19 Jun How I Turned a Hobby into Helping Others with WAVES
“Lobitos. It’s a town!”
“Hmm… never heard of it.”
“Lobitos, Peru. In the North on the Pacific coast?”
“Not ringing any bells.”
“OK, near Lima. It’s a 20-hour bus ride north of Lima.”
This conversation was not uncommon in the weeks leading up to my time with WAVES.
With countless regions in Peru achieving international recognition and celebration it is plausible why a 1000-person coastal fishing village near the border of Ecuador could be off the radars of many people in North America.
However, people have infinite and varied reasons why they may or may not have heard or visited a part of the world. I tend to subscribe to the theory that adventurists, in this case specifically surfers, share a common cerebral dysfunction. This idiom forces them to act absurdly and make odd decisions. For example, the choice seems rather odd to become an amateur meteorologist, willingly wake up under the dull glow of the moon, squeeze into an artificial neoprene cloak, cheerfully battle the wind, currents, and cleanup sets, only to struggle with other hungry surfers to embrace in a few moments of energy from a weather system that started a quarter of the way around the globe. Wouldn’t it be easier to hit the snooze button?
Fortunately, this mutation also provides the enthusiasm to search the globe for locations, people, and communities to share in this seemingly deranged hobby, a hobby that has given me and others so much joy over the years.
A yearning to give back to the community has been lurking in my mind for some time. Rather than a typical trip void of charity, the feeling of helping others while teaching a genuine passion felt appealing almost to the point of obligation. Over the years, I’ve become acute to the fact that locations serving as travel destinations often neglect to connect visitors to the community they are touring. I have also always believed that my most honest output comes when I can share a common passion and a sincere interest with others. I always thought that surfing was one of the most difficult sports out there, requiring countless days of practice, failure, and working through frustrations. But, it is also an activity that results in immense rewards, personal achievement, and bonds us to a natural environment.
With these thoughts in mind, the search was born for a way to share a love of the ocean while working to inspire empowerment, confidence, education, and community-driven action. After a bit of internet research, I contacted WAVES and could not be more pleased with the decision and outcome.
I committed myself to three weeks in the seaside fishing village/military station/former oil-boom town of Lobitos helping in the community. I wasn’t sure what to expect when arriving in Lobitos. I knew that the recent El Niño floods had been devastating to areas in the region, and that school had been postponed from opening for 6 weeks due to the floods.
Upon arriving, I was immediately swept away by the beauty of Lobitos. Crossing a river traveling in a local combi (van) from the nearest town gave way to an abrupt aesthetic of vast deserts, sweeping ocean, dismantled buildings, distant oil rigs, rows of homes, churches, and large spaces that nature had reclaimed from previous lives. The setting was unfamiliar yet curiously welcoming and deeply layered.
The geniality, positivity, openness, and attitudes of the people in the community and the staff at WAVES were immediately embracing. After hearing, “you can leave the doors unlocked and leave your things on the beach… no one will take them,” I knew that Lobitos was a different type of community. There were a trust and bond that can feel uncommon these days.
The first week in Lobitos, I worked on rebuilding parts of the WAVES center that were in need of repair after the floods, assisting in English class, teaching swimming classes after school, and preparing a skateboard ramp in preparation for a bbq and party for the kids at the end of the week. The volunteers and staff worked together to apply specific skills to tasks throughout the weeks to come.
One of the strongest aspects of the program was the frequency and varying circumstances in which volunteers engaged with the children in the community. I could see a group of kids at school in the morning, in the local family-owned restaurant for lunch, in the water during swimming lessons in the afternoon, and again at the WAVES community center at the end of the day. I quickly realized with WAVES you get what you give to the program. The more I engaged in activities, the community, and the children, the more my benefaction and connection could make a difference.
Lobitos itself had the same maxim. The more you contribute and explore, the more you will discover and connect.
After 3 weeks, I can sincerely say that my one regret is not having more time to stay in Lobitos and continue volunteering with the program!
I look forward to working with WAVES in the future and encourage anyone looking for an adventure in charity to consider participating!
Special thanks to all of the people on the WAVES staff, everyone in the community that was so welcoming and open to sharing your fine community with me, and all of my friends and family who contributed to the program on my behalf.
A big thank you goes out to Nick who wrote this blog post and volunteered with us for three weeks in Lobitos, Peru. You were a great person to have around whether it was in the classroom or in the lineup. For more of his adventures, follow Nick on Instagram.