Banner
Advertise with us

Home International Surfing school in Chile changes lives for kids with Down syndrome

Surfing school in Chile changes lives for kids with Down syndrome

E-mail Print
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Classes are completely personalized for each person
By Giselle Vargas
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNA)

Photo: Children and young adults with mental disabilities learn to surf at Waves of Hope. (Claudio Augusto Morales / CNA)

Felipe Pereira is full of enthusiasm on Sundays. Those are the days the 21-year-old goes to Paradise Beach to enjoy the sea along with his friends and to learn how to surf.

For children and young adults with mental disabilities, this is more than a sport. It is the Waves of Hope free surfing school, based in northern Chile’s Antofagasta region.

The school is directed by Chilean surfing enthusiasts Claudio Morales, Catalina Daniels and Pablo Marín, who launched the program five years ago.

After knocking on a lot of doors, running pilot projects, consulting with specialists, and coming up with financing, they began their first class with six surfboards and six wetsuits.

Each Sunday from December to February, the three directors and other volunteers welcome up to 15 children with Down syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome and autism, giving them completely personalized classes adapted to each person’s condition.

Pereira is a very sociable young man who does folk dancing, goes swimming, and works in his school’s bakeshop. He told CNA that what he likes most about the surfing classes is “getting on top of the surf board and catching the waves.”

“I like the sea. I really like to go,” he said. Pereira also likes his instructors, saying, “I like how nice they are to us, I love what they do.”

Instructor Catalina Daniels told CNA that her students “challenge you to change. You can’t go on being the same.

“They are a tremendous example of how love is the driving force of the best things, the best times, the best efforts. Affectionate warmth is the best investment and with them it’s incredible,” she said.

Daniels also discussed the impact of faith, saying “the person who knows Christ, Jesus, who by his mercy came into your life, can’t be the same. You have to be better, more loving, more understanding, more tolerant, because they are.”

Surfing requires strength, balance, agility, and a lot of technique. But what is most important, the Waves of Hope founders recognize, is the relationship between the instructor and the student. This breaks down the barriers of discrimination to make way for integration.

Many Chileans have never spoken or shaken hands with a person with Down syndrome.

“So very motivated volunteers come, but the first day they don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to act, they try to help, but even they freeze up,” Daniels told CNA.

But the students laugh and tell jokes, and eventually, relationships are formed.

“They have an incredible time. They float, row, do group dynamics, take up the surfboard. They have demonstrated that they can do a lot, they have overcome many difficulties related to their condition,” Daniels said.

She explained that the problem is rooted in discrimination and the lack of proper integration.
“They were born struggling with frustration; they were born already disadvantaged,” she said of the students. “It was really hard getting support from the businesses. Why don’t we see girls with Down syndrome promoting products in advertising? Because the beauty of our students is an atypical beauty and no one wants it on their front page.

“Chile is a country that creates handicaps,” she reflected, adding that trends to de-value family, school, and the Church also cause problems for the disabled.

Daniels recommends that people draw closer to God: “to give love you have to be with the Creator of love … When you have love, you have to give it, you have to give it shape, make it real.”

Claudio Morales added that the volunteers are “the big winners” of Waves of Hope.
“Children with Down syndrome capture your heart in an incredible way,” he said. “I believe that all the volunteers have a changed way of looking at life.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 13:44  

Dear reader,

Due to an unmanageable amount of spam and abusive messages, we are no longer able to offer the comment function on our website. We respect the principle of public debate and remain committed to it. Please send us a note at letters@rcav.org and visit us in the near future when we have finished building our new website — at which point the comment function will be restored.


Kind regards,

The B.C. Catholic

 
Banner

 

Banner

 

Multimedia

Salt and Light Webcast
  
  Courtesy of Salt & Light Television



Click image to watch Video
Medieval Gem - UBC acquires papal bull

Click image to watch Video
Paul Goo's Diaconate Ordination

Click image to watch Video
Thank You John Paul II

 

 

 
4885 Saint John Paul II Way Vancouver BC V5Z 0G3   Phone: 604 683 0281 Fax: 604 683 8117
© The B.C. Catholic

Informing Catholics in Canada since 1931