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August 21st, 2013

do the KIND thing with Jon Rose, founder of Waves for Water

By KIND Editor

This is the first in a series of video profiles from KIND Healthy Snacks profiling people who inspire others to Do the KIND Thing for their bodies, taste buds, world.

Proof that a tidal wave of support can start with just one individual, Jon Rose, pro-surfer-turned-humanitarian, does the kind thing for 250,000 people affected by Superstorm Sandy. Founder of Waves for Water, Rose has committed to providing clean water solutions to those who need it most. The organization works in disaster zones and has mobilized an army of travelers and surfers through their Clean Water Courier program. We talk to Rose about inspiring people around the world to make a difference and “plug in the purpose” to their passions. And in our exclusive video above, follow Rose as he checks in on the progress of the post-Sandy recovery efforts in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

KIND: How did the idea of Waves for Water come about?

Jon Rose: It started as a pet project. I was in a transition period—I was not surfing professionally and was trying to figure out the next chapter. Surfing was always about my relationship with the ocean, my relationship with something bigger than me. I thought, if I can go surfing and help people along the way, maybe I can make the place a little bit better than when I got there. And then I’ll figure out what I’m gonna do when I grow up.

When did you realize that the organization could be more than a pet project?

It was on a surf trip in Indonesia—I bought 10 water filters with my own money and I was going to go launch Waves for Water. Which really meant: surfing, going into some of the villages, distributing these water filters for the locals and then coming home. And then, before I got to those villages, I was in Padang and a 7.2 earthquake hit. I was safe, but thousands were dead and there was destruction everywhere. I was essentially a first responder because I was there and I had these filters—I spent 30-something hours on the ground there and got a crash course in disaster relief. I’m not a scientist or engineer. I just went out and bought these filters that already exist—these solutions are so practical and so simple—and saved thousands of lives.

It was such a defining moment in my life where I was like, “I’m listening. This is why I’m here.” It’s not a question of technology, it’s a question of access. So I became obsessed with getting more of these solutions that already exist, that are readily available, to the places that need them.

What sets Waves for Water apart from other water organizations?

The philosophy for W4W has always been rooted in following your heart, fusing purpose and lifestyle. What that means is really trying to get in touch with your passion. What do you really love to do? Do you like to skydive? Birdwatch? Go do that first and then plug in a purpose. It’s a paradigm shift in the way we think about aid work. Not only does it create this very vital existence but it enhances your work, it enhances everything you’re doing. Do what you love and help along the way.

Why did you choose to get involved with the post-Sandy relief efforts?

It was just a natural instinct to be like, “What can we do?” When Sandy hit I decided to leverage the organization to focus on little surf communities because I have a direct connection. I had actual friends who lost their homes, businesses or both, so I was deeply moved. There was going to be a lot of organizations helping and that’s great, but I thought it’d be really great for us to focus on grass roots surf communities. We were a vehicle for funneling support from the national and global surf community.

We got a lot of support and we’ve helped over 40 families get back into their homes. We’ve served over 50,000 hot meals—we have a food truck that has been going around Rockaway serving free meals to people in need. We have also helped a lot of community centers—boys and girls club, an elementary school and three firehouses.

What advice do you have for people who want to get involved or help out with ongoing relief efforts post-Sandy?

The best way for people to help is just to be informed. You can go to our website, or go to any number of organizations out there, and do your research. On our site, , you can check out the Sandy Relief Initiative project; it has our impact report and all the field updates from this whole process. You can donate directly to help with the programs we have in place whether it’s the grant program, restore/rebuild or the food truck. You can also reach out to us to see if we have any upcoming volunteer opportunities.

The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to go out there and make a difference is to go do it! For me, I do what I love to do and then plug in the purpose. Don’t be paralyzed by a fear of stepping out of the bubble and taking a leap of faith. I’m here to say, “You just have to take that first step.“

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