The following is a Guest Post by Emily Ausubel, a Thinking Beyond Borders alumn (2009), about her perspective of the Grupo SURF community youth program in Uvita-Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica and her personal experience of volunteering with the local kids. Thank you Emily!
Helping to Inspire Future Ocean Guardians
In 2009 Siempre Unidos para Reforzar nuestro Futuro, more commonly known as Grupo SURF, was started by Bodhi Surf School founder Travis Bays in an effort to involve local youth in Bahia Ballena, Osa, Costa Rica in pertinent conservation issues in their community. He designed the program for students in the sixth grade, the junction at which there is a particularly high drop out rate.
Friends of Grupo SURF
SURF partners with local and foreign organizations such as the KETO Foundation, La Cusinga Lodge, Outside The Lens, Bahia Aventuras, GISETC, and Holbrook Education Travel to bring a variety of activities into the SURF curriculum. Students receive surf lessons and participate in photography and poetry exercises to encourage self-awareness and creativity. They go on rainforest walks and boat tours in the protected national parks, learn about sustainable tourism and marine conservation and how to use GIS and GPS tools to map the resources in their community.
The SURF Program
Over six months of weekly meetings, SURF students progress through the “Four Waves:” Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity, beginning with activities that connect them to their community and promote self-awareness. The students then gain skills of project design and management so that they can go on to plan and implement their own community projects. Finally, SURF students learn about the value of giving back to one’s community, and upon graduation from the program, they become mentors for the next generation of SURF youth.
Service with Grupo SURF
I worked with Travis during July and August, helping him compile resources to publicize the group and also spending time with the kids. The work I did with the children centered primarily on creative art activities in which I encouraged the children to view their community and the resources it contains from new perspectives. I held photography lessons and then took the children on walks around the community to shoot their own frames. I also facilitated nature art activities during which the children created collages solely using natural materials. One of the activities was a community diagnostic walk of Bahia Ballena-Uvita, in which I proposed to the kids a question about the community and then gave them the task of deciding where in town they could find the answer. The most difficult question proved to be the town’s population. We ended the tour with an asterisk next to the question and the decision to return to it another day. The next morning, I was walking into town when Maria Paula, a member of the SURF group, ran up to me, visibly excited. “Emily! My mother is going to the health center this afternoon, and I told her to ask Bahia Ballena’s population!” Maria Paula’s eagerness was rejuvenating and inspiring, revealing to me the potential of the children’s curiosity and persistence. Later that day, I found a small piece of torn paper on my pillow. “873”, it said.
Author: Emily Ausubel – Alumn Thinking Beyond Borders 2009