Surf Strong El Salvador

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Surf Strong El Salvador: Surf School and Youth Center

Saint Albans, United StatesPlaya San Blas, El Salvador
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Surf Strong provides children a safe space and environment, where they have the opportunity to expand their minds and develop their physical, mental, and emotional strength. In El Salvador, we work with at-risk youth, affected by gangs and violence, providing Surfing, and English class free of cost

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if children in El Salvador were provided safety and opportunity, to persue not the American dream, but their own?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the United States every day, thousands of unaccompanied minors are arriving from Central America, seeking safety and economic opportunity. These kids are chasing the American dream, a seed planted by families and friends, to escape hardship and violence so prevalent in their home countries. Adolescents have minimal supervision, inadequate education, and little extracurricular activities, an environment that perpetuates the problem.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

To prevent street violence, gang membership, and mass emigration of the nation's youth, Surf Strong provides a youth center and surf school for at-risk children, identified by local schools and communities. These participants will learn to respect the environment, their communities, and their selves. Through English classes, economic opportunities within El Salvador arise, and with additional programing, including computers, art and music, photography, and basic business, the participants will be effectively equip to create their own opportunities, becoming the next generation of leaders. Finally, with our unique savings program, the participants can save money earned in program, to build a business or fund further education.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our kids come from some of the poorest families, often with just one parent present and the household income maxing at $10/day. With the school system providing half-day education, some youth pass up to 5 or 6 hours unsupervised daily. In our program, the kids learn a variety of useful life skills, such as patience and team building through surfing and other classes, i.e. English, photography and website design. These kids grow to become community leaders and small business owners, having had the opportunity to develop the necessary skills, instead of fleeing the country or becoming involved in gangs and violence so prevalent in El Salvador.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Although in just our beginning stages of our project, we are looking to build our Surf Strong family to include 35-45 kids within the first year. Beyond this, we intend to add 10 to 15 kids yearly as our capacity increases. At the end of our fifth year, gang presence and violence will have markedly decreased, and all of our Surf Strong family above the age of 15 will be continuing their education in secondary school.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

With our success, the ideal full impact is to become a model organization for others hoping to help youth develop with sport. Additionally, expanding our program throughout El Salvador and other Central American beach communities, we hope to see a decrease in the exodus of local youth seeking safety and opportunity far from home. Finally, as the strength of the community increases with the education of the youth, it becomes evident in the decrease in violence and presence of gangs.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our surf school also provides classes and camps to those that can afford to pay. These clients usually consist of foreign tourists, and local tourists from the city of San Salvador. The cost of these classes, photography, and guide services will cover our costs once the clientele base is established.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other programs are using surfing to expand the horizons of youth by providing what ranges from one day expeditions to summer long weekly classes. However the most closely linked programs, in regards to capacity and educational development are programs such as Chill, SOS, and Outdoor Outreach, which use general board sports to provide leadership development. These organizations however, lack a safe space for the kids to escape violence. Here in El Salvador, there are no programs similar in existence.

Founding Story

On a Central American backpacking trip, Sarah encountered a young man that had just received a donated surfboard from a US NGO. He was delighted to have such a prestigious board, and was the envy of all the local kids. However, much to my surprise, he sold the board within a month, for a price far below its value. The short-lived value of the board donation, and a program that had so little follow-up pushed Sarah to think there must be a better way! And so Surf Strong was born...


Francisca Barrios's picture

Hola Surf Strong, yo trabajo en un proyecto similar en Peru donde a través del deporte recuperamos para la sociedad a niños y jóvenes de la calle y de las pandillas. Una recomendación es formar alianzas con Federaciones deportivas de tu país. En mi caso nosotros practicamos surf, muaythai y paddle surf y estamos asociados con las Federaciones respectivas. Esto le da solvencia y seriedad a tu proyecto. Saludos!