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Socially Responsible Surfing in Ecuador

By Emily, 01/25/2010 - 04:38
"Combine development work with an active holiday" Sandshoe is an NGO combining the areas of education, sustainable development and sports. The purpose of the organization is to support local development in Las Tunas village, in Ecuador, through financial aid and volunteer tourism. The cornerstones of its work are responsibility, sustainable development and playfullness with sports and children.
Las Tunas village of approximately 500 people is one of the three villages forming the community of Las Tunis on the Pacific coast of Ecuador. The population of the village is relatively young as approximately 70 percent of the people are under 30 years old. There exists a very limited amount of resources, doctors and teachers which makes it very challenging to improve the conditions of welfare and education. The community is also suffering from the lack of fresh water, which forces the poor households to purchase water for a market price, increasing living costs significantly. However, the La Tuna village has been able to receive well needed complementary income and support for the local school through 'VolunSurf -tourism' initiative.
Erik Lau, the founder of Sandshoe explains:
Surfing and my search for waves has broughtme to wonderful and beautiful destinations. However, I've also been to communities where poverty and hard living conditions are many people's everyday life. Above all the vulnerable situation of children has made a big impact on me. I want to find ways to improve the living conditions of those less fortunate and increase children's chances for a better life with the help of sports that have a close connection to nature and the sea and the positive spirit and happiness they bring. To in some way give back something to places and people that have given me so much.
In Las Tunas travellers - collaborating with local NGO Fundaci?n Reto Internacional - have an opportunity to combine development work in local development projects with guided world class surfing on Ruta del Sol (Sun Route). For two to three hours each day, the travellers teach English independently or as an assistant to children and teachers. Volunteer tourism offers a venue for deeper intercultural exchange and mutual understanding that rarely exist in conventional forms of mass tourism. This kind of tourism can be called to be responsible as all tourism services are connected to the local economy and the local people are actively participating in the tourism development of the community. However, it is vital that the travelers interested in volunteer tourism acknowledge the importance of responsible behavior, intercultural sensibility and are more interested in understanding than advising...
Sandshoe, in cooperation with Xtravel, organize 2-8 weeks volunteer vacations that give the responsible travelers an opportunity to make the difference while riding the waves of the Pacific. The volunteer tourism opportunities are available for experienced surfers and for the beginner interested to learn to surf. In Las Tunas the visitors can choose between an accommodation with a local family to stay at a hostel close by the water. During the weekends the volunteers can visit for instance the Machalilla national park, Isla de la Plata or to travel to Puerto Lopez to experience the atmosphere of a fish market by the beach. The best time to travel to Las Tunas is between November and April when the water and air temperatures are high. It takes approximately three hours to travel to Las Tunas from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. To catch a bus during the daytime is in general an easy, comfortable and safe way to travel around Ecuador.
These kinds of community-based tourism initiatives consist a good starting point for socially responsible tourism development. But to what extent surfing tourism is ecologically sustainable?
Text: Emily H?ckert
photo credit: Dan Queiroz via photopin cc
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