Sunday, December 12, 2010

Balikbayod: Sharing surfboards for the Filipino Youth

12/12/10 - USUALLY when we think about surfing, we don’t necessarily put the Philippines on top of the list.  However, professional surfers and surfing enthusiasts would tell you that one of the best waves to ride is at Siargao Island, which is on the eastern shoreline of the Philippines.  Also known as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, Siargao is home to Cloud 9, one of the best surfing destinations in the province because of its thick, perfect, hollow tubes that international surfers call it a special wave.   And in this surfing paradise, two Filipino-American surfers found their calling to help.

Lynn Bryant and Victoria Fabella, not only fell in love with Siargao Island, but with its people.  Lynn initially went to Siargao for a vacation, while Victoria first learned to ride the waves in Siargao.  During their trips, they realized that most residents don’t have access to surfboards, as no surfboards are made there.  Most have even never surfed at all.  Thus, Balikbayod—or Returning Wave—was born.
But what does surfing have to do with helping kids in Siargao?  Lynn and Victoria explained that the Balikbayod program is an effective way for kids to stay in school or go back to school.  
After talking to teachers in the local schools, they found out that if children are given boards to keep (usually from visiting surf tourists), they would rather go surfing than to school.  Some hope to win in tournaments for money and see surfing as a possible career.
With Balikbayod, kids can borrow boards provided that they are currently attending school or in an Alternative Learning System (ALS).  Because of these parameters, local teachers support their program.  A partner in Siargao, also known as “the surfboard librarian” checks with the teachers that the kids follow the requirements of the program.  Balikbayod is also purposely made as an after-school-program wherein boards can only be borrowed after school hours, school holidays and weekends.
The Balikbayod program has been running for almost 3 years now, and started with a group of 10 kids or so.  At present, there about 30 plus kids with the project—all done through personal funds by the founders and volunteer work.  Since starting the program, Balikbayod also have had high school drop outs return to school to get their diplomas through the ALS.
But like most good intentions, challenges are always in the way.  Aside from the lack of funding, there is hardly any support from the Philippine government.  In spite of this, Lynn and Victoria look ahead to more future trips with an increase of the number of boards shipped by sending a shipment at least once a year.  They also would like to expand in the Philippines and other countries.
Balikbayod continued success in promoting education first for the youth through the love of surfing is dependent on the support of people through donations and volunteer work.  Immediate needs are monetary for shipping costs, shipping sponsorship, old surfboards, materials and volunteers for their repair parties. (asianjournal)

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