“If I could open my mouth
wide enough for a marching band to march out.
They would make your name sing
and bend through alleys and bounce off all the buildings”.
From “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab For Cutie.
I love the above lyrics. Whilst they are a declaration of love, sometimes there are other names that need to be cheered on too. So this blog post is just a chance for me to shine a spotlight on three inspiring initiatives that are happening within the culture I love so much. The unfolding story of each of them brings me so much joy and excitement. Each one is overflowing with potential and changing things for the better.
First up, the Wave Project. I first became aware of this initiative through friends of mine from North Devon, Joel and Helen Blackman. What started as a six week pilot scheme in Cornwall continues to blossom into something truly beautiful. The simple aim was to examine whether surfing offered positive benefits upon the emotional health of young people who were referred through social services, mental health charities and the like. Four years on and there are countless testimonies of how these sessions have improved individuals’ self confidence, social skills and offered a more positive outlook on life whilst having a lot of fun. Local surfers have got on-board as the Wave Project has set itself up in new locations. It enables surfers to give something back and to rediscover the simple pleasure and stoke that surfing and a bit of encouragement can bring to each and every one of us. Everyone is encouraged to go at their own pace and the development of the Wave Project has been nothing short of a pleasure to follow.
Last year a six-week pilot scheme was run in conjunction with our friends at Coast 2 Coast surf school in Dunbar. I keep hearing so many encouraging and positive stories from people who have had even the faintest bit of contact with the project. The Scottish initiative is being led by Jamie and I know that he’d love to hear from anyone who would like to find out more or to volunteer. There’s a Wave Project Committee meeting on Thursday 7th August at 5pm at Beltonford Industrial Estate, West Barns, Dunbar EH42 1UW. The aim of the meeting is to look into sustainable local fundraising for the Wave Project in Scotland and expanding on some new opportunities for people to get involved with the project over and above the crucial surf mentoring.
If you’d like to support the wider UK Wave Project then you can do so by clicking here. Alternatively, if you would like to support things in Scotland practically or financially whether by standing order or via a one-off gift, then please contact Jamie directly at email@example.com
In any event, please click here and have a look around the website. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
Next up is Skateistan. An Australian guy called Oliver Percovich found himself in Kabul, Afghanistan with his then girlfriend in 2007. His skateboard caught the attention of the local kids who all wanted to have a go. By sharing out the three boards they had between them, they started a little skate school. It took off and Ollie could see such potential. More boards were brought in and in 2009 an all-inclusive skatepark and educational facility was built. But skating is just the hook. Skateistan is about engaging those difficult to reach and marginalised 5-18 year olds. As a not for profit charity it aims to provide opportunities in cross-cultural interaction, education and personal empowerment. The project is now operating in Afghanistan, Cambodia and a team has now also been established in South Africa.
Whilst there’s a little video on the website for their latest “Keep Skateistan Rolling” campaign and also a nice video of Tony Hawk’s visit, I still think this clip below captures what it’s all about. Some people have said that I skate like a girl, but after watching this – I’ll take that as a compliment. Enjoy!
Every six months there is a little fund-raising drive. Their current campaign runs for the month of July and they’re doing well with trying to raise $20,000. Maybe you could help with some loose change or a one-off donation? You can link to the website by clicking here.
Last, but by no means least, two of my favourite surfers CJ and Damien Hobgood are trying to put a documentary of their life stories together. Now THAT is a film I wanna see. For those of you unfamiliar with the Hobgoods, they are two brothers who have occupied the spotlight of the competitive surfing arena for way longer than most. Much of that competition has been driven by being identical twins and seeking to out-do what the other was doing. Being in the spotlight, however, means that their lives have been lived out loud – the triumphs and the punches. They want to tell their story honestly and I am convinced that this will be a film that will captivate not only the surf community, but many outside of it too. These two have given so much back to the wider surf culture and this will be a story of something much larger than sibling rivalry.
In order to make this, they also have an on-line funding campaign which is running till 2nd August. They are offering some pretty sweet optional gifts in exchange for pledges and are also donating off some major trophies, boards and other paraphernalia. Check it out here.
So, I hope some of that has inspired you.
I was reading an article in Relevant magazine the other night about our culture of entitlement. It struck a chord with me. How easy it is to feel like we “deserve” this or that. I’m not suggesting that we should deny ourselves all things and live a meagre existence of self-imposed poverty, but I wonder whether I have learnt to be content in all situations? I know what it is like to have spent weeks living with peasant farmers in remote Romania and to feel hugely content and thankful despite meagre surroundings. I also know how much more the lure of newer and shinier things can seem to have over me when my bank balance is more challenging. The article I was reading advocated cultivating an attitude of gratitude. It’s like that old notion of “counting your blessings”. Funny how quickly that shifts gears in my head-space. So, with those thoughts and these projects, I find myself smiling and thinking that sometimes it’s better to give than to receive.