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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

City Council Adopts Mentawai Islands as ‘Sister Surf Paradise’ in Partnership with Surf Group

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council last week unanimously adopted the Mentawai Islands, off West Sumatra, Indonesia as the municipality’s “sister surf paradise.”
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said the city was not looking for sister city status, but would approve of a partnership with SurfAid International to support and promote the organization’s humanitarian efforts in the islands.
City officials agreed to help promote SurfAid’s fundraising efforts and recognize “substantial contributors through the city’s website and social media as well as the possibility of providing city resources, such as Bluffs Park or Legacy Park, for fundraising events.”
The Mentawai Islands, administered as a regency within West Sumatra, are part of an isolated island chain that lies on one of the most active earthquake zones in the world, known as the Sunda Megathrust fault.
The organization had requested the city adopt the Mentawai Islands and commit to support the organization.
The waves off the coast of the islands are well-known to surfers and Malibu surfers, including Councilmember Skylar Peak, have surfed the waters of the islands.
According to Peak, the lives of the islanders are far from paradisiacal given the level of poverty and the islands are considered a hotbed of malaria spread by the bite of mosquitoes. As Peak put it, “Malaria sucks,”
The goal of SurfAid’s Malaria Program includes its Malaria Free Mentawai campaign, “to “significantly reduce the prevalence and incidence of malaria through education and training,” according to the organization’s website.
“[SurfAid] has distributed more than 60,000 insecticide-treated nets and provided malaria education to over 300 villages in some of the remotest areas of the world, stretching along hundreds of kilometers of rough seas off the west coast of Sumatra,” the website states.
The surfers who formed SurfAid said they started in small ways such as providing mosquito netting and helping reduce the risk from natural disasters.
Founder Dave Jenkins saw the need for aid to Mentawai after a 1999 surf charter to the islands.
Jenkins, a “career focuses” doctor working in Singapore, decided to visit an inland village, “my beliefs in what is important in life were changed forever,” Jenkins writes on the SurfAid site. 
“After walking past the graveyard and seeing a lot of very small graves I ended up running a clinic at the chief’s request. I was the first doctor ever to visit the village.”
 “I saw women and children dying from malaria, malnutrition and inadequate living standards, things that I knew were treatable and, better still, preventable,” Jenkins said.
The scene haunted me for the rest of the trip, and followed me back to Singapore where I began questioning my life.”
Nearly one in 10 Mentawai children do not make it to the age of five, which is 15 times the death rate in developed countries, 41 percent of the children under five are stunted and a further 34 percent are underweight, and more than 70 percent of the population live below the poverty line, according to SurfAid.
A tsunami that smashed into the Mentawai Islands on Oct. 25, 2010 fatally injured over 500 islanders.
“Today SurfAid is proud that more than 95 percent of our program staff are Indonesian nationals who work hand-in-hand with the communities in the Mentawai and Nias islands off Indonesia’s Sumatran coast to bring about positive, sustainable health change while respecting the unique culture and customs of the islands.”

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