Over the past few years, the Valpo Surf Project has extended their services as youth mentors to the students under the care of Servicio Nacional de Menores, SENAME, in Playa Ancha. SENAME functions as a juvenile detention and rehabilitation center for Chilean youth who have committed crimes, have had problems with drug or alcohol abuse, or have been removed from unhealthy or dangerous family environments. The Valpo Surf Project is grateful to have the opportunity to reach out to such a unique population of Valparaiso’s youth.

In addition to surf lessons, the Valpo Surf Project visits SENAME weekly to act as mentors for the teenagers living in the center. Until now, the VSP had only worked with the male student body from the center, but just over a week ago, the VSP added a new group of exclusively female students. In terms of VSP’s unique mission, having a group of girls is special. Surfing is often viewed as a male dominated sport and the VSP is excited to open up new doors for these girls. Here’s what some of our interns and volunteers had to say after last week’s surf session with the new group:

“We asked the girls why they like sports and at first, their answers were about being skinny, but when we talked about feeling empowered and equal to the boy groups, all the girls agreed and got right into the action. It’s not important why these girls are in SENAME, but rather why they are learning to surf. It matters that they are with us, in the ocean, trying something new!” Natalie, VSP Intern

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“The most important thing we can we do for these groups is get them out of their reality. To enjoy and act their age… not talk about the bad things, their problems, their pasts or expectations. This time surfing is to have fun and forget about the realities in which they live.” Facundo, VSP Volunteer

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“Also, four of the girls told me that during the week at SENAME, they were on their best behavior as to be able to come surfing on the weekend with us. Jasmin and Maria are very motivated and try very hard… I think we will see a change in their behavior when visiting the community center.” Natalie, VSP Intern

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“It was interesting to see how the leaders of the group showed themselves and encouraged the other girls to keep practicing.” – Facundo, VSP Volunteer

“Even though some of the students were afraid to go into the waves, after they tried and messed up, it felt great to see them try again.” – Claudio, former VSP student and current volunteer

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“It was incredible to be with them their first time surfing…for many of the girls; this was their first time getting into the ocean or any body of water. They don’t all know how to swim, but it doesn’t stop them from having a blast with their friends and us. Hearing their laughter after getting washed over by a wave was the best reward.” – Max, VSP Intern

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“One of the girls has already shown interest in caring for the environment and though she is nervous to surf, she wants to keep collaborating with the VSP in other activities.” Natalie, VSP Intern