How did the idea of Surf.ART come to be?
The idea was born in 2011, in a training promoted by the Pressley Ridge Association – Pressley Ridge Appreciative Inquiry Training – that basically prompted us to think about the future of the association and what we saw ourselves doing in the coming years.
The risk factors associated with failure and school drop-out – such as the consumption of psychoactive substances, problems with behaviour and adjustment, lack of hope for the future, absence of parental monitoring, and social isolation – place students in a spiral of social maladjustment, which enhances the development of mental illness and social disintegration. Teachers have the opportunity (often unique) to contact students exposed to these risk factors and create opportunities for growth and learning, making a difference in the lives of these children and young people repeatedly. However, the difficulties expressed by youngsters in social interaction and learning, and the aggressive behaviours often demonstrated, incite teachers who inadvertently end up promoting learning models based on punishment and centred on adults.
In order for learning to take place, we then thought that it would be necessary to introduce intervention models based on strengths and focused on teaching life skills and fundamental behaviours for children and young people. Hence, the idea emerged from the need to discontinue the unfavourable cycles that are perpetuated in the lives of these children and young people, creating a solution that promotes the improvement of social well-being and success in their lives through the practice surfing and contact with nature.
And how did your personal story intersect with the project’s?
It was the combination of a personal passion (surfing) with a professional passion (psychology). I had been surfing for a while and at the time had already worked with children, young people and families in challenging contexts. Paulo Canas, a colleague from the communication area, had recently started surfing and was already nurturing this passion. So we started to develop the project, and in September 2011 applied for training promoted by the Institute of Social Entrepreneurship (IES) and INSEAD. We drafted the business plan and were one of the finalists, which granted us mentoring for a year. In May 2012, we ran for the Cascais Business Ideas contest and received an honourable mention, thus establishing contact with the Cascais City Council. We made several presentations (including the OceanHub @ NOVA – Value of Waves), and in November 2012, through to a challenge from the Cascais City Council, we started a 6-month prototype with 14 children from 9 to 11 years old.
The results were very promising, and in September 2014 we implemented a 3-year program with two groups of 13 children aged 7 (from year 2 till year 4). Since then, we began to grow the project in a very focused and controlled way. Today we have 4 groups of schools, 80 children per year divided into groups of 10/13 children, groups of parents, and community interventions. The City Council is our main partner, and for the past 2 years we have had the opportunity to work with the support of the prize promoted by the BPI foundation, “la Caixa” Childhood. Last December we won the 1st prize promoted by the European Commission – #BeInclusive EU Sports Awards 2020.