On Saturday, October 19, I was in Valparaíso enjoying a late lunch with friends when I noticed everyone in the restaurant had begun to sneeze. There was tear gas in the air. Outside, I was surrounded by an intense clash between young protesters and police. The city was engulfed in smoke and gunshots from the rubber bullets were echoing between the buildings. By midnight the president declared a State of Emergency, sent the military into the streets across the country, and imposed curfews. In the weeks since, millions have participated in marches throughout all of Chile.
I have witnessed natural disasters and protests in Chile over the years. This moment is unlike anything I have ever seen. The scope and intensity of these events caught me off guard, but the underlying causes, which have been the genesis and focus of the Valpo Surf Project, are not surprising. Deeply entrenched income inequality is the primary driver behind the protests. All of us who have been a part of VSP are sharply aware of the issue and the consequences it causes. Our students live with them everyday. Poverty, chronic unemployment, drugs, and violence are common place in their neighborhoods.
This moment in history affirms the overwhelming need for the Valpo Surf Project. We mentor our students during their most formative years and foster important skills for success through individual academic tutoring, English classes, surfing and environmental community service projects. We work with one child, one family at a time, face to face, day by day. Our mission is personal and focused.
VSP held its first classes almost ten years ago, the same week the sixth largest earthquake in modern history rocked Chile. It did not slow us down one bit. The unwavering commitment we make to our students has been in our DNA since day one. On Monday, October 21st, forty-eight hours after the initial explosion of protests, there were soldiers and protesters in the streets, helicopters overhead, and tear gas and smoke heavy in the air. The VSP team was back in the office calling students and their families, setting safe operating procedures for staff and volunteers, and planning programming contingencies. There are still daily marches, clashes between the police and protesters, and schools remain closed for our kids. VSP is working around these significant obstacles to continue our mission and critical work with our students. The sheer magnitude of the unrest is a testament to the need that exists in the areas we serve and validates the importance of our program.
I am writing you today to share this moment in history and the VSP’s presence in it. Now, more than any other time in the history of the VSP, I am asking for you to give as generously as possible to help us continue our life changing work. We cannot do it without your support.
Donate online // www.valposurfproject.org/donate
Donate via Venmo // @Valpo
Donate via Facebook // https://www.facebook.com/donate/466856550626012/
Wiley R. Todd
CEO & Co-Founder