SurfAid International provides solace through surfing

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Dr. Dave Jenkins, co-founder of SurfAid International, attends to young patients in Mentawai, where a tsunami killed 500 people and displaced more than 15,000 in October last year. A benefit will take place Friday night in Malibu to benefit the organization. Photo provided courtesy of SurfAid International

10th Annual “Behind the Palms” benefit to raise money for causes such as tsunami relief.

By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times

Riding rad waves and a party on Friday will help raise funds with the “Behind the Palms/Malibu: A Benefit for SurfAid International” event, Friday this week at Malibu Market & Design.

Timed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Malibu Surfing Association Classic Surfing Contest, which takes place Sept. 9-11 at First Point, “Behind the Palms” will benefit SurfAid International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health, well-being and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions.

SurfAid, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, began in 2000 after the needless suffering and preventable deaths from malaria and other health issues in the Mentawai Islands inspired a group of concerned surfers to help. SurfAid is now widely respected for its work in the Mentawai, Nias, Telo and Banyak islands, west of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Executive director Randal Schober works out of SurfAid USA’s Encinitas office and has been part of the organization for 12 months. He is in charge of spreading awareness about the organization’s life-saving programs and services they provide in the Mentawai and surrounding islands

“All the monies raised at the ‘Behind the Palms’ Malibu event will benefit our emergency response following the tsunami that struck the Mentawai Islands on October 25, 2010,” Schober said, “and will help with our on-going emergency preparedness programs.”

SurfAid has delivered five emergency response programs following major disasters, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the October 2010 Mentawai tsunami, where 500 people were killed and 15,000 were displaced. SurfAid International was the leading agency to respond to the Mentawai tsunami destruction.

“We are so appreciative of the continued support given to us by the Malibu Surfing Association and the Malibu community at large,” Schober said.

“SurfAid grew out of surfing’s worldwide connection to the fantastic waves in this very isolated region,” longtime volunteer Teresa Earle said. “Dr. Dave Jenkins founded SurfAid after a surf trip to the area. After initially giving direct medical support to villages, it was realized that educating for long-term self-sustainability was a more effective way to help the people there. Malaria-reduction programs, water and sanitation improvements, mother and child health education, nutrition education, and emergency response and preparation form the core of SurfAid’s work.”

SurfAid’s community-based health programs also address hygiene, healthy environments and disease prevention, such as mosquito net distribution.

Friday evening’s entertainment will include a live performance by singer/songwriter/pro surfer Donavon Frankenreiter, while KCRW’s DJ Mario Cotto will spin records. There will also be a screening of the short film “Behind the Palms: 10 Years of SurfAid,” which takes its title from the unique environment in the Mentawai islands.

“The film gives a great historical overview of how SurfAid began 10 years ago,” Earle said, “and the many ways that SurfAid has worked in the Mentawai and Nias islands in Indonesia. It is thought provoking and highly emotional at times, but the overall message is about positive actions that make a difference.”

The party will include gourmet food and a cocktail bar hosted by Patron, as well as wine tasting, coffee and hot chocolate, both live and silent auctions, and raffles and giveaways.

“Another special feature of the night,” Earle said, “will be the school student volunteers, who will be junior hosts throughout the evening (many of them from local Malibu schools). They are part of the SurfAid Schools Program and will be sharing their knowledge of SurfAid’s work they have gained from their studies.

Also notable is the event venue, Malibu Market & Design, which has been donated by Eytan Levin. This Malibu lifestyle and design haven will also be donating a large percentage of its sales from attendees who come back to purchase store items within the two weeks to SurfAid.

Most of all, attendees can celebrate SurfAid’s decade of dedication to relief causes.

“Over the past 10 years, we have delivered support to over 300 villages,” Earle said, “and, while it is hard to accurately quantify, thousands of lives have been improved through our activities. The task remains an enormous one, especially in view of the mega earthquake and tsunami that is predicted to hit the region.

“For me,” Earle continued, “the work SurfAid does serves as a stellar model of an organization that provides at-risk communities the education and empowerment to permanently change their quality of life.”

Tickets to the fundraiser can be purchased online at www.surfaidinternational.org or calling 760.753.1103.