Fourteen years ago, Dr. Dave Jenkins stomped his way through the dense Indonesian jungle that led to a remote village in the Mentawai Islands. At the time, Jenkins was on a surf trip, but what he saw in the village shook him to his core. Just a short trek from where a half-dozen million-dollar surf charter boats were anchored, malaria-stricken communities filled with malnourished children were living in abject conditions. The particular village that Jenkins stumbled upon had never before seen a Western doctor. The juxtaposition between the comforts his fellow surfers had while anchored in the channel and the suffering that Jenkins saw before him spurred him to take action. Not long after, with a mission to improve the health and well being of the Mentawais and Nias people, SurfAid was born.
“That exposure, from a morning spent surfing to seeing the realities of how a lot of people in this world live, was so intense,” said Dr. Jenkins. “There was really no one else going to these places aside from surfers and a few anthropologists. Who else was going to help these islands?”
In the ensuing decade, SurfAid has proven themselves to be more than adept, distributing more than 60,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets, improving the access of remote tribes to clean drinking water, and working as a disaster-response organization following the numerous traumatic earthquakes and tsunamis that have rocked the island chain. And recently, in recognition of their achievements, the Australian government granted SurfAid with an NGO accreditation, opening up the organization to more funding and allowing them to further expand their reach.
“It was a long process to get this accreditation from the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but it’s a huge step forward for SurfAid,” said Andrew Judge, the organization’s CEO. “It opens us up to $150,000 a year for five years from the government but, more than that, it really strengthens our reputation and validates the great work we’ve been doing. It’s going to give us a lot of credibility and momentum and open us up to do a lot more good for the people of Indonesia.
“The award of accreditation by the Australian government followed an in-depth review over 18 months examining SurfAid’s capacity to design, deliver and account for effective development programs delivering long-term impact. The review had a particular focus on donor accountability and respectful and credible representation of the communities we work with.”
Moving forward, SurfAid is looking to continue growing their presence in isolated Indonesian villages and further strengthen their support for maternal health.
“We’re currently finishing up our Nias Health Program and we’ve seen some spectacular results through our training program. While working with only a small population, since we’ve begun this program the number of maternal deaths annually has dropped from nine to two. We’re looking to replicate the success we’ve had in Nias and take it to Sumba and Sumbawa and monitor its impact. Having NGO accreditation behind us will enable us to grow and further the good work we’re currently doing.”