Today’s blog comes from Katie Connor, the director of STN’s Ulu Pono program. To see more photos and read more about her life working with the kids of Wahiawa, visit her blog.
Do you remember your first piano recital or football game? The weeks of practice and the butterflies in your stomach? Do you remember looking up into the bleachers or squinting from the bright stage into the dark crowd? And there they were: the people who had pushed (maybe slightly forced) you to be there. They looked at you with love and pride, trying to mask their own anxiety for you. They belonged to you; they were your parents.
I remember many moments like this growing up and I long for those moments now when I’m living thousands of miles away. But the kids I work with don’t ever get moments like that. Maybe mom and dad are too busy, or gone completely, or just uninterested. Many of the kids have never been to a soccer practice or a ballet class. The street is where they spend their afternoons. The street and the Ulu Pono Kids Program. They may never hear their parents tell them how proud they were or that it was okay that they dropped the final pass. Often times it just isn’t a part of their culture. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t tell them we are proud of them! So this weekend, that is exactly what we did!
The Ohai Family Festival was a dream that we had cultivated for over a year before it came to pass. Many hours of dreaming, hoping, wishing and planning came to life in a beautiful afternoon. For four hours last Saturda,y everything was about the kids. The games, the prizes, the music, the shave ice. All because we were proud of them and we loved them.
Half way through the afternoon, we awarded each child from the program a “Character Award” they were called up on stage in front of everyone and amazingly there were even some parents in the crowd. They got a hug, a certificate, encouragement and an affirmation by different staff members. Most of them got really shy about it, red cheeked and squirming they got on stage and while they acted like they wanted to run off the stage, I know them better than that. They love, love. Don’t we all?
It’s hard to gauge success when working with kids. How do you measure “getting into less trouble” or “headed on a better path”? Three days after the festival, I went to pick up a 5 year old boy from his home. I know his parents well and his mom had come to the festival. I walked through the living room that consists of several mattresses and barely enough room to walk and picked up his baby sister out of the crib. That’s when I spotted it. His purple certificate pinned amongst the mess up on the wall. My heart swelled with pride and I choked up as the reality that his parents had taken the time to make sure his award was hung really sunk in. That is the kind of “success” I want to see. The kind that transforms an entire family from the inside out. -KC
The Surfers Coffee Bar got an extra jolt last Friday morning with a visit from Stumptown’s very own David George. This seven-year veteran with Stumptown Coffee Roasters took the five hour flight from Portland to Wahiawa to up the expertise of the already “Top 10 Coffee Shops in Hawaii” placeholder.
SCB Barsita, Karen Domingo was thrilled to have the opportunity, and recognizes the benefits it will have on Surfers Coffe Bar: ”"In general, I think it was important that all of our baristas were trained together. Not only do we know we’re on the same page, but we’re all following the same high standards. David is a good teacher- he taught us important barista basics- from from pulling a great shot if espresso, to steaming milk, making latte art, brewing a simple pourover, and properly caring for our machines. He even explained more about Stumptown as a company. Since we are a non-profit, it was key for us to know the good work behind Stumptown’s good coffee. They know their farmers and give them fair wages directly, which in turn has given the farmer’s communities a better quality of life (education, medical support, proper housing). When we use our motto “more than a cup of coffee” we know that we’re not just helping our home community, but we’re supporting other communities worldwide.
We invite you to come in and take a seat as we warm up your mornings with a perfectly poured Americano. The Surfer’s Coffee Bar is stoked to serve StumpTown Coffee Roasters with excellence by our trained full time volunteer staff. Whether or not you’re the coffee connoisseur that can identify the origin, aroma and taste of the pulled shot of coffee in your cup; or you’re the simple kind that just needs a cup of joe and a bagel to go, The Surfers Coffee Bar is ready to serve you! Mahalo to Stumptown Coffee Roasters for helping us bring Wahiawa a better cup of coffee!
