By: Samantha Shaw
Our third issue of the Photographers Without Borders (PWB) Magazine has officially been launched online! (You can order yours here). In this issue you’ll read the story of 12 inspiring organizations, each fueled by motivated and passionate change-makers. Today we’re spotlighting Give and Surf’s founder, Neil Christiansen, and his small group of staff with a “stubborn perseverance” to make a difference.
Prior to Give and Surf, Neil’s professional background was in medical sales. Mobilized to feel a stronger connection to his work, Neil left his job in sales to pursue something that would leave him with a greater sense of pride and fulfillment at the end of the day. “The inspiration behind Give and Surf was me really struggling with this thought in my head that I needed to get out of medical sales and do something that I was connected to, that I could lend my own personal creativity to. I come from a place where I feel happiest and best when I am helping others,” Neil says.
An important aspect of Give and Surf is providing education for children in Bocas del Toro. Neil believes the organization has chosen the best avenues to support local communities, because “without education, it’s hard to develop new understandings and approaches to life.” Education provides children and communities with the tools and knowledge required to actively take hold of their futures and plan for sustainable change.
When asked to reflect on a particular moment of inspiration with Give and Surf, Neil shared:
“Looking back now at four and half years of working in these communities and seeing the 3 year olds who are now 8 years old and in third grade, and seeing how far they have come in the last almost 5 years. It has been incredible to see their personal growth, and not just how they’re ticking the boxes and learning their ABC’s and 123s’ - its more about observing and being part of them developing a sense of identity and being able to express themselves. It’s about experiential learning, personal growth and developing self-confidence.”
At Give and Surf, it’s about sharing the spotlight. “I really want to say thanks to the staff, because they are the ones that are doing the heavy working. They’re in the middle of an 8 week construction project to build a new school, and it’s really being led by the staff - all individuals who have worked less than a year with Give and Surf. They're making not only me proud, but everyone who has ever been connected with the organization… It’s their stubborn perseverance is what I always say; their stubborn perseverance to see things through no matter what it takes. They're taking small snippets of direction and making major power moves to do something that is very difficult. It’s a true testament to the type of people they are. That’s what I’m most proud of - sharing the love for what I do with my staff members,” Neil shares.