The Pelican Crew
The Pelican Crew is a small nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing surfing and beach related activities to underprivileged youth both locally and abroad. One of the groups we support is the Girls and Boys Surf Club in Bangladesh. These young men and women have gone against the grain of their culture to glide through the waves of the Indian Ocean. The Pelican Crew proudly supports this group and similarly situated groups.
Bangladesh Surf Club
With the high rate of child marriage rate in Bangladesh, girls are often used as a bartering tool for families. They are often treated as if their only purpose is to be married off and bear children. As such, often, girls are not given an education or taught any life skills. Starting at a very young age, until they are married off, many girls are forced to supplement the household income by working as housemaids or making jewelry or trinkets to sell to tourists on the beach. If they stray outside these tasks, the girls are often taunted by their peers, verbally reprimanded by adults, and sometimes beaten. In the coastal town of Cox Bazar, Bengali females are not allowed to swim in the ocean.
Despite the public disapproval, in 2014 local lifeguard Rashed Alam and his American born wife Venessa took several young girls (and several boys) under their wing and taught them to surf. The girls in the Surf Club now have the opportunity not only to surf, but also for the first time in their lives to learn life skills, go to school and know they are not limited by their culture or anyone’s disapproval.
Beyond surfing, the surf club provides all the kids with school enrollment and tutoring, as well as training in lifesaving and lifeguard skills. These skills are particularly important since less than 20% of the population of Bangladesh knows how to swim. Through the work of the club, the girls have had a chance to at least delay their child marriages and have a place to go to where they can feel safe. The goal is to keep them from being married until they are at least 18.
The boys in the club also have developed a different view of and respect for women as a result of their female counterparts. The boys in the club do not tease them or disrespect them for pushing their cultural barriers, but instead they have embraced their female surfing counterparts as equals. The club has also given the boys an opportunity to go against the cultural grain, by respecting these girls and understanding that these girls are capable of everything the boys are capable of.
From a very fundamental standpoint, the club affords the kids an opportunity to be kids. By providing monthly food bags to members’ families, the kids are no longer forced to spend their days working to contribute to their families’ household needs and can instead focus on play and sports; allowing them to gain confidence, learn teamwork, leadership skills, and the importance of freedom and opportunity.
The Pelican Crew