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. ”
When you spot Brendon Johnson in the lineup, one of the first things you’ll notice is the 8-rayed Filipino sun tattoo on his upper back.The second thing you might notice is how strange it is that this patriot of the Philippines looks nothing like a Filipino. With blonde hair, blue eyes and standing at over 6 feet tall,you have to wonder what the link is between this american caucasian and a cluster of islands on the other side of the world.
Brendon grew up in Cebu, Philippines as a child of missionary parents. His family provided a learning center to provide educational material, books and tutoring for children in need. After moving to the mainland for school and spending some time in the US Coast Guard, Brendon ended up in Hawaii at Surfing The Nations. Brendon’s love for the country he was raised in never weakened, and he, along with a few others, started to organize trips to the Philippines through STN. The vision of Surfing The Nations, to be surfers that give back that bring good to communities, was a perfect fit for meeting needs in the islands of the Philippines.
Just a few weeks ago, the storm of all storms hit the Philippines and the destruction was unveiled to the world. Help has been sent through several avenues to the places devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, and now, Brendon is committing the next few months to join in the effort to help the country he has called home for so many years.
Brendon is joining forces with a team called Reach Global that will be working in the southeastern side of Samar. One of his roles will include being a cultural mediator in the Filipino communities. As well as organizing communication, he’ll be helping out with whatever clean-up, rebuilding and anything else that is needed.
It doesn’t take much to love the Philippines/The natural beauty of the islands are outstanding, and eclipsing that is the warmth and kinndess of the Filipino people. But it does take sacrifice to go: to give money, energy, and time to get in the rubble and help rebuild. It takes willing people like Brendon to go, and behind him there must be a team of willing people to give.
The generosity of many has helped provide the funding for Brendon to fly to the Philippines and start work there. At the moment, he is still in need of $3,900 to be able to stay until March and invest time in more long-term projects.
We are sending him off from Hawaii on December 8th! If you’d like to be a part of the relief work in the Philippines, we can think of no better way than to help an outstanding guy like Brendon. We know he is going to be a great ambassador of hope, comfort and relief in this time.
If you’d like to donate to Brendon’s trip, simply go to the following link and donate securely through Surfers Church donately:
Most of my parents’ friends were working in foreign countries while I was growing up. When they’d make their occasional visits back to the USA, they would come over and have dinner with us. After dinner, the coffee would be made, the photos would come out, and the stories from far off lands would flow. I’d sit there wide-eyed as they described the adventures of making a foreign place home, learning the culture and loving the people.I remember seeing the photos of families living a very different life than I was. It was in those moments that I was exposed to the reality that there were so many kids my age living in harsh conditions, without any hope of things ever changing.
The brokenness of the world was laid before my eyes. But I was looking at it, and they were living it.
What could someone my age do about the plight of children in nations all over the world? An answer came when I started to see posters of something called Operation Christmas Child (OCC). OCC is a program run by humanitarian relief group called Samaritan’s Purse. To participate in Operation Christmas Child, you can pick an age category for either a boy or a girl and fill a shoebox with gifts. You could put a letter and a photo to your specific child if you wanted to, and after that, you just added your fee of $7.00 to cover shipping. It would then be sent to children in need all across the globe for Christmas.
Operation Christmas Child became one of the most exciting things about the holidays for me. It was a thrill to pick basic things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, school supplies, and adding the fun stuff like candy, toys, and books. As I followed my Mom through the store, I’d pick something up and imagine the certain girl I was shopping for holding that item. Long before I ever stepped onto third world country soil, I had gone there, in the aisles of a supermarket, through the visions of the shoebox and the child that would hold it.
For years I participated in Operation Christmas Child, even taking a few trips to the processing center in Charlotte, North Carolina, where thousands of boxes were being inspected and made ready for shipment.
In the Western world, we consider Christmas as a time to get the ‘goodies’ or ‘treats’; the extra stuff we won’r allow ourselves the indulgence of during the rest of the year. As I opened each shoe box, I saw that some of them were packed with socks, pencils, and other basic things that we might not be thrilled to find under our tree. But the longer I worked with OCC, the more stories I began to hear of kids that received a box with shoes that were just their size, or a child who had prayed for socks, and received a box with several pairs.
Now, Operation Christmas Child is in their 20th year. They’ve given gifts to millions of children, and I know that OCC was one of the reasons that my dreams grew to help people worldwide, as I saw the practical ways I could meet needs. Now, my full time career consists of doing work in that same realm.
This is national collection week for the shoeboxes. Now, through November 25th, you can find a drop-off location nearest to you and if you pay online, you can print out a barcode for your individual box and track it as it goes to your child!
All shoeboxes collected from Hawaii will be going to children in Nepal. Come visit us at Surfers Coffee Bar this week, drop your shoebox off and grab a great coffee at the same time!
