Today’s blog is from our amazing Ulu Pono Kids Director, Katie Connor. This woman has an amazing (and patient!) heart for the kids on our street – and in my opinion, one of the toughest jobs at STN! She is constantly striving to make the program the best it can be and provide the children with every opportunity possible. However, there is one thing she cannot do – stop the kids from growing up! In today’s guest blog, she explains her plans and hopes for the Ulu Pono Kids program as its members become too old to be called “kids.”
“Ulu Pono Teens” – to this day, the name of this 4 month old program cracks me up. But let me set the stage before I explain why it makes me chuckle so much. The Ulu Pono Kids Program was created four years ago when the staff at Surﬁng The Nations saw a great need to hold an after-school program for the elementary age kids in the local area. The program was an immediate hit and quickly became a home away from home for them.
However, as many of those kids are now in middle school and high school, their interests have changed and most of their younger siblings attend the program. This age gap has caused many of them to drop out as it is hard to engage a 5 year old and 13 year old in the same lesson and social setting. We came to the realization that we needed to go back to the drawing board and create a program that would give the teens a safe place to learn and hang out while appealing to their age group.
Hence, Ulu Pono Teens was created. But at ﬁrst the program was nameless. As a staff, we tried to come up with a name that might appeal to teenagers – Wahiawa Gangstas, Ohai Ballers etc… We decided that at our ﬁrst meeting we would present the names to the kids, let them make their own suggestions, and then cast a vote!
Their favorite was “Ulu Pono Teens,” a name they created and they have shamelessly owned ever since (despite the fact that many are still 11 and 12 years old!). It is a simple name, but it describes perfectly where they have come from, who they are now and even who they are becoming. Although, it still makes me laugh that they didn’t like any of the elaborate names we had created!
To be in Ulu Pono Teens you must be in sixth grade or older, but our oldest kids are only 14 at the moment. Because of their age we have been able to do things that some of the younger kids may not yet be able to do, such as snorkeling, hiking and trips to the museum. Our heart is to show these kids that there is “life” and a future for them beyond their street and neighborhood; that they have the opportunity to follow their passions if they work hard. We also teach them basic leadership principles through simple things like neighborhood clean-ups to help them understand the importance of being upright citizens and members of their community.
We are so proud of these kids and are excited to see them continue to grow and develop into young adults over the next few years. We know that these kids have the power to inﬂuence the future of this community and we are honored to be a part of the continued change happening in Wahiawa, Hawaii.
To keep up with Katie’s personal adventures as the Ulu Pono Kids Director, follow her blog at adventurewahiawa.wordpress.com!
On My Bookmarks Bar:
Charis Bauer Ifland, Business Director
This week, we are sharing Charis Ifland’s favorite bookmarked websites. As a wife, business director and world traveler, this girl knows which websites are the best for helping her keep the many moving parts of her life in order! Take note, the next few websites you may want to remember!
1. Mint.com is a great tool to organize and manage your finances! It brings your financial information to one place, you can create a budget, and set goals to plan for the future. It helps save and enjoy the important things in life!
Jeremy Seick, Zack Williams, and Renee Arnold from Surfing The Nations are here in Mexico City recruiting. We are being hosted by the amazing Maria “Nana” and Paola in one of the craziest cities we’ve ever been in. Here are some highlights from our first couple days. One of our first stops was Maria and her brother Rodrigo’s school Beraca, in Saint Jeronimo. We chatted it up with passionate young people, one of our favorite being Emilio who gave Zack a tech deck to “remember him” by.
Then it was off to Transformacion Urbana located in Chimalhuacan, 2 hours away from our home base but amazingly still within Mexico City (this place is massive). After being led through at least an hour of shanty homes and towns we reached the organization, and were given a tour of their programs. Transformation Urbana is an organization that equips and educates people in low-income communities. This education spans from local government to healthy eating and living through Zumba and soy supplement cooking classes. Oh and for lunch Zack and I got the pleasure of eating breaded pigs feet.
More of our adventures have included 2 AM taco runs with the whole family, mariachi sessions, dogs with dreadlocks, eating ram, cactus, pigs womb, horchata, and socially acceptable pork rinds. Probably the highlight spontaneous moment of the trip happened during a quick lunch stop at Arroyo. While looking for the mens room Jeremy stumbled upon a bull fighting arena. While watching for just a moment he saw what was a young boy no older than 10 fighting a massive bull. During a maneuver the bull’s horn lifted him up and threw him to the ground Hulk Hogan style, leaving the boy frozen on the ground bleeding. Jeremy ran back to find us and we returned to witness this young boy return to the ring after being bandaged, and having lost the use of one arm, to dominate this beast. He returned with dignity, passion, and confidence like none I’ve seen. He commanded the mariachi’s “Musica!” and defeated the massive bull to the applause of hundreds of onlookers.
…And they’re off!
Last night we sent out five of our staff to California, thus beginning our 2012 California/Mexico Recruitment Tour. I had a chance to peek at their schedule and it looks pretty packed with visits to Azusa Pacific University, Point Loma, Hurley International and the Dane Williams Memorial Surf Festival – and that’s just in California. Continue Reading
Last month, we had a new surprise addition to the STN buildings.
