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What a week it has been! Here’s a short story of my first few days volunteering at Surf Cerrito.

On the back of a mammoth night bus journey from Ecuador, my partner and I arrived on Saturday evening during sunset in Huanchaco, where we caught a glimpse of the natural scenery we’d be blessed with for the next month. Straight from the bus and to dinner with the volunteering gang helped us quickly feel right at home. This communal feeling was followed up the next day by a group surf led by Brayan, local surf instructor and Surf Cerrito’s charismatic co-founder.

Into the first week of work. Brayan kindly took us to discover the bigger city Trujillo, where we sampled local dishes and walked through the sprawling markets. But the main aim of the day was to gather supplies for Día de la Madre (Mother’s Day), which was taking place that Sunday, a very important day in Peru! As a gift to their mothers, the team of young surfers at Surf Cerrito had decided to create a DIY artistic piece, made from plastic bottles. And this would fill our Wednesday and Thursday activities at Cerrito Surf School. Though I was at first overwhelmed by a new group of 25 excitable kids, I was quickly welcomed and was in awe as I watched the group working collaboratively to create their designs. And on the Saturday, we made the final touches and invited all the mothers to gather to receive their gifts. It was truly special to be witness to such a dedication of love!

Of course, I can’t talk about my first week without talking about the surfing. Friday was the first time I went out to the water with the Surf Cerrito crew, where I saw the kids thriving in the water – some out back and confident surfers, others by the shore and enjoying being in the Ocean. Whichever level they were, there’s no doubt that the Ocean is a space that encourages play, respect and education, where all kids can focus their energy on surfing and forget about everyday worries that they otherwise face.

The plan for next week is to continue surfing, and head to Chicama with the volunteering team, to surf the longest left wave in the world! Can’t wait.

Thibaud Sulzer

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  • surfcerrito

I volunteered with Surf Cerrito for three months as a part of my year abroad at the University of Manchester. I had an incredible time. Purely from a personal perspective, I learned to surf, I improved my Spanish and met some lifelong friends.

I felt welcomed into the kind and accepting community of Huanchaco, which is a really cool place to live. It has a real laid-back, surfer-town charm while also being vibrant and fun - i never got bored of the ceviche!

Brayan and Daisy are extremely hard-working, professional and dedicated individuals who are truly committed to their goals of using surfing as a tool of development. I was taken aback at how much time, effort and passion they put into their project, and how they really do believe in it. The fact that Brayan is an active community leader within Cerrito who used surfing as a means of improving his own life was incredibly inspiring to me, and this provides Surf Cerrito with a uniqueness compared to other organisations and NGOs. There is a real sense of community ownership of the surf school - the academy, the boards, the ponchos and the leashes all belong to the kids and the community of Cerrito. There is definitely a sense within the community that the Surf Academy is really valued by Cerrito, with important ties and relationships between the parents and the organisation.

Working with children and young people is always a really rewarding experience, and with Surf Cerrito it is no different. There is a bubbly and vibrant community of personalities at the Surf Cerrito academy, and I would always find myself smiling and laughing with them during the classes - they are honestly hilarious. In a more practical sense, watching them develop their surfing skills, listening to them opening up about how they are feeling, and witnessing them mature as individuals was really incredible. Seeing the giggles of Isabella stand up on a foam board for the first time, the proud elation of Clever as he pushed his boundaries and went further out of his depth, and the smiles of Kahori as she caught her first unassisted wave was uplifting. These young people are truly inspiring, and I feel really grateful to have spent time with them. I really look forward to keep following the Surf Cerrito story - it is an empowering and impressive organization.

Ethan Miller, Manchester University

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