Receiving hours for Surfers Coffee Bar:
Thursday- Saturday 7 AM- 7 PM
Sunday and Monday 7 AM- 12 PM
The Philippines is famous for its world-class break ‘Cloud 9′ on Siargao Island, secret surf spots and breathtaking nature. As amazing as the memories and the photos are, when the time comes for you to board that plane back to reality, you’ll want to bring back some things to remember your epic surf trip by (and maybe some stuff for those back home that couldn’t join in the adventure). Here, I’ll show you some non-cheesy souvenirs you can pick up in this amazing country:
1. Sarong- If you travel a lot, you know how valuable it is to have both a versatile item with you that also doesn’t take much space in a suitcase! Sarongs are perfect for beach days when you don’t want to carry a bulky towel and can serve as a towel, pillow, scarf, or super flimsy blanket when you’re traveling. One night I missed my flight and had to crash at the Rome airport. I was in the midst of traveling for a few days, so my sarong served as both a towel AND a blanket. Needless to say, it’s my new best friend.
2. Goggles- The Philippines is country made up of 7,000 islands, so the Filipino people have been watermen for centuries and made the gear to go along with their lifestyle. These goggles are about as simple as they can get, with a plastic coil, wooden frames, plastic lenses and thread. Yet they are unique and represent an innovative people. Grab some of these to bring back, as well as the handmade wooden fins they use to swim with!
3. Hammock- Not so much a traditional lazing hammock as it is a swinging hammock, these are everywhere on the trees on Siargao Island. The kids pile on them and swing as high as they can, and even though they don’t look so comfortable, you can definitely still find a sweet spot and get a good nap in. Don’t try to fit more than one adult in them though- one of the funniest memories we’ve had of our trip was of a hammock snapping from that very thing!
4. Cloud 9 candy bar- The surf break itself is named after this favorite candy bar, so you know it’s got to be good! Most people compare it to the taste of a Snickers bar. These are great gifts for your family and friends back home.
5. Shells (and things made out of shells)- The shells on the beaches of the Philippines are unreal! They are perfectly formed and covering the beach wherever you look. It’s easy to find some colorful, fun jewelry to have as a memory and for gifts.
6. Hand carved slingshots- I wouldn’t go into battle with one of these, but the simplicity of these slingshots are what makes them special. I have many memories of walking down the sandy roads of the village and seeing the kids playing with them. They represent both the playfulness and resourcefulness the Filipino people.
7 and 8) Shirt and bag from ARTWORK- On the way to our remote destination of Siargao, we had to wait a long time for our boat, and most of that waiting was done in shopping malls in Cebu. If you’ve ever been to a shopping mall in Asia, you know how overwhelming it can be, so we were fortunate enough to happen upon this rad store. ARTWORK is an 18 year old company that started out as a manufacturer that specialized in silk screen t-shirts but has now become a popular T-shirt retailer with complete clothing lines. We had no problem killing time as we looked at the many graphic designs influenced by art, music and pop culture.Some of my favorites were graphics that were made with masterpiece paintings morphed with different shapes and colors. From their bags down to their dressing rooms, ARTWORK is full of fresh, unique design. Their website definitely doesn’t do them justice, but check it out at artwork.ph
Cover photo credit: brommel.net
Surfing The Nations will be leaving for the middle eastern country of Turkey this November/December! This pioneer trip is an exciting new step toward bringing the message of “Surfers Giving Back” to the world!
We are stoked to announce that Movement 52 has chosen Surfing The Nations as one of their charities to raise funds and awareness for!
Movement 52 is an organization of that has an amazing vision to raise awareness and funds for one charity a week in an effort to be a ‘catalyst for generosity’. They aim to take complex problems all over the world, and help find solutions with a simple formula: 1) Identify a need 2) Raise Funds 3) Repeat.
How do they raise funds? This is the part where it gets fun for all of us!
They design a few different shirts for a different company each week, and then sell the shirts, with a percentage of the profits going to that week’s charity.
That means, for one week ONLY, they’ll be selling their shirts with three different designs with our logo, on 8-12 different shirts (and just in time for fall you can buy the first ever STN hoodie through the campaign)!
For every shirt purchased 6-8 dollars will go to fund Surfing The Nations International outreach efforts in countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, The Philippines and The Middle East!
It’s running for one week, starting Wednesday, October 9th through October 16th. You can purchase the shirts through their website http://movement52.org/
Check out how M52 works here:
Fall is officially here! Some people know it’s fall by the changing of the temperature or the leaves changing color (or the return of pumpkin spice everything) but at STN we know it’s fall because of the new arrivals! We’ve started a new SLS class with five new students from Switzerland and the United Sates and this weekend we welcome 35 new interns from all over the globe!
Alas, although the season has changed, summer is not soon forgotten! Summer 2013 was one for the books. To give you some proof of that, we’ve put together a little video for your enjoyment.
Thanks to all who participated in the trips, internships, and summer challenge!