Carson Myers, longtime friend and staff member at STN had been sneakily putting together a room where the artists of STN could create in their free time. Through Carson’s vision and hard work, the back of a run-down house became ‘The Back Room’ and Carson held an opening party to celebrate.
We love this room and are excited to see the amazing creations that come out of there. Thanks Carson!
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On July 16th -August 18, founder of Surfing the Nations Cindy Bauer and two STN staff members, Renee Arnold and Julie Nelson, took off on a trip to Sweden and Ireland. STN Sweden is in its early days of forming and developing so Cindy, Renee and Julie went over to meet with the Swedish staff, help cast the vision and equip the leaders. Renee and Julie jetted off to Ireland for a week to get to know the people there and scout out a place where STN Sweden could send teams to for humanitarian and surf outreaches. Here is an excerpt from Julie that she wrote as the trip was coming to an end: Continue Reading
On September 1st, people all over the US and beyond gathered to participate in ‘Paddle for Daisy’. Surfers from all over came to show their support and help raise the funds needed by the Merrick family to continue Daisy’s treatment as she fights cancer for the third time in her young life.
We believe this act fully embodies ‘surfers giving back.’ Continue Reading
Ask Julie Nelson if dreams come true and her response will be an adamant, “yes.” This past week I picked up a copy of Surfer Magazine and smack-dab in the middle was an article written by our very own surfer/journalist, Julie Nelson. Here’s the deets: Julie reigns from the beautiful west coastal town of Cannon Beach, Oregon. This girl grew up surfing the waves off the Oregon coast and has salt in her blood to prove it. With a passion for writing, Julie went to school for journalism. But since coming out to STN in September 2010, Julie has been dedicated to living out STN’s motto of ‘surfers giving back.’ So when given the opportunity from Bryan Jennings and John Cobian to write for Surfer Magazine, she was all about it.
Here’s a tad shmidge of what she had to say in the article about STN, surfing and giving back: ”Surfing is simply our language we choose to speak, but our message stays the same; meet needs, change lives and instill the principal of ‘surfers giving back.’ Continue Reading
It’s like a dream.
One of those dreams where you find out you’ve been a royal all your life and have a rich inheritance and a crown waiting for you. Or you’ve won the lottery and you’re driving your dream car down a road to your home with an oceanfront view. But then, it’s not a dream, it’s a reality that, perhaps unbeknownst to you, you have a home on the coast of France!
That home has a name and it is ‘Surf Hostel Biarritz.’ Most hostels I’ve been at through my travels in Europe that are within a certain student-esque budget will offer you the following: the comfort of a sturdy bunk bed, and a breakfast of toast and jam with some coffee or tea. Those accommodations live up to most travelers’ expectations of a value hostel. But Surf Hostel Biarritz, founded by Aussies, has chosen to go above and beyond. They are opening up the doors of their five-bedroom rustic converted basque farmhouse and handing you a board, wetsuits, and a bike, not to mention breakfast and a bed! (It seems like a bed would just be obligatory after they’ve given you everything you need to go spend your energy surfing and cruising the town). Surf Hostel Biarritz also offers two large lounge areas and a dining room where you can hang out and get to know other travelers, or simply chill out on the couches with a DVD or cruise the free internet. When hunger strikes, you can cook yourself up a meal in the fully equipped kitchen, which is open from 10 am to 10 pm. But don’t worry about breakfast- you can expect a cooked breakfast every morning of your stay (no need to sneak Mom in your carry on). Continue Reading
I first saw Abdoul Aziz three years ago while watching the documentary ‘Gum For My Boat.’ He was speaking his native language of Bengali at a beach in Bangladesh and still very much a boy. This morning, I saw Aziz as a grown up man, sit in front of a large group of people in Hawaii and tell his story to a large audience in English.
How do things like this happen? How can a boy that used to throw his books in the bushes on the way to school and go crabbing instead, be captivating an audience in a place and a language that he could never grasp a year ago?
Transformation. It’s a big word, it evokes big dreams, yet ever the paradoxical thing, it always starts small.
STN started going to Bangladesh almost a decade ago. The dream began when Tom Bauer saw that the longest sand beach in the world was in Cox’s Bazar. A few people took off to check it out, and after meeting the first Bengali surfer, connections were made and the forming of the Bangladesh Surf Club took shape. This surf club is made up of boys and girls with stories and Aziz was one of those boys. Surfing is the thing that connected him to these strange foreigners and through his friendships with them, he began to observe that the lives of the surfers he met were different: they came to give and not to take. They acknowledged and cared for those that society had ignored. Aziz’s life slowly started to change: at first with just one board, one wave, one friend.
Through the tireless persistence of those closest to Aziz and the generosity of many, Aziz got the chance to come to the surfing mecca of Oahu, Hawaii and do an internship with STN. It was there that he began to learn not only more about surfing, but primarily about leadership and what a big role serving plays a part in that. But the story doesn’t end in Hawaii. With the new leadership skills and the hope that has born, Aziz is going back to invest in his country, which is first of all, people.
This video of ‘Transformation’ shows only a small part of Aziz’s story and we hope that it will inspire all of you to take small yet committed steps to bring hope and change to someone’s life.
This video highlights what STN is doing globally. After you check out the video, find out how you can be a part of the vision to bring transformation to the town of Wahiawa through the GIVE 2012.