Ten homeless children living in a family shelter got surfing lessons last week at Waikiki Beach as part of the Institute for Human Services’ Children’s Enrichment program.
The six-week, activity-packed program aimed at building self-esteem and educating kids about the community is similar to Summer Fun programs across the state. IHS Director of Community Relations Kimo Carvalho said it gives the kids an opportunity to have the same experiences as other children on Oahu.
Carvalho described the program as an “opportunity to normalize a child’s life in way where they can experience the same type of activities that any other kid who is not homeless experiences.”
He added, “It shows them that there is a life outside of homelessness and a thriving community that this program hopefully motivates and inspires them to be a part of.”
The IHS program has been running for the past four years, offering sports activities, arts and crafts, gardening on the family shelter’s rooftop, and beach days. IHS also takes the children on field trips with no cost to the families.
So far, they’ve gone to Ice Palace, Heeia Fishpond, iTrampoline and Hawaii Pirate Ship Adventures. The program secured these activities through donations or at discounted rates.
BIG Wave Dave Surf Co., owned by professional surfer Dave Carvalho in Waikiki, provided surfboards and lessons for the kids, ages 7 to 10, on Thursday.
The aspiring groms watched — some nervous, others excited — as the staff demonstrated the proper way to ride a surfboard.
The kids then took turns learning how to paddle, maneuver the board in the water and quickly hop up to catch the perfect wave. Cheering one another on, soon enough even the most nervous in the group were all smiles getting into their surf stance.
After a bit of on-land practice, the kids made their way into the water. Little arms paddled a line of boards led by “Big Wave Dave” himself, holding up at about 15 feet offshore at Queen’s Surf. Soon after, the kids were catching waves — riding with big grins all the way to the shore.
Poking their heads out of the water after post-ride dunks, the stoked could be heard shouting, “That was awesome!”
Slightly less eager to embrace surfing as a passion was 10-year-old Aaliyah Roman, fresh out of the water and a bit tired from the excitement. Aaliyah said maybe she’d try surfing again in a few years.
“It was challenging at first because it was hard to stand,” Aaliyah said. “But the best part was when I caught the biggest wave and rode it all the way in.”
When the kids returned to the surf shop, Big Wave Dave gave them hats to take home. “You never know what kind of chord you’ll strike with the kids. This could spark something in them,” Carvalho said. “The water cleanses the soul.”
IHS Family Specialist Amber Guerrero planned events for the summer program that she felt would teach the children to turn challenges into victories.
“The kids go through a lot of challenges in their life, and we tell them, ‘This is temporary, not permanent,’” she said. “We let the children know that no matter where you go in life, you are in control of your own life.”
Prior to the program, Guerrero said most of the kids had never been to any of the field trip spots, and for some it was their first time in Waikiki. She said taking the children to these places “just helps them to feel like a kid again.”
Guerrero and another IHS worker, along with two Hawaii Pacific University student volunteers, will continue chaperoning the kids during their remaining three weeks on outings to the Battleship Missouri, Kualoa Ranch and other popular recreational locations.
While consistency and structure is something the kids need now, the program’s experiential learning opportunities can instill in them life-long lessons and values.
“We’re showing them what’s out there so they’re learning a lot about themselves and the community,” Guerrero said. “We’re building new possibilities so they know anything is possible.”