We are happy to announce that Bodhi Surf School has received the January 2011 “Making a Difference” award from SustainableTrip.org – a website launched by the Rainforest Alliance that promotes sustainable tourism businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean to travelers, tour operators, and travel agencies. Each month the editors of SustainableTrip.org select a tourism business that makes outstanding efforts in environmental conservation and contributes to the well-being of its local community. As communicated by Dipika Chawla from the Communications, Education & Marketing Division at Rainforest Alliance, “Bodhi Surf School stood out for its excellent community service programs and spirit of social responsibility.”
Throughout 2010 we have organized, participated in, and supported projects involving local youth, environmental education, technology, and sustainable development, among others. The following is a list and brief description of the projects we were involved with during 2010:
Grupo SURF is a community-based organization that seeks to empower local youth as agents of change. During 2010 the group, which is currently conformed of 15 sixth-grade students from the local elementary school “La For de Bahia”, was actively supported by three local businesses – La Cusinga Lodge, Bahia Aventuras, and Bodhi Surf School.
Between June and November of 2010 Grupo SURF held 17 workshops which included activities such as:
- community diagnostics
- creative writing
The purpose of these workshops is to build camaraderie and self-awareness amongst the children, as well as a sense of belonging and placement within the social web of their community. Worth noting is that eight of the 17 workshops were directly related to the Marino Ballena National Park. The park, which is the main tourist attraction of the region, is iconic for locals and foreigners alike. We believe it is important that the younger generations recognize the significant role of the park in both biological and monetary terms with the hope that they ensure its preservation.
As a result of the Grupo SURF Event that was held in June in San Diego, California, students were able to carry on with photography workshops. With the guidance of the OTL curriculum “Where I’m From”, students photographed images in their community and proceeded to write poems. The impact of such an activity is two-fold: students foster their creativity and writing skills while at the same time gaining a different perspective of their community.
The month of September was very busy for Grupo SURF as the students participated in the II Annual Whale Festival (hosted in Bahia Ballena), collaborated in beach clean-ups organized by the Terra Nostra Association and Conservation International as part of the international event known as Coastal Clean-up Day, and contributed to group discussions analyzing environmental issues presented in the movie “The Cove” which was screened during the whale festival with help from the KETO Foundation Costa Rica and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).
Members of Grupo SURF also participated in a GPS – GIS mapping project through which they have became more engaged with their community and aware of its development trends. Through the use of GPS units and computers (donated by GISETC), and GIS mapping software (donated by ESRI), the local youth are becoming more familiar and comfortable using different technological devices.
Continuing activities and future projects for Grupo SURF include:
- Starting a recycle center in Marino Ballena National Park
- Improving one classroom at the local elementary school
- Building and maintaining a school garden
- Improvement of the community park
- Improvement of the community center
A local recycling effort initiated by Bahia Aventuras and Bodhi Surf School. Glass, aluminum, plastic, and paper garbage are separated and the material is donated to the local elementary school. The school then sells the materials to different companies and invests that money into multiple school-based projects.
GPS – GIS Workshops
This project led by Holbrook Education, GISETC, and La Cusinga Lodge, aims to local businesses and community members learn how to use GPS and GIS technology to obtain information about their own community.
Boat tour operators and members of Grupo SURF received two one-week training courses. Tour operators began mapping the Marino Ballena National Park and its resources and are using their newly acquired GIS skills to improve their tourism services through map creation. Members of Grupo SURF are using their new knowledge to map their community and identify hot spots within their community where trash is prevalent. Bodhi Suf is also helping members of the local aqueduct organization coordinate a work plan during which major rivers and sources of water for the community are identified.
University of Denver – Triple Bottom Line
A project in which University of Denver Professional MBA students, members of Bahia Aventuras and Bodhi Surf worked together to help local boat tour operator, Bahia Aventuras, analyze, develop, and execute a sustainable business plan that takes into account the planet, people, and profit. The plan is currently being used to achieve the operator’s Costa Rica Tourism Declaration and Sustainable Tourism Certification.
Bodhi Surf organized activities for Case Western Reserve University students participating in their Costa Rica service learning project. Activities included a community walking tour to provide context for the group’s visit, discussions about community economic development, and the planting of 60 plants in and around the community of Bahia Ballena.
KETO Foundation – Best Practices for Sustainable Marine Tourism
Members of Bodhi Surf attend Best Practices for Sustainable Marine Tourism workshops and discussion groups imparted by the KETO Foundation Costa Rica. Pilar Salazar, a Bodhi Surf founder, is currently coordinating the work between the local boat tour operators and KETO.
MarViva Workshops – Marine Protected Areas
Bodhi Surf members have participated in workshops and community meetings held by MarViva, an organization committed to the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources through the promotion of marine protected areas.
Change Is In Motion
All of us at Bodhi Surf are proud of the fact that an organization such as SustainableTrip.org and the Rainforest Alliance have taken notice of our community work and strong belief in being a socially responsible company; however, all those mentioned in this post deserve the same recognition as well. We consider ourselves only a small piece of this puzzle, and without the help and support of other volunteers, groups, organizations, companies, as well as Bodhi Surf School clients, we would not be in a position to receive such an accolade. That being said, we are looking forward to what is in store for 2011 – the projects, the challenges, the experience, the partnerships, and of course the opportunity to Awaken your inner surfer.