Iconic Hawaiian artist Clark Takashima tragically passed away last weekend and here at STN we are saddened by the loss of this friend and supporter. Clark was not only a famous surf artist on the island, but had a heart to give back through his passion. He was a returning headline artist in several of our art shows and generously donated a portion of the sales made to our kids’ program, Ulu Pono.
Mahalo for your contribution to art on the island and being part of inspiring the kids in this at-risk neighborhood to pursue art.
We are so grateful for the people that believe in transformation and hope, and our efforts would be fruitless without them. Below are the contents of a special note we received recently from such a person:
“Dear Mr. Bauer,
So much positive changes are occurring right in front of our eyes because of your determined efforts! We are all beginning to set claims and pride on our residency in what is becoming the beautiful Wahiawa we always hope for, despite numerous negative issues. Your efforts are too often overlooked by us. Many decent businesses are now willing to “chance” Wahiawa while earlier we were overlooked as a possible risk.
This Spring, Surfing The Nations embarks on their 10th annual Bangladesh Surfing Adventure, from April 9th until May 3rd. The team will be venturing to the outer island of St. Martin, as well as surfing Cox’s Bazar, and holding the annual Freedom Surf Contest, the only surf contest in the country.
In keeping with their mission of giving back, the team is collecting surf gear and clothing for the surf club in Cox’s Bazar, and also bringing clothing and supplies to the Burmese refugee population.
It is incredible to see how the sport has grown since STN first started to go to Bangladesh in 2004, and even more fascinating to see how surfing has impacted Bengali girls. Nasima is one of those girls whom STN has had the privilege to introduce surfing to.
Filmmaker Heather Kessinger was inspired to capture the story of Nasima and give a glimpse into the life of the young women in Bangladesh. The final leg of the film entitled ‘The Most Fearless’ will include footage from the Freedom Surf Contest.
Check out the trailer for ‘The Most Fearless’ below and watch this space for more updates on the trip!
(Don’t forget to follow us on instagram @surfingthenations and watch the hashtag #stngo for photo updates!)
In the end of 2013, STN went on their first ‘pioneer’ trip to Turkey. Today, staff member Gisele Pitot shares a little about the trip:
“When I think of a pioneer I picture a David Livingstone-esque character: grizzly and sweaty, hacking through the jungle with a machete while mosquitos feast on him. I picture safari hats and lot of khaki. But on an STN pioneer trip, things look a little different (although we still had some grizzly men!). Skateboards, stickers, cameras, GPS signals and the odd map were our tools in our very first trip to the Eurasian country of Turkey.
We left the American turkeys behind us as we flew out of Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day last year, setting off on a 25-day adventure to this foreign land. Our crew of 11 came from as far as Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Hawaii, North Carolina and Canada but we all had the same question in common – is Turkey a place where the message of “Surfers Giving Back” can thrive? And besides the lack of waves (this is where the skating came in) the answer was a resounding ‘yes’!
There are only 25 surfers in the entire country of Turkey. The surf community is slowly growing and their enthusiasm for surfing cannot be matched. In places where the surf industry is already booming, there are also negative habits and lifestyles that often follow. Yet, Turkey remians untouched by the dark sides of surf culture. The surfing lifestyle there is healthy and positive. When the waves weren’t good, we grabbed skateboards and spent time hanging out with locals, skating any ramp or street we could. The friends we made were not only passionate about board riding but also about using their passion of surfing to bring unity and positive change in their communities.
From the epic history of Istanbul and Ephesus, the beautiful relationships built with the surfers of the Black Sea and the Danube Surf Academy, all the way down to the sunny southern Mediterranean city of Alanya, this was a trip to remember. We are stoked to return to Turkey and give back through surfing in 2014!” -GP
Here are a few photos from the trip. View the entire set on our Flickr!
In the recent film ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, Walter lives a life of daydreams amidst his grey cubicle. Finally, in dramatic fashion, Walter breaks out of the routine and jumps into a new life of travel and adventure in the unknown.
The Christmas Day release of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty was timely, serving as an inspiration for people to follow their dreams in 2014. We’ve all made resolutions, set goals and entered into a new year, a seemingly emboldened people. This year, we invite you to break out of your comfort zone of what you know, and even further, to break out of the cycle of living for yourself, and give your time to help others.
