Company Q & A 6/2/2008

Katiet Village with the Quiksilver Foundation & SurfAid International

Company Q&A: Katiet Village with the Quiksilver Foundation & SurfAid International

First, try to pronounce Katiet.  Did you end up saying something along the lines of “Cat-e-ought”?  Probably not, but let’s keep truckin’!  So what is this strange word you ask?  Well, this word happens to be a place devoted to helping the people of the Mentawai Islands live healthier, safer lives.

There’s no oil or hidden agenda behind helping these people, but rather an opportunity to help those in need.  Thanks to Bruce Raymond, SurfAid International, the Quiksilver Foundation, surfing and people with big hearts, the people of the Mentawai Islands now have access to knowledge that will help reduce their risk of being infected by deadly diseases such as Malaria, as well as helping them prepare for natural disasters.

Kathie Armstrong, executive director of the Quiksilver Foundation, shares the story of the Katiet Village.  When you’re done reading, there are links to explore and learn more about this endeavor.  Check them out and enjoy.

What is the Katiet Village, at a “high-level,” meaning the basics of what the village is and does?

The “Quiksilver SurfAid International Community Health Training Centre at Katiet,” located in the Mentawai Islands off Indonesia’s West Sumatran Coast, is a centre that acts as a model to promote healthy life practices, and to educate the villagers about nutrition, basic hygiene, malaria prevention and sustainable living.

Who sparked the initial flame and when?

Bruce Raymond, Quiksilver Global Brand Ambassador, “sparked the flame.”  Bruce was the inspiration behind the Quiksilver Crossing, the company’s benevolent exploratory project that circumnavigated the globe from 1999 to 2006.  Touched by the generous spirit of the people of the Mentawais on a Crossing visit, Bruce worked with Dave Jenkins from SurfAid International to create a program which would improve the standard of living for the villagers.  Although the Quiksilver Foundation has provided funds and support, it has been Bruce’s wise counsel and guidance in shaping the Katiet project.  Also, I must credit Harry Hodge, Senior Vice-President, Quiksilver, Inc. for his advocacy of SurfAid International and its work on Katiet.
 
What factors led Quiksilver & SurfAid International to get involved with the Kateit Village in the Mentawai Islands?

It just so happens that one of the most amazing surf breaks is located right at Katiet, “Lances Right.”  And, as demonstrated by The Quiksilver Crossing, it is not the practice of Quiksilver to merely enjoy the waves, but to reach out and connect with the local people.  We saw an opportunity to help the villagers living at and around Katiet.  The Quiksilver Foundation is completely aligned with the mission of SurfAid International, “to improve the health of people living is isolated regions connected to us through surfing.”

How many people came together to make this a reality?  For example, was this an international or local team effort?

The Quiksilver Foundation identified SurfAid International as one of its global initiatives, and the entire Quiksilver family has been involved in the Katiet project.  We have had fundraisers in Australia and the US, involving employee and outside donors alike.  And of course, SurfAid International is an international organization, and while its team in Indonesia has been on the ground doing the hard work, SurfAid USA has been extremely involved as well.

How much time elapsed from conception of the project to the opening of the village?

Although the project was conceived in 2003, it took real shape following the devastating tsunami in December of 2004.  The global surf community had responded to this tragedy by supporting SurfAid International as one of the most effective organizations in delivering immediate lifesaving aid to the people of the Mentawais.  Once the crisis passed, the Quiksilver Foundation and SurfAid International considered how best to provide for longer-term assistance to help rebuild families and communities.  It took time – 4 years in fact – for SurfAid International to work with the villagers, to understand their needs, to build a relationship with them before we had a ceremonial opening of Stage One of the Quiksilver SurfAid International Community Health Training Centre in November of 2007.

Are there any volunteers/people that have been there since day one?

Although they haven’t been “on-site”, there are many Quiksilver individuals and SurfAid International volunteers and staff who have been involved in this project from day one.  Of course, Dr. Dave Jenkins, founder and CEO of SurfAid International, has been instrumental in every step of the program’s development.  Kirk Wilcox, Communications Director for SurfAid International and formerly PR Director for Quiksilver Australia, has consistently worked on the project.  Also, as I mentioned previously, Bruce Raymond and Harry Hodge have been advocates and supporters from the beginning.

Can you give us an overview of how a local villager interacts with the village?

The Quiksilver SurfAid International Community Health Training Centre is a living project that is exploratory, participative, and action-oriented.  It is not just a set of buildings, but a collection of lessons for the villagers.  A visitor to the Centre can observe a “healthy” house which has been opened up to increase airflow and provide natural cooling.  The house has a clay oven and chimney to remove smoke from the house, which is unusual in the Mentawai Islands.  Also, there is a garden developed by horticulturalist Brendan Hoare which shows a visitor how he too can efficiently grow highly nutritious food for his family using soil from compost.  The objective is for villagers to adopt the practices of the Centre in their own homes and, in turn, influencing other members of their community and surrounding villages.

What percentage of the exposed population could this help?

The hope is for a ripple effect, meaning that more and more people of the region will learn from the Centre.  Already we are seeing improvements in the health of people that have adopted the practices demonstrated at the Centre.  Also, the incidence of malaria has been significantly reduced.

Is the language barrier an issue, or are there enough people who work at Katiet that are fluent in their native tongue?

No, between the outside staff and local staff, communication is not a barrier.

Is Katiet a year-round facility?

Yes.  Educational programs are on-going.  Also, new projects are planned.  The next stage of the Centre will include an earthquake-resistant building, teaching the villagers how to use local materials to build safer homes.

Are there people staffed at the village full time and part time?

The staff is full time and made up of a few outside experts and locals hired from surrounding communities.  For example, environmental builder Matt King is living on site and working with builders from the area.

Is the Katiet Village intended to be a scalable model that can be replicated in other areas of the world that are effected by malaria or other deadly diseases?

This is the real hope, that this project can indeed be replicated throughout the Mentawai and Nias islands, and beyond.  Judging by the success of this program, we believe this will happen.

Are there opportunities for people to work at Katiet on a full-time or part-time basis?  For example, people from Indonesia as well as abroad.

We have had a lot of inquiries about volunteering at Katiet.  People are excited and want to help.  However, at this time, we do not have any opportunities to support volunteer efforts.

Are there any locals who surf, or have tried surfing?

The team has reported a few kids getting out there.  Brian from SurfAid International was there in May and saw two eight year olds learning aerials at a shallow reef next to the main break.  They use boards that were broken and left by visiting surfers.

Are there any issues hampering or slowing the program’s success?

I don’t think there are any issues interfering with the program’s success.  This is a credit to SurfAid International and the time it took in assessing the needs of the villagers and building relationships with the communities surrounding the Centre.  It should be noted, however, that there is always the looming fear of an earthquake and/or tsunami in this highly-susceptible region.  In fact, seismology experts predict that a giant earthquake and tsunami will hit the region within the lifetime of people currently living there.  Of course, this is the reason for the Centre, to provide for the design and construction of earthquake resistant houses.

What defines success for Katiet?

We are pleased to see that the villagers are eager to visit the Centre and adopt the demonstrated practices.  There are positive changes in the health and well-being of the villagers which are directly attributable to SurfAid International’s work at the Centre and a measure of success.  Our ultimate goal is that this project will be a humanitarian model which can serve to improve other communities throughout the world.

To learn more visit:

Katiet - http://www.katiet.org/
Quiksilver Foundation - http://www.quiksilverfoundation.org/
SurfAid International - http://www.surfaidinternational.org