At first glance, Sam Suendermann looks like your typical, blonde-haired, laid-back surfer BUT there’s more to this former competitive long-boarder than meets the eye.
Growing up in a small coastal town in Victoria, the 2017 Aim for the Stars scholarship recipient fell in love with the ocean and the lifestyle that it offered. She felt lucky to grow up in a beautiful environment, surrounded by a supportive network of family and friends .
From an early age, Sam was aware that not everyone had the same opportunities as her. She involved herself in programs that encouraged Indigenous groups, bush fire survivors and at-risk teens to jump on a board. She saw first-hand how surfing could unite people, increase self-confidence and generate self-belief.
Despite enjoying all the creature comforts of home, Sam felt a greater purpose in making waves of change overseas. She hung up her board, hopped on a plane and volunteered in Fiji and Mexico.
Spurred on by these experiences, Sam based herself in Vanuatu and co-founded Solwota Sista in July 2016. The organisation works alongside local women and girls to create a better future through surfing and access to skill development.
Along with a team of young Ni-Vanuatu surfers, Sam has delivered over ten surfing and water safety programs throughout the island archipelago. She implemented Vanuatu’s first surfing day for people with a disability, organised Vanuatu’s largest and wealthiest professional surfing event and continued to develop female inclusion and standard of surfing.
Furthermore, she’s established a surfing conservation program, including coral reef awareness and coral re-planting.
The program also addresses the significant issue of domestic violence in the region, an area often overshadowed by its more well-known and developed Pacific Island siblings.
“My goal is to have local females eventually run the program. I want to build capacity through on-going training, so women learn to lead and have access to better employment opportunities”.
Through Solwota Sista, Sam provides coaching around first aid and ocean safety, enterprise development, women and girls leadership, photography techniques, coral planting and plastic pollution reduction, all of which are not easily accessible in Vanuatu.
Thanks to your kind donations, Sam has been able to cover the cost of multiple all female surf, leadership and skill development programs run throughout the 83 island archipelago, while employing young Ni-Vanuatu women as project officers.
The grant Sam’s received is not only benefiting her, it is helping everyone involved in Solwota Sista. She’s empowering women and encouraging them to become leaders in their own community.
To support women making waves of change, make a donation today.
If you have a dream and need some help achieving it, why not apply for next year’s scholarship? Applications open in February 2018 but you can add your name to the email list here. We'll let you know when things get underway.
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