Eli Kurtz
Gap Year Volunteer

This past year, I was lucky enough to spend three short months of my life in Bocas del Toro, Panama, with the Give and Surf team. Back in June, after graduating high school, I had decided that I wanted to take a year off before going to college. With no defined plans, I kept the idea of making the most of my time front and center. It was amazing how a relatively short plane ride to Panama, took me from a place where I felt like the world moved around me indifferently, to somewhere where I felt I had a part to play. Not only that, but I noticed other patterns falling into place, as I continued my stay. I ate, but I ate differently than at home, catching lobster and fish that became my dinner. I slept, but differently, going to bed early and getting up even earlier so as not to let any part of the day go to waste. And I worked, but this was different too. Boating every morning through the mangroves to a small school, jutting out of the coastline into the bay, was relaxing. More relaxing than any other “work” I had done before. Not just relaxing, but meaningful as well. I genuinely impacted the community I lived in, in a positive way. And at the same time, I was discovering for myself a new way of living. The things I put my time and energy into seemed actually important. Whether teaching, surfing, fishing, hiking, or exploring, every activity engaged me in a way that was refreshing compared to how I had felt before arriving in Panama. I learned how to be present. This lesson is invaluable, and Give and Surf truly helped me get to where I am now, confident in my own abilities as I go forward.

Message from Neil

2016 left me feeling full of gratitude for the fluidity in which the Give & Surf ship sailed from start to end. This is thanks in large part to the “amazing crew” we have on board. It is incredible that as a team the operations of the organization seem to run seamlessly from day to day in such a challenging environment. This is a testament to everyone’s commitment to holding themselves responsible to giving their all to the people of Bocas del Toro. It has been so inspiring to see the outreach from others to join forces with us because they recognize the genuine devotion we all have to making the world a better place. You can’t fake this!I am incredibly proud of the sustainable direction we are steering into 2017. We are making a major commitment to getting local community leaders involved as we employ local teachers, submit our application for non-profit status in Panama, and drum up support from local and national government agencies.

Filled with gratitude,

Just some of 2016’s highlights!

  • Expansion of the scholarship program to over 40 high school and university students
  • Expansion of the Bahia Roja preschool to 5 days per week and addition of Marialena as a full-time lead teacher thanks to Education is Power!
  • Construction of the Boca del Drago two classroom primary school addition complete with solar-powered electricity
  • Construction of the new teacher’s house on Solarte
  • Construction of the Bahia Roja playground and water system
  • New Gap Year Program.
  • Over 200 volunteers joined us! Come Volunteer in 2017!


The Give & Surf Experience made by volunteer Sofia Santos of Portugal!

  • Zach Simon,  California
  • Eli Kurtz, Massachusetts
  • Spencer Gray, South Carolina
  • Joan Berger, Maryland
  • Jackie Bira,
  • Thomas Dempsey, California
  • Daniel Silveira & Melissa Richardson, California
  • Heather Dumford, Canada
  • Kelsey George, Texas
  • Francis MacGIllivary, UK
  • Eunho Lee, South Korea
  • Interns:  Dylan Vahradian, California
  • Olivia Daniels, Clemson University
  • Beryl Pereira, Benedictine University
  • Nakasi Herbert, University of Georgia


  • Dylan Vahradian, California
  • Olivia Daniels, Clemson University
  • Beryl Pereira, Benedictine University
  • Nakasi Herbert, University of Georgia

We are just a few weeks into the new year and already have some amazing projects planned! Come Volunteer and be a part of it all!


  • Old Bank Summer Camp & After-school Program at the Sunshine Heroes Community Center: thanks to the support of Sunshine Heroes Foundation we are providing summer camp at the center completed in last November!
  • Cristobal Community Center & Computer Lab: we are excited to be hosting the amazing group of Carl & friends again this year to complete this community center in February!
  • Cristobal Primary School Addition: Surf for Life will be joining us again in a few months to complete a much needed primary school for the deserving community of Cristobal.
  • Expanded extracurricular activities including more English classes, sports & enrichment classes, teen mentorship programs, & more!
  • Further expansion of the higher education scholarship program: February is the month to give to our continued education scholarships, we ask you to please consider providing the gift of education in 2017! Donate below ↓

February is Back-to-School month!  Our annual online campaign and Bocas event will raise money to support higher education scholarships.
If in Bocas please be sure to come to our 4th Annual Event!Special thanks to Mono Loco, Paki Point, and Bocas Bambu for your support!
We are already receiving donations at the below link! 


Eric Adams for making all the Giving December gifts and new uniforms for all of the Escuelita kids for the 2017 school year
Sunshine Heroes Foundation for funding a new summer camp and after-school programs in Old Bank for all of 2017!
Over 50 people who contributed to our Giving December Campaign. We raised over $12,000!
All those who donated to the purchase of a new motor! Special thanks to Education is Power for matching! 

Kristin Mein and Kaypea Jewelry for their amazing Give & Surf earring collaboration.

We are thrilled to be have three new faces join the team in 2017! 

Jaz joins the team as our Director of Education. Originally from Buenas Aires, Argentina. Jaz has a background in early childhood development through sports and has taught children skiing, wakeboarding, surfing, and paddle boarding. Her energy in and out of the classroom keeps the children (and volunteers) smiling and enjoying new experiences.
Our new volunteer house capitan Nico is making Bocas home as our Volunteer Coordinator. He will be guiding volunteers to epic adventures both in and out of the water in 2017!
We have Dylan to thank for the development of our cultural immersion workshop program. Mr. Dylan joined us as an intern this fall and is back to lend his skills and insight into making Give & Surf a better organization as our Development Coordinator!




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