Surfers get a wake-up call
FOUR Sunshine Coast teenagers shared an eye-opening trip last month when they swapped their laid-back Aussie lifestyle for the harsh reality of life in the Philippines.
Jake Vincent, 16, Matthew Williams, 17, Jayson Homan, 19, and Izak Clifford, 16, who are all keen surfers, spent two weeks experiencing two different sides of the poverty-stricken country.
Christian Surfers leader Jordan Merry, 21, who organised the expedition, said he had fond memories of similar childhood trips.
"My parents took me on trips to Asia when I was younger," Jordan said.
"I experienced poverty first-hand and it shifted the way I thought.
"I wanted other young guys to have the same opportunity and to see a different side of life."
Jordan and the teenagers were accompanied on the life-changing adventure by Jordan's father Andrew, a representative from the charity Compassion, and another Christian Surfers leader, Richard Fagg.
The group spent the first week of the trip doing what they love best - enjoying the local surf on the tropical paradise of Siargao Island.
In contrast, the second week gave the group an insight into the reality of life for Filipinos as they visited local families being helped by Compassion.
Throughout the journey, the group encountered local food, transport and infrastructure but Jordan said the Filipinos had had the greatest effect on them.
"We saw eight to 10 people in a family, living in a little shack," Jordan said.
"It felt hopeless, but they were happy and appreciated what they had.
"It really lifted our spirits to see them happy."
Jordan said the home visits had had a life-changing impact on the young surfers.
"The boys learnt to really appreciate what they have," he said.
"They also learnt a sense of community.
"Over here (in Australia) people hardly talk to their neighbours but in the Philippines, they rely on each other."
Jordan said they hoped to make similar trips an annual event to allow participants to gain a new perspective outside their own world.
"It will be like a schoolies' trip, but with a purpose," he said.
Warwick Bentley and Shane Keefe, from the Australian Christian Channel, also went on the journey to shoot a documentary of the boys' experiences.
Warwick said the most memorable part of the trip for him was seeing how the boys had evolved.
"At the start of the trip, they were typical teenagers," he said.
"By the end, they were talking in a way that was a lot more mature.
"They became more conscious of one another and were truly grateful for what they have."
The filmmaker said the documentary, which will be shown later in the year, aimed to highlight issues he believed were being ignored by the Western world.
"Many people travel to these exotic locations and only see the tourism side," he said.
"They don't see the poverty and hardship that is hidden away.
"Throughout the documentary, viewers will be able to see the group's reaction to seeing both sides of the Philippines.
"It shows that people can help alleviate poverty through simple things like the sponsorship programs."
More details about the documentary and a blog of the trip can be found at http://destinationcloudnine.tumblr.com/