We have recently had the pleasure of having an incredibly talented young lady, Shengxiao Yu (aka “Sole”), stay with Bodhi Surf School and help us create our Traveler’s Philanthropy program. Even at a young age, Sole boasts an impressive resume and we can safely say she is probably qualified to tackle any project you throw her way. Just to give some scope on Sole’s life so far: she has met President Barack Obama not once but twice, and has actually fist-bumped him. Now whatever your politics may be, bear in mind that one does not simply waltz past the Secret Service and fist bump with the president; one must first be extremely qualified! So how did it come to be that an accomplished young lady such as herself ended up here in Bahia Ballena, helping build the Bodhi Surf School Travelers’ Philanthropy program?
Who is Shengxiao “Sole” Yu?
Sole is originally from Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, and when she was 11 years old, her father’s job took the family to Chicago, Illinois. She ended up attending the University of Chicago, majoring in Comparative Human Development and minoring in Human Rights. Sole’s focus during her studies was Latin America, and various projects have led her to places such as the Dominican Republic, Peru, and most recently, Costa Rica. While in college, Sole met President Obama for the first time at the White House during a Youth Roundtable meeting (check out the White House article and photo here), where he called her his “homegirl” upon learning that she had also lived in Hyde Park — no big deal. Among her many talents, Sole boasts an impressive grasp of language; with ease of both written and spoken fluency in Mandarin, English, and Spanish.
How Sole Ended Up in Costa Rica
During her senior year in university, Sole applied to the Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) program, hoping to further her experience in Latin America by working for a year with a non-profit organization. After graduation, she spent several months working for the UChicago Institute of Politics as their Programming and Marketing Coordinator (which is when the second meeting with President Obama and the aforementioned fist-bump took place). During that time she also started getting into the immigration rights sphere, working with several non-profit organizations in Chicago.
When the time came to start her PiLA fellowship, Sole headed to Costa Rica to begin her work with the Costa Rica-USA Foundation (CRUSA). She had selected that organization because its broad mission would give her the opportunity to work on projects in a multitude of areas, giving her more experience in a variety of fields. During her work with CRUSA, Sole has indeed been an asset to the organization while accomplishing her goal of getting exposure to issues that she may not have before. Her main project has been designing and implementing a system for water management projects throughout Costa Rica.
Work with Bodhi Surf School
At some point during her fellowship with CRUSA, Sole became acquainted with Travis Bays, a consultant for the CRUSA foundation and the joint InOGo-CRUSA project and also one of Bodhi Surf School’s owners and founders, and learned a little bit about what we are doing with our business and in our community. Her interest was sparked, and so when the opportunity came up for Sole’s last job with CRUSA to be helping design a pilot Travelers’ Philanthropy program using Bodhi Surf School as an example, she jumped at the chance. Since being here, she has taken the project on with a vengeance, and when she leaves, she will have helped design a program that is replicable for other businesses who are interested in Corporate Social (and Environmental) Responsibility. In the three short weeks that she has been here so far, Sole has already provided us with invaluable assistance and thoughtful recommendations.
Bodhi Surf School’s Travelers’ Philanthropy Program
Since we started Bodhi Surf School, the four of us have wanted to take the road less traveled by for-profit companies. In other words, we have wanted to design a business that benefits our community, that promotes environmental awareness and conservation, and that provides our visitors with the opportunity to learn and the chance to do something positive in addition to it being our livelihood. As busy business owners and operators, we had neither formalized these ideas nor created an infrastructure to document what we are doing up until now, but we had decided that 2014 was the year we were going to knock it off our giant To Do list. Sole’s opportunity to join us here proved to be the perfect chance.
While we don’t want to give it all away yet, the program will encompass a variety of initiatives: Bodhi Surf School’s own community, impact-reduction, and educational efforts; support of multiple non-profit organizations that focus on a variety of issues within our community; and the connection of visitors with opportunities to contribute their time, energy, and money to ongoing projects and campaigns during and/or after their time here. Bodhi Surf School’s Travelers’ Philanthropy program will be a beneficiary of the 501c3 status of Amigos of Costa Rica, CRUSA’s partner organization.
Sole Shining in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica
I have had the opportunity to have several in-depth conversations with Sole since she got here, and have been very interested in to hear her take on our little corner of the world. This is the first time that she has ever lived outside a large city (large as in containing millions of inhabitants) — so she has really gone from one extreme to another, her current place of residence being located on a dirt road. She says she has found the contrast between city life and small town coastal livin’ to be very interesting, most notably the difference in pace of life and the fact that you see the same people over and over. And while we do hear occasional screams coming from her house as comes across the tiny crawling and flying creatures that are so common to our area, she assures us she’s okay. We hope that this experience with Bodhi Surf School is as beneficial for our new friend Sole as it has been for us, and we will follow her career with interest — she is sure to do great things.
From the bottom of our hearts, Bodhi Surf School wants to say “Thank you so much” to both Shengxiao and CRUSA for your support and assistance.