There are so many aspects of life which we have no control over. One of those is being born into a family who exists in less than favorable conditions. Specifically, the children of families residing in the Tondo area of Metro Manila. Within its borders lies the famed Smokey Mountain, a landfill of massive proportions. There are thousands of people living off the trash in various ways through this landfill. Saying that these children grow up in unsanitary conditions is putting it mildly.
A couple of weeks ago, I joined my friends from Church Simplified coordinated by its pastor Bebo Bharwani and his wife Nikki to visit Smokey Mountain. The objective was to shed light on the desperate living conditions of the people there. It was also an opportunity to understand how Young Focus plays a crucial role in helping the youth there through education, discipline, and integrity.
When one gets exposed to the harshness of life in Smokey Mountain by actually meeting the people of the community and walking around the surrounding settlements, it is heartbreaking and forces one to reflect deeply. Being a surfer, I thought of sharing with the children of Smokey Mountain the experience of surfing, a recreational activity that has given me nothing but positivity and happiness in my life. The idea was great but finding the resources to make this possible was the biggest challenge. It wasn’t going to be easy to bring a large group of kids hours away to the nearest surfing destination. So I reached out to my friend, Paolo Soler of Philippine Surfing Academy who conducts surfing lessons at a wavepool in Club Manila East, a resort located within the city. He loved the idea and immediately shared it with Reu Dellota, CME’s vice president for marketing and operations. Without hesitation, Mr. Dellota approved the project and waived all the fees for admission and surfing lessons. After only a few days of communication, my wish was granted and we found ourselves heading to the wavepool with the Young Focus team including its founder Paul van Wijgerden and twenty one 6th graders from Smokey Mountain!
Paolo and his team of coaches provided the surfing instruction and were assisted by another friend and former pro surfer, Corey Wills, who drove all the way from Subic just to be able to help out and share the stoke with these kids.
It was awesome to see the children laughing and cheering each other on as they rode wave after wave. Those two hours surfing in the wave pool was really special. We were all able to enjoy a unique kind of happiness only surfing could provide. We all played inside a wave pool, living in the moment and that was all that mattered. It was really touching to see these children so happy.
I am grateful that like minds and hearts joined together to make this possible and I hope the future brings more happiness to these kids. Again, thank you to Paolo Soler of Philippine Surfing Academy and Reu Dellota of Club Manila East for making this possible. Without your support, this would have never happened. To Paul and Young Focus, thank you for trusting me and my idea of sharing the stoke of surfing with the kids.