I went to India with no expectations and an open heart. I could never have imagined the impact that meeting the children of Kovalam Surf Club and SISP (Sebastian Indian Social Project) would have on me.
We really take everything for granted here in the Western world – like water…a basic human right – or at least you would think so. The children attending the SISP are from the poorest villages of Thiruvananthapuram. Without attending school, they would not have access to clean drinking water of food. The project is incredible. It offers the opportunity for underprivileged children to be educated, skateboard and surf at Kovalam Surf Club. There is also a Social Employment Program for women and men to make beautiful handmade crafts from recycled newspapers, wallpaper and coconut shells. Recycling is a fairly new initiative in India and there is an ongoing problem with waste disposal. This initiative is teaching the next generation how to start to manage the problem as well as employing people and empowering women.
It made me really sad to see that there are only a handful of girls who attend the skateboarding and surf part of the project. Culturally, participating in these sorts of activities once reaching the age of puberty can be seen as detrimental to the girls in terms of their prospects for marriage. This was something that really hit home to me…again, we take for granted how lucky we are to be able to do the things we love without having anything holding us back – something so many women in the world don’t have the luxury of. I can see things are gradually beginning to change and I would only hope that in the years to come, the girls are given the same opportunity to express themselves as the boys without consequence.
I couldn’t believe how good the waves were out there! With no expectations, I was almost shocked at the set up they have out there. The waves really remind me of France – miles heavy beach breaks. There is so much potential and it would just be great to see more of the locals taking advantage of what is right on their doorstep! Of course they need the opportunity to be able to do so and Kovalam Surf Club is definitely at the forefront of this.
It was so inspiring to watch the kids skate and surf and see the joy that this brought to them. The one thing that connects us all as surfers is that same love for the ocean and how it makes us feel. The Project is enabling these kids to experience this and inspires them to achieve their own goals.
There is so much that the Project needs to develop and grow. Funding is obviously a massive issue. The kids require school materials, skateboards, shoes, helmets, surf boards, board shorts and rash vests. I had one board on the trip with me and decided to gift it to one of the children there. We bought some books and pens for the school but there is so much more I would love to do to help and hopefully will have the opportunity to do in the future. If you’re as inspired as I was, check the project out here http://www.sisp.in/ – take a look, maybe there is some way you will be able to help change these kids lives!