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Team 2017-05-19T19:56:51+00:00

Leadership Team in Panama

  • Neil Christiansen

    Founder/President
    The founder and brainchild behind Give & Surf serves as the captain whether he’s jungle living or doing development work in the states. Packing more excitement and energy than the normal human, Neil is a modern day energizer bunny. Learn more about Give & Surf through his eyes here.
  • Emily Talentino

    Executive Director
    Emily toyed with the "Should I move to Panama" idea for sometime so it was not hard to lure her to join us in Panama when the idea of working outdoors with children in the warmth of Panama was proposed. Emily shed her Massachusetts wardrobe and brings years of experience in development and counseling as the Executive Director of a YMCA.
  • Sam Rugamas

    Director of Education
    Sam was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and spent most of her youth in El Salvador. After working in the corporate world for some time, she decided to switch gears and become an early childhood educator at a well-loved non-profit preschool in San Francisco, California. During this time she began to explore her passion for education and outreach and helped strengthen her school’s Service Learning and Outreach program. In 2015, she invited some of her colleagues to volunteer teach in Bocas del Toro, Panama and in 2016 she decided to move to the islands indefinitely. Sam is excited to make this transition back into education and to share her love, knowledge and passion for teaching with our local lead teachers!
  • Drew Berger

    Volunteer Director
    Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, meet Drew. After studying graphic design at Rollins College, he decided that a desk job was not for him and worked as a kindergarten teacher in Thailand prior to joining us. His love for the ocean and giving back landed him here in Panama. Drew has jumped right in and gotten his hands dirty...literally! He has led the construction of the new Bahia Roja school as well as is the chief host of the volunteers. He loves taking our volunteers on new adventures, especially surfing and spearfishing!
  • La Loma Jungle Lodge

    La Loma Jungle Lodge is family to us. Henry, Margaret, little Lucho, and the rest of the gang have our back.  La Loma has helped the local community of Bahia Honda for ten years and it was their guidance and support that allows us to do what we do.  Give and Surf partners with La Loma to provide a number of community development projects.  We look forward to many collaborative efforts and good times with our La Loma family in the future. 
  • Eddy Gomez

    Logistics and Project Coordinator
      Eddy is our knight in shining armor.  Eddy is the wave behind the surfboard that is Give and Surf. Our unwavering captain can fix anything, and his immense knowledge of the island archipelago is invaluable when it comes to transporting our precious preschool cargo.  Eddie is also a baseball and volleyball legend in Bahia Honda, and enjoys fishing, painting dolphins, and sharing his knowledge of the flora and fauna of Bocas del Toro. 
    • Maria Elena Santos

      Lead Teacher
        Our teaching staff would not be complete without Maria Elena and her always present smile. As an instrumental person in the community of Bahia Roja Maria Elena tirelessly pursued a life of serving others through obtaining her teaching degree. Her main focus is working with the kindergarten aged children ages 5-6.
      • Vaneza Milton

        Lead Teacher
          Vaneza has been part of the Give & Surf family from the very beginning! With a strong connection to her children's future education Vaneza played a supportive role as a teacher in during the first years of Bahia Honda kindergarten. Vaneza is now our lead kindergarten teacher and will soon be graduating from teacher's college thanks to Education is Power.
        • Eddie Jones

          Volunteer Coordinator
          Eddie is our fearless Volunteer Coordinator whose primary role is to ensure that our volunteers have a safe, fun, and fulfilling time with us in Panama. Eddie hails from the US of A, although we're not sure where. He grew up outside of Washington D.C., studied in Colorado, kayak guided in Delaware, managed a business in Wyoming, ran a haunted forest in Maryland and guided adrenaline sports for kids along the Potomac River. Eddie is amazed that he gets to share his passion for making other people happy, working with children, building relationships and giving back to the communities that we work with and with volunteers from around the world.
        • Jennifer Jackson

          Lead Teacher/Trainer of TEFL Bocas
          Jennifer began her love of teaching in the United states teaching elementary education and special education. She has been traveling the United States and Central America teaching every chance she gets.  After teaching in Costa Rica and traveling to Bocas many times, she has decided to share the excitement of being in the classroom by teaching the Teaching English as a Foreign Language course in Bocas Del Toro.
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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]
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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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