Image Credit: browngirlssurf.com
It has been 3 months since coming back from the Surfing Possibility trip. I had meant to send out some type of picture perfect ending message from that trip, but I didn’t because I had a severe case of writer’s block. In truth, I had no idea how to share with you the meta-story to my trip – my most cherished gold and black pearl necklace that went missing out of my bag, the struggle we felt watching the surfer girls embody freedom in the water, only to become objects of male control once on land, the lies that were told to us, the name calling, the upper respiratory illness, the food poisoning. Yes, for all the great blogs I wrote about our adventures, I couldn’t help but feel a bit broken down from Bangladesh upon my return. I landed at SFO and rolled myself into my friend’s car after 6 hours of food poisoning where I became one with Emirates’ toilet. It felt like a journey that required much physical and mental recuperation.
As I was recovering from my food poisoning–come-illness (which took a good month to contain), I wracked my mind about ways to lighten the story of the heavy reality of the girls’ lives. It was a reality that revealed itself to us in various ways. I also tried to reconcile our “possibility” narrative that framed this awesome trip against some of these realities. In fact, I spent most of January trying to make sense of it all. What impact did we make from taking this trip? What was true about the interviews we captured? Who really showed up because they were truly a surfer? Who of the girls showed up because the “boss” knew it would be good PR for business? In this web of confusion that was also a reality of our trip, I couldn’t help but feel a little duped.
I began to reflect back on the hours of conversations we had with our translator and with my Co-Producer, Cara Jones of Storytellers For Good. We discussed for hours the economic situation of the girls, and the sheer vulnerability they faced with no strong nuclear families. At one point in our journey, we were all ready to launch a full-blown surf retreat in order to employ the girls so they could have a sustainable wage. That idea lasted a few days until I thought to myself “How am I going to do that?” We barely raised money for my ticket to come here and I was in the middle of launching my coaching practice. Cara was in the middle of making a full-length documentary and also ran a business full-time. When would we have time to invest in a third venture?
And I thought to myself, how could I NOT be a part of this? My role now? To be her coach, of course! ;) And I too started to see a way forward and how this collaboration of sorts would work. I’d coach this social entrepreneur pro-bono for 6 months and she’d drive forward her idea so together impact could be made. We began our sessions in late December in Cox’s Bazar and continued via Skype from there.
When I returned from my trip, I noticed something interesting in one of the Facebook albums of the Bangladeshi surfer dudes. It was a picture of Nasima on a surf trip in her surfing catsuit (the one her husband had thrown a fit over). Given the struggle I witnessed while I was there between her husband and the suit, I was pretty stunned to see this pic and wondered what had changed.
As if that wasn’t enough news, after 3 coaching calls, I woke up to find this link www.coconutclubbangladesh.wordpress.com posted on my Facebook page from Hazera – a fully developed Wordpress website, with the vision for this surf camp retreat strategically woven into Hazera’s social business named ‘The Coconut Club’. I teared up upon seeing it. At that moment, I had a shower of insight too. This was the work of the new social entrepreneur – to actually be in the field, collaborating, inspiring, coaching, and exploring possibilities and not behind a desk running database queries and asking people for money – to really be IN IT. Brown Girl Surf seemed like such a crazy, indulgent idea when I first started it. And now I was beginning to see the exploration leading to something I never imagined possible.
Nasima’s divorce has since been finalized. The last I heard she was getting papers ready so she could get a passport. In a recent Skype coaching call with Hazera, she went on and on about her idea to start a surf shop, and her vision of traveling to the west to talk about her project and to share the gem of Cox Bazar with the world. She more recently rented office space so she could start English classes for the surfer girls ,who ironically were some of the most brave and risk taking females we met on our trip – most apparent when they were in the water. Hazera’s plans to access their bravery, freedom and risk taking perspective in the water and bring this to their learnings on the land is the critical insight of this venture. She has very fittingly names this venture ‘The Surfing Girls Education Project.’ (I am attaching the executive summary, just in case some of you are interested).
And how cool that shortly after launching, she attended a weekend long event in a think tank with Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammed Yunus where she discussed her plans for her social venture:
And if Nasima ends up living her dream, and doing what she wants to do, helping to shed some light onto her story is so worth it. All it takes is one person to set off the spark to inspire others of what’s possible. In fact, her story is so important that our dear friend and talented film maker, Heather Kessinger, has been on a mission to create a full length documentary of Nasima’s story for the past year and a half (her team is about halfway through production). The name of the documentary is ‘The Most Fearless, an Unexpected Surf Story’. Brown Girl Surf will be partnering with Heather to ensure that all of these stories get out into the world and can seed a tangible impact for some of the world’s most vulnerable girls.
For those of you who are local, please mark your calendar for May 9th in San Francisco (venue to be announced)– we’ll be debuting our Surfing Possibility Profiles: Stories of India and Bangladesh’s Surfer Girls. I’d love to see you all there for some fun mingling, inspiring stories, drinking, chips and dip!
I am not sure where I’ll be off to next. But hope to see you soon, in some far off land! Oh, and I almost forgot! Guess who just took their first surf lesson?
None other than Hazera! (She may be the first known Bangladeshi woman over the age of 18 to surf!)
Farhana is also a Co-Active Coach®, Consultant & Speaker.