Join us on one of our 2014 international trips, incorporating surfing and giving back. You’ll get the local experience in amazing places! Surf unlikely spots Bangladesh and famous breaks in Indonesia, give back to communities in need in the Philippines, go on a jungle safari in Sri Lanka, or explore ancient wonders in the Middle East.
This could be your year to see your daydreams take shape in reality!
Check out the International page for all the details on each trip. See you soon!
Photo: 20th Century Fox
Exactly a month ago, we told you about STN Staffer Brendon Johnson and his relief trip to the Philippines. Brendon, who was raised in the Philippines, embarked on December 8th on a four month trip to help those in the country he called home. Most media has quieted down regarding what was called the biggest storm in history. Today on the blog, we have a few stories straight from Brendon that are both reports of brighter days for the Filipinos, and reminders of the hard realities they’re still facing. -EJ
“Since we arrived in the town of Hernani on the coast of Eastern Samar, a pastor named Sam has been taking us around the town to introduce us to the locals here. Walking among all the washed out concrete houses and freshly assembled tents, it is very evident to see the effects the storm surge had on this place. Yet, all the people we meet are smiling, upbeat, and carrying on with the day’s chores or activities. It is really amazing to see how the people here make do with what they have, regardless of what has been evidently been taken away from them.
One local we met is Fredrick, a young married man and father to a six-month old. Fredrick is a part-time fisherman who is now devoting most of his time to collecting scrap metal left scattered around what used to be his house. He and his family now have a shanty style shelter setup next to a relief tent. They only use the tent during the night, since it is too hot under the heat of daylight. Fredrick and his family have a lot to be thankful for in spite of their current living conditions. Fredrick explained to us that during the peak intensity of the storm, he and his family took shelter in the school across the street from their house. Moments later, a 30 foot storm surge came up the beach and swept their house away. As the waves made their way to the somewhat protected concrete school rooms, Fredrick and the other townspeople were caught swirling around in the turbulent water. With quick thinking, Fredrick then fled with his family across a courtyard to a more protected church, where they waited out the rest of the storm. Fredrick said that not everyone was so lucky, since he knows of at least one baby that died during the whole devastating ordeal.
For this family, there is a lot to think about with such a traumatizing experience still fresh in their minds. Even when the wind picks up from time to time here, Fredrick says that he still gets nervous and can have trouble sleeping.But Fredrick and his wife say that they are blessed just to be together and that they can still make a living. The Global Crisis Response Team I’m working with was able to make a small provision by lending Fredrick some tools to help his recycling work. Fredrick used these to make quick work on some buried metal. Life goes on for this special family, and they know that they are not alone in this relief effort.”
“Below is a photo of from the town of Santa Fe. Santa Fe’s school (and basically all the other schools on the island) was heavily damaged. While repairs are being done by foreign aid, you can see the tents where classes are being held. This really good to see, as families return to a somewhat normal routine of daily life. ”
Aloha for Hawaii Charities (AHC) is a unique fundraising opportunity in which charities selected by the Friends Of Hawaii Charities can raise funds through the community’s involvement.
Through AHC, Friends Of Hawaii Charities plans to match a portion of individual donations in an amount to be determined by the Friends of Hawaii Charities.
The Friends Of Hawaii Charities has played a huge role in the transformation of lower Wahiawa and bringing hope to the neighborhood. Specifically, the grants received from FOHC have helped to start and sustain the Ulu Pono after school program. Through this support, dozens of at-risk youth have received tutoring, lessons in art, dance, and music, as well as mentorship and a safe place to enjoy childhood.
The funds received from this Aloha for Hawaii Charities fundraiser will go towards the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the STN headquarters.
The donation period is now through January 12, 2014, 4:00 PM HST.
To give, visit http://www.friendsofhawaii.org/aloha-hawaii-charities and select ‘ Surfing The Nations’ on their list of charities when prompted.
Thank you for making this holiday season one of Aloha!