Mission and History

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Mission and History 2017-07-25T23:02:19+00:00

Give & Surf is not your typical non-profit. Give & Surf is a family.

Our mission is to empower the local communities of Bocas del Toro, Panama through education and community development.

We are a locally embedded 501(c)3 non-profit organization that operates year-round providing sustainable support to the indigenous communities of Bocas del Toro, Panama. We are a family of staff members, volunteers, community members, parents, students, and teachers connected by our mutual passion to achieve positive change for indigenous communities of Bocas del Toro, Panama. We are not seeking to have a small impact on the greatest number possible. Instead, our approach has always been to have a deep, long-lasting, sustainable impact within the small communities we serve.

As a volunteer-driven organization, we rely on over 200 volunteers annually in order to sustain our operations, teach our educational programs, and fund new community development projects. We strive to provide volunteers with a meaningful experience that results not only in a positive impact in the communities we serve but also in a transformative, eye opening personal experience that has a long-lasting impact on their life and global awareness.

From creating cultural exchanges between volunteers and students to creating opportunities and training teachers, we are building up a community through action. Volunteers live in a collaborative and beautiful environment. In exchange for their services and funding in building this community, volunteers receive a wonderful cultural immersion experience that provides incredible insight into non-profit and international development work.

Non-Profit History in Panama

Prior to 2011, there was only a small primary school offering inadequate education in unsatisfactory facilities in Bahia Honda. Fortunately, in 2011, Neil Christiansen decided to give up his medical sales career and pursue his passions for helping others and surfing which landed him in Bocas del Toro, Panama where he quickly connected with Margaret Ann & Henry Escudero, owners of La Loma Jungle Lodge. Henry & Margaret were already well established in the Bahia Honda and, as parents to 3-year-old Lucho, were eager to start a program for all of the community preschoolers. And thus was born Give & Surf. Where this partnership would lead and what this small program would blossom into, neither Neil, Margaret nor Henry could have imagined.

Now, eight years since its inception, Give & Surf serves over 250 students per week in five indigenous and two local communities. In Bahia Honda & Bahia Roja, we are the primary providers of preschool, kindergarten, summer school, English classes, and other extracurricular activities. We have started to expand our reach into communities in Old Bank, Carenero, Bocas Town, Isla Cristobal, and Solarte by offering teen & adult English classes and taking on new community development projects that include a new community center and the construction of new classroom buildings. Over the last eight years we have completed over 40 community development projects to benefit the communities of Bocas del Toro!

Community Need in Panama

We often get asked why Bocas? Statistically, Panama usually ranks above their fellow Central American countries when it comes to the rate of literacy, dropouts, overall education, poverty, and other key indicators. Unfortunately, the realities faced by the five indigenous populations of Panama are an entirely different story. The Ngobe-Bugle tribe is the largest indigenous group in Panama and it is estimated that over 90% are living in extreme poverty. Due to the remote location, they have extremely limited access to education, medical care, and other basic necessities. This has resulted in high rates of drop out, malnutrition, and unemployment. Only 18% of Ngobe students are educated past a sixth grade level and the overall literacy rate is 55%. The culture and livelihood of the Ngobe communities in the Bocas del Toro islands is at particular risk due to the growing tourism sector, which is infringing on the Ngobe lands and also raising the cost of living. In order to both protect their culture as well as ensure future opportunities for employment, Give and Surf is committed to educating and empowering these communities.

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Girls of WOMP, Women's Outreach Mentorship Program, taking the podium during the inaugural COPA Féria Del Mar hosted by @bocaspaddlingcluband and held this past weekend in epic 🚣conditions! #wompbocas #giveandsurfWhat a beautiful day spent in Old Bank with the community thanks to program director Zuleika and her band of supporters! 
The day was presented with ❤️ to raise awareness of bullying and support the Aguilas Doradas, a character building program focused around expression and creativity! #giveandsurfVolunteer Story Time PART 3 with Taylor Love, @taylorklove, from the USA and volunteer from July 15th-August 15th 
What would you say to someone considering coming down here? 
GO! It’s a professional organization that truly serves the local people. The staff here are true leaders in the community! #giveandsurfVolunteer Story Time PART 2 with Taylor Love, @taylorklove, from the USA and volunteer from July 15th-August 15th 
Most memorable experience?

Too many favorite memories! My favorite was reading this animal book to the kids in BR. We all acted out every animal and I laughed until it hurt. #giveandsurfVolunteer Story Time PART 1 with Taylor Love, @taylorklove, age 27 from the USA and volunteer from July 15th-August 15th 
What drove you to come here?

I was looking for a volunteer opportunity in Central America. I found Give and Surf on the internet, did some YouTube research and decided I would love to volunteer with this fantastic organization. #giveandsurfNever lose touch with your inner child, the innocent part of you that thinks you will pop every bubble in sight! @sunshineheroesfoundation #giveandsurf ...
#panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanks #gratitudeKids discovering happiness in education is an everyday affair at Old Bank's community center thanks to our dear partners and supporters of @sunshineheroesfoundation who not only funded the build of this beautiful center, but also the staff and program expenses to run a summer school, after school program, and more that never existed before a year and a half ago! #gratitude #giveandsurf¡Bailando! Gotta get the wiggles out somehow with these energetic pre-schoolers💃🏼❤️❤️#panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback #nonprofit 
#nonprofitlife #volunteerlife #volunteer #grateful #surfing #surf #nonprofitorganization #travel #explore #givethanks #volunteerabroadSending immense gratitude to Rose Johnson, @rose_grace2406, an intern this past summer who worked her tail off with Emilie, @emjstreet, to develop programs for our new community center on Isla Cristobal! 
She has this to say to anyone considering a volunteer or internship opportunity with us!

That it is an unbelievable experience and unlike most volunteer experiences and internships, Give and Surf allows you to have a deeper connection with the community. As an intern I was pleased with the fact that Give and Surf gave interns real responsibility which I think is rare within the internship world. Give and Surf is also a lot of fun and Bocas is a great place to work and play. #giveandsurfProud to announce that we have co-created ▿INDIGO BENEFIT FESTIVAL▿@indigo_festival a day of music, art, yoga, documentary, and more to celebrate life and raise money for education in Bocas Del Toro! 
The day features a gang of amazing musical performances and creatives from near and far who will convene on Encinitas to celebrate life under the Indigo sky!

Music Lineup ↠↠↠↠↠
Rambo [@rambo.music]
Feather and Dot [@featherdotmusic] 
The Verigolds [@theverigolds]
Todo Mundo [@todomundoband]
The Moves Collective [@themovescollective]
Wicked Monk [@wicked_monk]
Andre Gallardo [@renchmonkey]
Grayson Schreiner [@thegreatsilversun] ▵Yoga and Market Lineups to come!▵ Made possible and supported by our favorites at
Culture Brewing [@culturebrewingco]
⭐️
Eve Encinitas [@eveencinitas]
⭐️
Ironsmith Coffee Roasters [@ironsmithcoffee]
⭐️
Harvest Peace [@harvestpeace]
.
Head over to Facebook and search events for Indigo Benefit Festival or visit website indigofestival.live

Don't be there, be here! #indigofestivalFeeling the stoke last month at Bluff with Alonso, an active, surf stoked member of our SOMP: Surf Outreah Mentorship Program led by none other than @guacamole13 #giveandsurfClass 🤡 ing around with our Bahia Roja preschoolers is a volunteer favorite! Make sure to express yourself and the infinite capacity of your imagination through humor this Monday! #giveandsurf

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