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Give and Surf

Give and Surf

Give and Surf

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Give and Surf

Bocas del Toro, Panama

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We are a small, locally embedded 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to empowering the indigenous communities of Bocas del Toro, Panama through education and community development. As a volunteer-driven organization, we depend on the over 200 volunteers who visit us each year to help us run our educational programs and assist with the construction and repair of local schools and other projects.

What can we offer Escapees?

Escapees get the best of both worlds with Give & Surf!  Spend your mornings being immersed in the local Ngobe culture by volunteering with our educational programs in the local villages of Bahia Honda and Bahia Roja.  And enjoy the free time on your afternoons and weekends exploring everything that the Bocas islands has to offer including surfing, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, hiking, ziplining, and of course, just relaxi

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About us

Prior to 2011, there was only a small primary school offering inadequate education in unsatisfactory facilities in Bahia Honda. Fortunately, in 2011, Neil Christiansen decided to give up his medical sales career and pursue his passions for helping others and surfing which landed him in Bocas del Toro, Panama where he quickly connected with Margaret Ann & Henry Escudero, owners of La Loma Jungle Lodge. Henry & Margaret were already well established in the Bahia Honda and, as parents to 3-year-old Lucho, were eager to start a program for all of the community preschoolers. And thus was born Give & Surf. Where this partnership would lead and what this small program would blossom into, neither Neil, Margaret nor Henry could have imagined.

Now, five years since its inception, Give & Surf serves over 150 students per week in five indigenous communities. In Bahia Honda & Bahia Roja, we are the primary providers of preschool, kindergarten, summer school, English classes, and other extracurricular activities. We have started to expand our reach into communities in Old Bank, Carenero, Bocas Town, and Solarte by offering teen & adult English classes and taking on new community development projects. Over the last five years, we have helped to build three schools, a library, cafeteria, playground, bathroom, water catchment system, and helped to renovate & maintain other schools and community facilities.


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Community Need

We often get asked why Bocas? Statistically, Panama usually ranks above their fellow Central American countries when it comes to the rate of literacy, dropouts, overall education, poverty, and other key indicators. Unfortunately, the realities faced by the five indigenous populations of Panama are an entirely different story. The Ngobe-Bugle tribe is the largest indigenous group in Panama and it is estimated that over 90% are living in extreme poverty. Due to the remote location, they have extremely limited access to education, medical care, and other basic necessities. This has resulted in high rates of drop out, malnutrition, and unemployment. Only 18% of Ngobe students are educated past a sixth grade level and the overall literacy rate is 55%. The culture and livelihood of the Ngobe communities in the Bocas del Toro islands is at particular risk due to the growing tourism sector, which is infringing on the Ngobe lands and also raising the cost of living. In order to both protect their culture as well as ensure future opportunities for employment, Give and Surf is committed to educating and empowering these communities.

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