JESS RUDD & OWEN MORRIS | SURFAID, AWARD WINNING NGO

Jul 14, 2017

On today’s Show, we speak with Jess Rudd and Owen Morris from SurfAid, a non-profit humanitarian organisation whose aim is to improve the health, wellbeing and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing. Our conversation today takes a deep dive into where, what and how SurfAid has grown to be one of the most successful and important NGOs on the planet.

Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.

Valuable Links and References

Background – The Founding of SurfAid by Dr Dave Jenkins

The SurfAid story started in 1999 on a regular surf trip to the chain of islands off the coast of Sumatra, the Mentawais. The region is home to 76,000 people and some of the most perfect reef surf breaks the world has to offer. I was a career-focused doctor working out of Singapore and, taking a break from a stressful corporate directorship, arrived in the islands with the aim of feeding myself upon the buffet of tropical waves on offer. I wasn’t disappointed.

However, late one afternoon on what I thought would be a harmless tourist venture inland to one of the villages, my beliefs in what is important in life were changed forever. After walking past the graveyard and seeing a lot of very small graves I ended up running a clinic at the chief’s request. I was the first doctor ever to visit the village. I saw women and children dying from malaria, malnutrition and inadequate living standards – things that I knew were treatable and, better still, preventable by helping them change behaviours such as basic hygiene and better breastfeeding practices.

The scene haunted me for the rest of the trip, and followed me back to Singapore where I began questioning my life. Did it have meaning? Were my skills wasted chasing some corporate carrot? What if I could make a real difference to these people? The thought of more children dying drove me mad with frustration and helplessness yet, at the same time and in some strange way, the potential solutions inspired me. I couldn’t just walk away from those kids; I vowed to return to the Mentawai with people and supplies.

After wrestling with my voices of self-interest, I left my job and headed home to a new challenge and called upon two of my closest friends – Dr Steve Hathaway, a world-renowned public health specialist, and lawyer Phil Dreifuss. It was not only because they were mates but because I knew they had most of the talent that I lacked and that if they said yes, SurfAid had a fighting chance.

Within days we were diving for crayfish to entice the local surfing crew to a barbecue where they were sprung with the news that a quorum of 25 people was needed to sign up and pay $25 each to register as a legal non-profit in New Zealand. They signed, we paid, and on 26 January 2000 SurfAid was born full of shared hopes and dreams and crazy, overly ambitious plans.

– Dr Dave Jenkins

About SurfAid

SurfAid is an international development organisation that is dedicated to enriching lives, and increasing people’s choices and possibilities for realising their potential. They work with, and in support of, the community – from the idea for a program to the implementation of the program.

SurfAid supports bringing positive change to remote communities. SurfAid contributes to the efforts of communities to nurture positive change, and ensure local ownership so changes can be sustained well beyond the life of the project. They hope to see the impacts of their work extend for generations to come.

The ongoing support of the surfing community, and many others, has allowed SurfAid to deliver the highest calibre development programs. This is driven by relationships built on mutual respect with the local people. They aim to have relationships that ensure long-term engagement, enhance learning with partners, are adaptable, and attract and retain staff of the highest quality and integrity.

SurfAid gives the highest priority to the needs of the people they work with and are committed to the remote locations where they live. They work with local partners in project identification, assessment, design and preparation, implementation, right through to completion and impact evaluation.

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