A Photographer Inspiring Us To Volunteer Travel

Below is an interview originally posted on Photographers Without Borders, with their permission, we’re sharing Nicholas’ story in Bocas del Toro at Give and Surf, an organization we support and care immensely about. The interview was written by Mary Cranston. 

Give & Surf
Photo: Nicholas Giombi/Photographers Without Borders

Photographer Nicholas Giombi recently returned from Bocas del Toro in Panama. Giombi was documenting Give and Surf, a non-profit that provides school programs and surf outreach mentorship in indigenous communities in Panama.

Give and SurfMC: What was your experience like with Give and Surf?

NG: The experience was extremely fulfilling. I was lucky to be surrounded by a beautiful oceanic environment, awesome volunteers and students who were friendly and eager to be in school. The trip was inspiring as it showed me the selflessness nature in others. There are people out there who genuinely want to make a positive mark on society at the expense of personal sacrifice. The locals live on various parts of the island, surrounded by jungle; some even on different islands altogether. Give and Surf makes life easier for children when traveling to school.

MC: What surprised you the most about the organization?

NG: I was surprised at how ambitious the staff was, considering their size. Neil and Emily both handle the business side of Give and Surf, fundraise, and even teach. Many of the school buildings were built with money fundraised by Give and Surf. Gizane and Szymon, the two long term teachers, have built up a great rapport with the locals in the area and are one of the reasons why the kids love to go to school. They also do a wonderful job incorporating new volunteers into the teaching schedule.

Give & Surf
Photo: Nicholas Giombi/Photographers Without Borders

MC: I understand you were there for two weeks, can you tell me what you do on a typical day?

NG: A typical day would start with us getting picked up at the dock in front of the volunteer house around 9:00 AM. From there we would make several stops at various villages/houses and pick up the preschool students. We start the school day with the preschoolers (ages 3-6) by teaching them the basics; counting, days of the week, weather, the alphabet, and sports. We combined fun games with the lessons so the children were more eager to participate. The kids would have recess where the volunteers would play baseball, soccer and other activities with the kids. After recess, we would get the kids to wash their hands, provide them with lunch and have them brush their teeth. After the preschoolers were dropped off, we continued teaching the primary school students. The content was more advanced, both English and Spanish were included with the lessons. The day concluded with a late lunch and occasional lesson planning and volunteers were free to have their own adventures in the evening. The video I made for Give and Surf might help viewers draw a visual. It’s a video of a day in the life of a Give & Surf volunteer, from the actual perspective of a volunteer!

MC: How was your experience working with Photographers without Borders? 

NG: I am curious and excited to see what PWB will do with the photos and video I have provided. As for the trip itself, I would definitely recommend it to other photographers and videographers. It’s a chance to leave your comfort zone, see how other people in the world live and do something positive with your unique skill set. If you’ve never left your comfort zone and are on the fence about doing something like this, just do it. It’ll change your life.

Nicholas is a self-taught photographer born and raised in Thailand, now residing in Wisconsin. He has a BA in Communication Arts with an emphasis on film production and is a lead cinematographer at a wedding studio.

For more of Nicholas’ interview with Photographers Without Borders, visit the website here. 

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