They may have lost the yachting and rugby but their proud Kiwi heritage of helping others less fortunate continues, with New Zealand humanitarian organisation SurfAid International winning the 2007 Humanitarian Award at the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO) awards ceremony held in Toronto.

This WANGO award means SurfAid has been recognized as one of the best non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the world, a fantastic honour and a testament to their ground-breaking and effective approach to providing aid. "This is like a world title but better because it’s your peers who have chosen you," SurfAid Founder and CEO Dr Dave Jenkins said. "They know better than anyone else how tough it is, how dangerous it is, and how much determination you need to start and grow an effective non-profit without being a billionaire or having any significant backers."

Dr Jenkins added, "We were started by New Zealanders – we did not win the Rugby World Cup, but we just won the world title for 2007 humanitarian excellence. That’s awesome. I think our success once again describes the uniqueness of New Zealanders. We are always thinking we can find solutions and we tackle the most difficult challenges without being overly concerned with the risks or obstacles.

"Once again we have fought above our weight and won. I hope Kiwis are very proud of who we are and what can achieve as a small group of determined people who feel the need to celebrate the good fortune we had of being born in NZ by giving back to those less fortunate. The New Zealand Government aid agency, NZAID, has been one of our biggest donors and we extend a great thanks to them. The award is recognition of everyone who has backed our results.”

In taking the decision to present SurfAid International with its 2007 Humanitarian Award, the WANGO Awards Committee were impressed with the compassion of SurfAid and their remarkable and successful effort to address the dire health situation of the Mentawai people, with their high childhood mortality, the ravages of malaria, poor education, and poverty.

Mr Taj Hamad, Secretary General of WANGO said: "We are delighted to recognize such efforts and bring greater worldwide awareness of the extraordinary accomplishments of SurfAid International. SurfAid’s unique cutting edge solutions to alleviate the human suffering in the Mentawai Islands, and now Nias Island, promoting community-based solutions and tapping into the inherent values in the surfing community - individualism, courage, dynamism, and adaptability - is an example of humanitarian service that deserves widespread recognition."

The prestigious WANGO awards recognize non-governmental organizations from throughout the world that demonstrate exceptional effort, service, innovation, and excellence. Among past recipients of WANGO awards are Rotary International, Ashoka, Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, Inuit Circumpolar Conference, Free the Children, Bahrain Women’s Society, Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana, Buccoo Reef Trust, Altai Foundation, and Roots of Peace.

WANGO is the world’s largest international association for non-governmental organizations both large and small, assisting NGOs to better connect, partner, and multiply their contributions to solve humanity’s basic problems. SurfAid International was started by Wellingtonian, Dr Dave Jenkins, in 2000. The mission of SurfAid International, a non-profit humanitarian aid organization, is to improve the health of people living in isolated communities.

SurfAid works so well because it provides the fundamental building blocks of health through direct community empowerment and engagement, creating long lasting behaviour changes. They are also very effective because the connection between public donation and the provision of actual on-the-ground frontline aid is more direct than other aid organizations.

And, as WANGO say, their work is epitomized by the values of the surfing community - individualism, courage, dynamism, and adaptability. This makes SurfAid a powerful force for helping stricken communities. Dr Jenkins said: “We are a team coming from varied backgrounds but who share the same vision and have all sacrificed something to be here. We did not change our lives, leave families, and the comforts of home for anything but the best outcomes for the people we have chosen to help. We have all surrendered to this commitment and we are not letting go of our single-minded vision. Striving for cost effective impact in remote island settings is an extreme challenge and requires SurfAid to test, refine and retest cutting edge solutions. This has and will continue to build a strong and resilient organizational culture.”

The fund-raising work of SurfAid is also supported by funding from NZ Aid, which enables SurfAid to leverage their fund-raising and reach even more isolated communities. NZ Aid Director Global Group Don Clarke said: “We are extremely pleased at this recognition of Surf Aid International, one of our many NGO partners. Central to our mission is eradicating poverty, and one of the ways in which NZ Aid is able to make a significant difference is to engage with New Zealand's NGO community and provide funding to support their programmes on the ground overseas. Surf Aid is an excellent example of a successful partnership that is making a real difference.”

Dr Jenkins added: "Over 11 million children under the age of 5 die in the world every year. Further, for every single death thousands of children and their communities are crippled by suffering. And yet, the vast majority of these deaths and suffering are preventable with achievable behaviour change from the parents. Immediate post delivery and exclusive breast feeding, mosquito nets, improved nutrition, clean water, washing hands and recognizing the signs of serious illness are scientifically proven behaviours that save lives. SurfAid International is committed to designing and refining a proven model that permanently shifts community norms towards these key health behaviours.

“In the long term we would like to take our success to scale in many more communities across Indonesia and beyond. I’d like to sit in my rocking chair one day (if those damn mossies don’t get me first) and know I’ve been part of something that has saved at least a million children’s lives and prevented tens of millions of days of extreme childhood suffering. “We ask people to get passionately involved, give time and money, organize a fundraiser, recruit other members, and get your school involved in our schools program,“ Dr Jenkins said. “Stay with us, be part of our growing success, and help save lives.”