1. What are the immediate needs for this project to succeed?
Stipend support for our surf coordinators in the different program locations. Running these programs is a part-time job. We’d like to be competitive with local wages, so our programs can continue. The surf coordinators are local surfers who have a vested interest in nurturing their communities, and often, teaching surfing to tourists takes care of their families more than volunteering for free. We always need gently used surfboards (especially longboards), leashes, wax and new or 2nd hand GoPros in working condition with waterproof housing.
2. How is surfing integral to educating kids in the Philippines ?
People from all over the world come to the Philippines to surf, but most residents don’t have access to surfboards (no surfboards are made there) and most have never surfed at all. All the kids who are part of the Balikbayod program are required to be currently attending school or in Alternative Learning System (ALS); otherwise, they can’t be part of the program and can’t borrow Balikbayod’s boards. It’s a very effective incentive for kids to stay in school or go back to school. After talking to teachers in the local schools there, we found that if kids are given boards to keep (usually from visiting surf tourists who leave boards there), the kids would go surfing instead of going to school. Some hope to win big tournament money (in American dollars) at surf contests and see surfing as a possible career. We aim to provide a reward for kids to stay in school. The local teachers support our program because of these parameters. We also emphasize to the kids that the boards we collect here in the US are donated by people who are not professional surfers; they are people who love to surf, but they support their passion for the sport by going to school and then getting good jobs.
3. How is your project tied into the existing educational infrastructure in the Philippines? How much does the Philippine government participate?
Our partners in the Philippines, “the surfboard librarians’” as we call them, communicate with local teachers to ensure that the kids are presently in school or ALS. We are an all volunteer organization that does not receive any funding from the Philippines government.
4. How are the donations from the U.S. accounted for in this project?
Funds are accounted for through the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center (SFFCC). They are our non-profit 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor in the United States.
5. Is there a strict regimen for the kids, e.g., do they have to attend so many hours of school to surf? How does the project balance classroom with surf time?
1) Kids only need to be in school or ALS.
2) We purposely made this an after school program. Boards can only be borrowed after school hours, school holidays, and on weekends.
6. Since the project has been in the works since 2008, what is the success rate for students who have been part of your project?
We’ve made three trips, first bringing 4 boards and then 9, and made our first overseas shipment of 40 more in 2011. The first group of kids had 10 students participating and after the second trip, this increased by 20 (this was done solely by personal funds by the founders). Since starting our program, we’ve had 3 high school drop outs return to school to get their diplomas through the Alternative Learning System and started a 2nd program in the north of the island in Burgos. Our Burgos program is doing well with all our elementary program kids graduating and moving on to high school. We now have 7 program sites and at the end of 2014, we have shipped close to 100 boards total to the Philippines.
7. What coordination is there between the teachers involved in this project and the Philippine Department of Education? Does the government acknowledge this project?
1) The Alternative Learning System is funded by the Philippines government and is a fairly new program aimed to provide education outside of the classroom to those who have dropped out of school.
2) When the ALS heard of our program, they immediately wanted to collaborate with us.
3) In early 2012, ALS working together with Balikbayod received runner up for the best ALS program award in the Philippines.
8. If Balikbayod succeeds to projection, what is the future expansion for it? Within the Philippines? Other countries?
We want to increase the number of boards shipped each year and send a shipment at least once a year. We’d like to employ a local resident to run our program at each site (this is currently a volunteer position) and pay them a living wage to teach the kids surfing and also maintain boards. Our long term goal is to provide vocational training in surfing for our graduates to support livelihood and create jobs.
We are actively scouting new locations where the local communities are interested in supporting this project. Beyond Philippines, we would like to expand in other countries because we believe our program can be replicated internationally.