For NO&YO, giving back to the community is a must and is the core of our philosophy. It is especially important to NO&YO’s values that we all may share the joys of what life has to offer while helping to spread a positive impact around the world. And so a portion of proceeds from every single item sold is donated to various charities. In 2013 NO&YO partnered up with Waves of Hope, an organization established by three friends after their backpacking trip to Central America. NO&YO was immediately drawn to the charity because of its passion for helping and improving the quality of life in their community in Nicaragua through strengthening local education and infrastructure. While Waves of Hope is taking on a role of facilitators, the community actually decides on the ideas and concepts of needs and desires. I sat down, unfortunately only in a virtual sense of the word, with Jamie Colum, one of the founders of Waves of Hopes and he answered some of my questions about the work Waves of Hope does, how did it all start and what are their plans for the future.
How did it all start – when did the idea to establish Waves of Hope come up?
After I graduated with a finance degree I had this lingering feeling that the corporate world was not for me. So I jumped on a plane to South Korea to visit some friends and ended up living there for 2.5 years teaching English and travelling throughout Southeast Asia. These trips were my first true exposure to real poverty, which left quite an imprint on me. After that I headed to Central America with a close friend to reconnect with another old friend of ours who was volunteering in the mountains of Guatemala and it was in those mountains that the 3 of us, myself, Ben and Earl, began dreaming about building a socially conscious and eco-friendly tourism project. So we spent the next few months crafting the dreams of El Coco Loco Resort and Waves of Hope.
How did you decide to manage Waves of Hope full time from Central America?
The decision to move down to Nicaragua was really three-fold. One part was to come down and help manage and grow our socially conscious eco-resort El Coco Loco. The second part was so that I could play an active role in managing Waves of Hope projects on the ground while also gaining a better understanding of the realities of life in Nicaragua and the inner workings of our community, El Manzano #1. The third part was a personal choice as I knew that by transitioning my life down here, away from the hustle and bustle of the financial world in Toronto, I would be able to live a much healthier life – mentally, physically and spiritually.
What does Waves of Hope support and provide in Nicaragua? What are the charity’s plans in the near future?
Our mission is to alleviate poverty through development, infrastructure and volunteer efforts. Over the past four years we have raised over $180,000 for our community and have invested into various educational, health and infrastructure focused projects. We just completed our largest project to date, a high school that will serve 10 local communities. The school was built in partnership with Surf for Life, a San Francisco based NGO, and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education and was just handed over at the end of January 2014. Waves of Hope is providing the land and infrastructure (classrooms, library, desks, books, etc.) while the government will be providing the faculty and curriculum. We already have over 230 students registered for classes. We are also scheduled to break ground on a new elementary school for a neighboring community in March. This community already has over 120 children attending classes daily on little more than dirt floors with a tin roof.
What impact do companies like NO&YO have in supporting the cause in Nicaragua?
Establishing relationships with other companies such as NO&YO helps to both create awareness and also to fund our initiatives. NO&YO very generously donated T-Shirts from their incredible product line that we are selling down here in Nicaragua to tourists and volunteers. The funds raised from each T-Shirt sale are being used to purchase new desks for our high school. These desks only cost $20 each but we require 230 of them (or more) so the costs do add up. Something as simple as the sale of a t-shirt will provide students with a chance to continue their education past grade 6 (the current level that is locally available) and take the next steps in their own personal fight against poverty. We are very grateful to NO&YO for believing in us and our community!
I read a blog post about a volunteer experience in building of the high school through a philanthropic program that Salesforce has in place. Do you foresee more companies following Salesforce’ example?
Surf For Life works closely with Salesforce and other large tech companies in San Francisco to provide employees with once of a life-time opportunity to give back while visiting one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Surf for Life engages individuals and groups to participate in the construction of community driven development projects in coastal communities.
For Waves of Hope, this relationship has been key in allowing us to take the next step as an organization. The funding provided by these trips has allowed us to dream bigger than ever and the energy and passion of the volunteers have been incredibly rewarding for our community. We strongly recommend other companies to get in touch and organize a Service Trip for their employees. It is a truly unique team building experience.
Holly Beck is a huge supporter of both Waves of Hope and Surf for Life. How did you create your connection with her and surfing?
I met Holly about four years ago surfing near Coco Loco. Well actually she was surfing and I was getting worked by the waves. Holly and I connected over a shared vision of how tourism could have a positive impact on the community and we formed a strong friendship and partnership from there. Surfing is new to our community and over the past five years has brought tourism and the tourism has brought jobs and change. The local surfers have also gained an incredible hobby and have learned a very strong respect for the ocean and local environment. We keep 3 brand new Firewire boards thanks to Share the Stoke at Coco Loco as part of our library collection. These boards are lent out each week to students from our elementary school that have been chosen by the teachers for their attendance and hard work throughout the week.
If anyone reading this post would like to help support Waves of Hope – what can they do?
There are many ways for you to get involved with Waves of Hope. Financial donations are very much appreciated and always put to good use. Donations can be made through our website at http://waves-of-hope.com/take-action/donations/. Since Waves of Hope is a volunteer based-organization with zero-overhead costs, ALL of the donations are invested directly into our community. We also run an Intern program for those able to come down for 3-month or Service-Based Retreats in partnerships with El Coco Loco Resort. And of course, information and connections are key. Please always feel free to contact us with ideas, questions and your thoughts and/or to connect us with other foundations or non-profits with similar goals. Together we can change this world!!