Support Give & Surf's efforts to empower the indigenous communities of Bocas del Toro, while island hopping and exploring some of the Caribbean’s best surf breaks.
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As surfers and adventure seekers, we are natural travelers. To us, the world is a limitless canvas of endless coastlines and meaningful connections to be made with travelers and locals alike. The old surfer was a wandering wave seeker, traveling far and wide for remote breaks. The new surfer finds waves, makes connections, and is drawn to experiences with a purpose. This is the story of one such surfer on a mission to give and surf.
In late 2010, there lived a 26-year-old dreamer in San Diego who traded in his conventional, happy life to embark on his most challenging journey: starting a nonprofit in the jungles of Panama to assist those he saw had less and deserved more.
That man is me: Neil Christiansen, Founder and President of
Give & Surf.
For the last five years, I've been living and working that dream. It has altered my perception of people, nonprofits, myself, and the world in which we live.
Bocas del Toro’s was recently named Travel + Leisure's #1 travel destination in the world. The popularity of the islands as a travel destination is growing, but not everyone is cashing in. Just a short water taxi ride from the main island, indigenous communities have yet to capture the economic benefits, living a starkly different reality. For many in the Ngobe communities, life is hard. They live without electricity and running water and have limited access to education, medical care, and other basic services. The Panamanian government provides free public schooling to students from preschool through high school, but most of the children in these villages only have one teacher instructing grades 1-6.
When I initially arrived in Bocas del Toro in 2011 I had a strong desire to help others; however, after visiting and staying with Ngobe communities I had a better idea of how I could help. I saw an opportunity to make a difference by improving access to education for children in the community. Shortly after these transformative experiences, I decided to found Give & Surf. With the support of La Loma Jungle Lodge, we set our sights on building an early childhood program for children ages 3-5 in the neighboring communities of Bahia Honda and Bahia Roja.
Through persistence and dedication, we've developed programs in six different communities, including preschool/kindergarten, elementary English, extracurricular activities, adult English lessons, and scholarship opportunities. We have also partnered with other individuals and nonprofits to facilitate the construction of several new schools, computer labs, playgrounds, and other structures benefitting the health & education of the Ngobe communities. All that Give & Surf does day in and day out is made possible by the incredible support of our volunteer family.
Give & Surf continues to expand its programs and services in a sustainable way through partnerships with the local government, other nonprofits, and volunteers. All of the organization’s daily operations and contributions are made possible by the incredible support of our volunteer family. Over 200 volunteers from around the world come to help Give & Surf each year, ensuring the sustainability of the organization and increasing the quality of the programs we provide. In 2015, Give & Surf started working with sustainable travel organizations to help facilitate trips which allow travelers to be immersed in the local culture and appreciate the undiscovered beauty of Bocas while maximizing the amount of tourist dollars spent locally. We are excited for you to join our family and cannot wait to see you in Panama!
The founder and brainchild behind Give & Surf, Neil serves as the captain whether he’s jungle living or doing development work in the states. Neil's organization is now actively working in 6 different regions of Bocas del Toro with the mission of empowering local indigenous communities through education and community development.
Surf, sail, bike and hike in the islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama, while directly funding Give & Surf's school programs in the Bahia Honda and Bahia Roja communities.
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We've partnered with Give & Surf to host three custom surf trips in Bocas del Toro. By exploring legendary surf breaks and spending time on various islands, you'll help sustain their efforts to support indigenous communities. This is not a volunteer project nor is it a standard package tour. It is an experience crafted by a team who cares deeply about these islands and the people who call them home.
So, how does the experience look? It looks like waking up in a beachside bungalow, grabbing breakfast with your friends, and jumping on a water taxi to hit up an afternoon surf session at a remote beach. It looks like joining a group of local children on a field trip in the morning, island hopping by sailboat in the afternoon, and digging into fresh-caught red snapper for dinner. It looks like learning to cook from a local Ngobe family, exploring the coastal mangrove swamps, and watching the sun set over the aquamarine reefs. Maybe it looks like a night out in Bocas town, bar hopping between the many stilted restaurants, perched out over the water.
What we're saying, is that it can look like a lot of things. You'll be in an island paradise with a group of great people and a team of locals who want you to have a memorable time. We'll hook you up with transportation, several family style meals, comfortable accommodation, guided surf excursions, a sailboat charter, weekly surfboard rentals, a homestay with Ngobe family, a field trip with Give and Surf school children, and more.
This trip is going to be an unreal adventure that positively affects many people. For each traveler that joins, over 50% of the profits will go directly towards funding Give & Surf’s school programs in the Bahia Honda and Bahia Roja communities. Those joining the January and February trips will be spending time with the students as they take part in Give and Surf programs.
It’s not our style to bombard you with every detail up front. If interested, contact us and we’ll give you the full run-down.