Katrin’s Volunteer Experience

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The Jersey-based charity Healing Waves enables individuals despite their condition and/or disability both neurological and physical to access the ocean in a safe way to participate in water sport activities.

I remember the first time I took part in a weekend session with a large number of volunteers and recall the moment clearly that I found myself watching these people around me coming from all walks of life; welcoming athletes, making them laugh, cheering them on, making them feel safe, building trust.

 Goodness is what came to mind. Sincere and utter goodness. The charity’s volunteer network spreads across the island, and I am sure is born from a love for the ocean and what it provides us with. Most of us volunteers seek out the water on a regular, if not daily basis.

We get to enjoy the freedom of submerging ourselves without restrictions and can tell tales of how often the sea has helped us feel anchored and grounded again in life, for the experience reaches far beyond the time we spend in the water. Time out in the blue yonder translates into a sense of peace, a place to connect with what really matters, where we can feel ourselves out of the corners we may have thought ourselves into. It is where we find uncompromised joy, and often forget about any sense of self-consciousness. 

The founders of the charity hit the nail on the head by aptly calling their organization Healing Waves. As they say themselves, they are here to share the stoke.

And that is exactly the sense you will get when taking part as a volunteer, or simply observe standing by the waterline. There is no other place to be but there and then. The world around you disappears as your mind and heart zone in on being with the athlete fully.

I could honestly write about the experience for days, and the emotions that every other session evokes. I have been moved to tears, hooted with joy, and been filled with gratitude on many occasions. And I have been minimally involved so far in comparison to most.

Naturally, kudos goes to the entire network that has gotten the charity to where it is now and keeps helping it to grow every year.

In the same breath, I have been wanting to write this piece to shine a light on an entirely different aspect that humbles me with every time I get to be part of the team.  

During my first Flowrider session, it hit me more than ever before that we are the privileged ones for getting to witness the athletes‘ courage and determination.

You could say that the athletes that come to Healing Waves were born into a world that is ill-equipped for anyone who has somewhat commonly been defined as “different”. Anyone who does not fit the mold of “normal” will inevitably be facing various degrees of hardship that neither are their fault, nor do they deserve them.

And yet, they show braveness when making a choice to put their trust into – at times – complete strangers. They show determination to master the challenges of the water, and courage to get back up whenever they fall. They show us kindness to let us in on their experience and celebrate their achievements with us. They show us what it really means to be alive by sharing their joy and momentarily shedding a stigma that isn’t of their doing.  

I usually write about marine conservation. But Healing Waves moves me deeply, and to me it is not merely about the organization sharing the stoke with others.

Their story is an example of how our love for the ocean can bring us together, cancelling out our differences as something that divides us, and instead helping us celebrate a meeting of people that share the stoke with one another.

And so, next time you see the crew doing this beautiful work, take a moment to watch the athletes’ faces and interactions with the team and volunteers. Celebrate them for their sincerity with us. To me, they are the reason to believe in change.

Check our Katrin’s photography work and other stories here:


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