This generation uses social networking to involve their friends in everything they do, from sharing what they had for lunch to their wedding photos. Social media has been instrumental in breaking down walls between people, cultures and distance to make communication almost limitless. If social networking influences so much of our lives, what could this mean for traveling? Two friends considered this question and came up with an idea that could revolutionize travel. Traveling not by map or guidebook or hit-and-miss couch surfs, but travel via friends.
Krissa and Daljeet met in Hong Kong as high schoolers. As ‘TCKs’ or Third-Culture Kids (a person that has spent a significant amount of time growing up in a different culture than their parents), they naturally built up a group of friends from all over the world. For Krissa and Daljeet, the world was wide open and accessible through their network of friends spread across the globe. Recognizing that others shared their wanderlust, they decided to find a way for people to have this powerful network, without having to live overseas for years! The vision was to enable people to access the world on a budget, while making friends and staying in a trustworthy environment. From their vision came the amazing new traveling network Friends of Friends Travel (FOF Travel).
FOF Travel is a website where travelers can connect with people they already know and their friends (the friends of friends or “FOFs”) to exchange travel services at no cost.Being travelers themselves, the founders of FOF Travel understand a traveler’s needs, concerns and expectations. Some of the services offered are: free accommodation (“Roof”), storage space (“Locker”), travel tips and information (“Guide”), or something as simple as meeting up with a trustworthy local for a coffee (“Coffee”). The rare and wonderful thing about FOF Travel is that your connections are never random strangers; you are always interacting with a friend of a friend. FOF Travel is able to provide a place of trust that is invaluable when going to an unfamiliar place. That’s something that no other travel network provides.
Safety concerns aside, having a local to connect with ensures you get the best experience possible on your journey. Surfing The Nations always aims to live as close to the local culture as possible during our international outreaches. There truly is nothing like spending the evening eating dinner on your new friend’s rooftop in the Middle East, getting to experience traditional ceremonies in Indonesia, or explore places that are known only by the locals. These experiences are not bought with tickets. They are gifts birthed out of friendships that are formed when we take the risk to enter into a world completely foreign to us. Friends Of Friends Travel has three pillars of their philosophy: Trust, Philanthropy, and Wanderlust. One of the Founders, Daljeet Singh says, “This is the kind of travel we want to share with everyone else. When we, as TCKs, add our global network onto FOF, someone only has to add ONE of us as a friend, and suddenly they’ll have access to a whole global network of people that they can trust. It’s about traveling the way TCKs do – it’s our way of life.”
For those of you who haven’t gotten your passport out for a while, or have been dreaming about packing that suitcase or getting that ticket, there are no more excuses! To get started, simply sign up with FOF Travel for FREE, and start building your network. Then, you can start making your connections and getting plans set into motion for your trip! You can also choose to upgrade to the hugely beneficial Premium Club Membership to get access to exclusive travel deals from some of the world’s best travel providers. We can’t wait to see how Friends Of Friends Travel will empower this generation to go! Check it out!
The Indo team is back and still getting over jet-lag, but they had an amazing trip this year! Approximately 40 team members from Sweden, Canada and the United States spent three weeks traveling through the islands of Bali, Lombok, Nusa Lembogan, Gili, and Sumbawa. We’ll be bringing you more stories and updates soon! Here’s some of their instagram highlights. Enjoy!
Surfing The Nations has been doing short-term, month long trips to Bangladesh for the past decade. Throughout those years, friendships have been developed, positive community transformation has happened and surfing has taken off in Cox’s Bazar!
Just as any student has a graduation, Surfing The Nations is excited to announce that short term trips to Bangladesh are being graduated into a new season of long term work! While the short term trips will continue, the groundwork for STN Bangladesh will begin.
Our dedicated staff members, Whitney Willett and Ashley Hilton are leaving tomorrow to spend four months in Bangladesh, where they will be completely immersed in the culture they have grown to love.
Their goals are to:
- Learn Bangla through language school
- Gain a greater understanding of Bangladesh: the religion, the women, social issues and needs.
- Get connected to the growth in Bangladesh through different organizations and individuals that are committed to seeing Bangladesh flourish.
They will be living at the language school for the first month and then they will look for a host family to live with. They will also be taking cultural courses on religion, dance, and other related things. Here are a few of their thoughts as they get ready to leave:
Three Things Ashley is excited about:
- Living completely immersed in a foreign country for four months!
- Reconnecting with friends that she met during her stay in April.
- Forming new relationships.
Three Things Whitney is excited about:
- Experiencing Bangladesh for more than one month! (Whitney has been several times for only one month at a time).
- Building relationships with the women.
- Being a sponge and soaking up all that will come her way in the next four months!
Whitney says, ‘It’s going to be exciting! We are going to face a plethora of emotions and have experiences that will shape us for the rest of our lives. I spent seven months in India in 2009-2010, and that has forever shaped who I am and I know that this experience will forever shape the two of us also.’
Their language school starts on August 1st, so they’re off tomorrow to start their journey! We’ll be filling you in on their progress throughout their time, so watch this space!