Surfers Help the Lost Children of Peru
The world-class breaks at Los Organos, Piura and Lobitos are finally seducing the Yankee short-board set out of California into the crisp Peruvian surf. The morning sun bursts off the rolling Pacific swells and warms the boarders sitting outside the break, waiting for the just-right roller.
While Peru may still not be a household name around the North American surfing scene, the classic film, “Endless Summer” did introduce us to the “perfect waves” of South America’s west coast. The “woodies” may not roll down the Peruvian equivalent of the PCH at sunrise, but like every So Cal beach the waves of Peru enjoy a spirit of local loyalty and local pride. A little common courtesy and a smile is about all it takes to get a few tips from the local riders and take on the challenge of these magnificent breakers.
In most parts of the world surfing is not exactly an urban recreation. You’re a lot more likely to find city kids in the U.S. kicking it in a half-court basketball game, or worse, competitive graffiti tagging than stripping on a wetsuit and waxing up six and a half feet of fiberglass. But a special group of inner-city kids from some of urban Peru’s toughest neighborhoods are now experiencing the wonder, power and beauty of their own coastline by learning to surf. They are the kids of a program called, Casa Generacion, where they come to escape the worst kind of childhoods; these kids have all been physically or emotionally abused in ways most of us consider unimaginable. From beatings by drug addicted parents to being sold into sex slavery, the children who find their way to Casa Generacion have experienced it all and grown up way too fast.
Started by former office worker, Lucy Borja, Casa Generacion offers an open door and a welcoming home to the “street children” of Lima, Peru. Forced to live a life of brutal survival, the abandoned children of Peru’s largest city are treated like criminals by local law enforcement; stripped of any rights and hounded from alley to jail just for trying to survive. But while the Peruvian government sees them as criminals, Lucy Borja sees children, just “grown up” children who need nothing more then love and a pathway off the mean streets that have become all too familiar to them.
By providing a save home, healthy food, education, and even art and music classes, Casa Generacion has been able to break the “addiction to the streets” experienced by many of the children. For these kids, who have lived without guidance, curfews or restrictions for so long, it’s a chance to explore personal responsibility in a safe haven.
A chance encounter with local surfers near the Casa Generacion summer home in San Bartolo introduced a few of the kids to the surfing life and a phenomenal change took place. Suddenly, hardened street kids were riding the waves, connecting with a natural world they had never known.
As the purifying salt water washes over them, these street kids are finding in themselves a new capacity for achievement. A few of the kids, like Yeferson Bellido, are even competing in surfing competitions. Yeferson was recently ranked fifth in the nation. That’s quite an accomplishment for a young man surviving just a few years ago by begging on the streets.
A new partnership with the North is creating new opportunities for the kids of Casa Generacion. Llama Expeditions of San Francisco has created an eight-day surf trek that gives travelers the treat of surfing with the kids on their own beaches. The kids even offer lessons to us amateurs. The tour members spend a day of fun with the kids of Casa Generacion and then travel north to the world-class breaks of Los Organos, Piura, and Lobitos, Peru.
Llama Expedition’s guests can even extend their adventure with a side trip to the mysterious, ancient city of Machu Picchu before returning home. With beaches, mountains and cities all in one, it’s “total Peru” in one fascinating adventure.
To top it off, a portion of the tour fees are donated to the Casa Generacion homes for kids, to make sure there is a safe haven and an education for the abandoned children of Lima.
Yeferson, the street kid turned champion surfer, is now in college studying architecture. Amazingly, the tuition is just $385 a month; about the price of a wet suit here in the states. Every great tour changes our lives, but this one also changes the lives of the people we meet.
While you may not be ready to shoot the tube on the Bonzai Pipeline, who can resist sharing in the pure joy of these kids, finally released from the prison of exploitation and finding their own nature in the natural wonder of the sea. The waves are up, the sun is high, and the kids of Casa Generacion are laughing as they dare you to hit the beach with them. Come on, it’ll be the ride of a lifetime.