Tracks - - Big Heavy -

Kiwi doc­tor Dave Jenk­ins had no idea how dramatically his life – and many other lives – would change when he booked a surf char­ter to the Mentawai Is­lands in 1999. He just wanted to get shacked. But along with per­fect bar­rels he found an im­pov­er­ished lo­cal pop­u­la­tion dy­ing in their scores by pre­ventable dis­eases. "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?" he re­calls. Fif­teen years later that ques­tion has been de­ci­sively an­swered. Sur­fAid, the non-profit char­ity founded by Jenk­ins, has been in­stru­men­tal in im­prov­ing the health and life ex­pectancy of the Mentawai peo­ple. To­day it has around 60 full­time staff and has ex­panded its life-sus­tain­ing work into Sumba, Sum­bawa and Nias.

con­tacted Dr Dave to get his thoughts on Sur­fAid's le­gacy and its fu­ture. The surf­ing com­mu­nity now en­com­passes all walks of life and dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives abound. How­ever we re­main a tribe bound to­gether by the shared ex­pe­ri­ence of rid­ing waves and our love of the ocean. Per­son­ally, I'm not sur­prised that our tribe has con­sis­tently ral­lied on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions to help our friends and hosts in the re­mote is­lands of In­done­sia. The in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion Sur­fAid has built as a pro­fes­sional and highly ef­fec­tive aid or­gan­i­sa­tion is di­rectly at­trib­ut­able to a com­bi­na­tion of the sup­port from the tribe, the pas­sion and com­mit­ment of our vol­un­teer fundrais­ers and board mem­bers and of course, our staff out there in the field. With­out the surf­ing com­mu­nity it would not have hap­pened. hand wash­ing and breast­feed­ing are multi-gen­er­a­tional. The in­vest­ment our donors make to­day will have last­ing im­pacts for gen­er­a­tions to come. Yes... We are in­cred­i­bly proud of the le­gacy of our Emer­gency Pre­pared­ness work com­pleted in the Mentawai com­mu­ni­ties in co­or­di­na­tion with the Mentawai gov­ern­ment. They now have sys­tems and train­ing to re­spond more ef­fec­tively to threats and all the vil­lages we worked in have a pre­pared­ness plan and have prac­ticed their plans. They know the warn­ing signs of a tsunami, what to do and are ready to act.

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