Diego, the freckle faced toe-head, paused for a second, blinked, and responded plainly: “It feels good to help people.”
Diego Didden is 13. His brother Niko, 11. They hail from Malibu, and walk and dress like most Socal surfy groms you’d see on the street. But unlike their peers, over the past few years they and their friends, Charlie Hoberman (16) and Henno Hopp (12), have been raising money for and competing in the SurfAid Cup at Malibu – an event that raises both awareness and funds to support the mission of SurfAid. Participants raise money as a team, and if they meet the $5,000 threshold, they get to compete in the contest at Malibu and surf with one of the many pros that show up to support.
To explain all of what SurfAid has done and aims to do among rural undeveloped communities in Indonesia is worthy of an entire book. But to sum it up inadequately in 13 words, the organization supports child and maternal health, has contributed to disaster relief, and fights malaria in the region.
When Diego, Niko, and their mom, Tia – the boys can’t drive yet – all came to visit us at The Inertia office, I asked them candidly about how they found out about SurfAid’s work and decided to support the SurfAid Cup. “I heard about it in Malibu Magazine,” says Tia, “I asked the boys if they’d want to participate and they were immediately on board.”
This will be the brothers’ third consecutive year raising money and competing in the SurfAid Cup. They’re members of team Malibu Latigo Groms, which has raised a total of approximately $20 thousand for SurfAid since 2013, and is on track to raise another $6 or $7 thousand for this year.
The boys are activists in the most grassroots way you can imagine. They spread the word about SurfAid in their community, raising funds through bake sales and craft sales. Their parents tell clients and associates about the boys’ mission to surf in this contest and raise money for a good cause.
When I met Diego and Niko in person, I was intrigued by their sense of global citizenship at such a young age. I probed, “What motivates you guys to support development work in a country on the other side of the earth, and people you’ve never met and may never meet?”
It was simple. “We grew up knowing we’d have plenty of food to eat, and we’d be healthy,” said Diego. “So learning that other people don’t have that, we wanted to help. It feels good to help people”
“Yah,” Niko chimed in. “It feels good.”
I saw my own experience mirrored in these boys, but I was blown away by how at such a young age they’d come to such a conclusion. Like them, I grew up in an affluent community in Southern California – Huntington Beach, though, not Malibu. They call Orange County, particularly the coastal part, the ‘orange bubble’ or the ‘orange curtain’ specifically because residents of all ages have a certain difficulty comprehending what life is like in lesser developed countries, much less the numerous communities just miles inland that struggle with poverty and crime. It took me until high school to really begin to understand global issues like malnutrition, poor health infrastructure, or human rights violations.
Malibu is similar, if not more insular given the natural physical divide of the foothills that separate the community from the rest of Los Angeles. For world famous actors, Malibu is an escape. It becomes easy to ignore what goes on elsewhere, that other people may not have the same opportunities simply because of where in the world they were born.
But Diego, Niko, Charlie, and Henno don’t fall into that trap. In fact they take that realization one step further. They use it as an opportunity to teach not only their peers, but the rest of the community about the work of SurfAid, and more importantly share their excitement to help others.