neil, partially joking, “We have all these amazing plans already but recently we’ve been blown away by new things popping up throughout the year. It’s certainly taught us to dream big. We went from serving a couple of dozen students to hundreds now so it just seems logical that we’ll continue to keep growing until we ensure that all Bocas’ students have access to education from preschool through university.” Thus far in 2017, Give & Surf has already broken ground on a new community center & computer lab in San Cristobal and is also slated to add a school addition to the Cristobal school in March. The new summer camp and after-school program in Old Bank launched in January and the extracurricular class offerings continues to expand as more teachers & instructors volunteer their time to give back to the local communities. They’ve also received funding to support the installation of solar panels and purchase of laptops for several schools and community centers.
Despite its growth, Give & Surf remains a small nonprofit that operates solely in Bocas del Toro that is driven by volunteers and the generosity of its donors. “Every dollar makes a difference,” states Christiansen. “We don’t have one sole funder that supports us. We rely on every donation and every volunteer to make what we do possible. We are sustainable in our growth because every year more people commit to being part of the Give & Surf family. We are committed to investing our resources right back in the communities we love and serve.”
So how can you help?
Visit Give & Surf’s website www.giveandsurf.org/donate to make a donation.
Volunteer your time by helping to teach a class.
Mark your calendar! Our 4th Annual Back-to-School Event on February 11th:
Surf Contest at Paki Point starting at 9am,
and Live Music & Silent Auction from 7-11pm at Bocas Bambu Beach Restaurant.
To donate, volunteer, or learn more, contact Emily Talentino
at email@example.com or +507 6955-6804.