The streets of Kuta, Bali are usually teeming with tourists this time of the year — many of which are visiting surfers looking to score the island’s world-class waves. Eighty percent of the average income in this area is dependent on over 7 million tourists who visit annually — tourists who spend, on the low end, an average of $126 a day and at the high end an average of $2,000. But when the COVID-19 lockdown was put in place, Bali’s tourism sector was hit hard. With the beaches closed and zero overseas visitors, the impact of this global pandemic has been devastating to the local communities that depend on surfing and surfers for their daily bread — leaving a multitude of people with zero income and very little to eat.
In an effort to help feed those in need during this global crisis, two ex-pat surfer/restaurateurs Sam Mahony and James Foley have turned their restaurants into “Crisis Kitchens” — impromptu aid stations where the local community can drop by and pick up individual recyclable paper bags full of food supplies that should keep a family fed for a week at a time. For free. They’re calling the program “Project Nasi”.
Mahony, who runs his Sinaloa restaurant between teaching math and science at the local ex-pat high school, was inspired by his access to the food supply chain and decided to turn his attention to feeding local people in need while his restaurant was closed. He called on his friend Foley, who owns an Asian fusion restaurant in the upscale Petitenget district, and the two of them brainstormed how to help their respective neighborhoods. After coming up with the idea for “Project Nasi”, they turned to the surfing community (including local boardrider clubs and ex-pat surfers who live in Bali permanently) for the support and manpower they’d need to implement the program.
“A lot of us ex-pat surfers and businessmen come from such privileged countries”, says Wollongong native Mahony, “where help can come in so many forms. But here the people are dependent on each other for survival. “Project Nasi” is a chance for any surfer that has ever surfed Bali to help the people of this island that have welcomed us into their waves as well as into their way of life”.
Both Mahoney and Foley, along with other surfers like Ella Weishaar, Chelsea Mahony, Blake Johnson, Jessy Hansen and local surf club Presidents Nyoman “Winchester” Sumastra and Mangku Kasim, have all banded together to make this an island-wide network, with other restaurants also able to rely on their supply chain to provide the same service to the community in a coordinated, efficient way. The project has been welcomed with open arms by the beleaguered communities.
“We welcome so many people here from around the world and share our food and our waves” says Padma Beach surfer Mangku Suwara, “But now it is a time where we need help. It is good to see that these ex-pat surfers are really giving back.”
Project Nasi is so far operating on donations via crowdfunding. The hope is that “Project Nasi” may grow into an organization that will continually provide food for those in need during any future disaster or pandemic. “As the crossroads of international surfing,” says Maroubra Beach’s Foley, “Bali holds a special place in millions of surfers’ hearts. I mean, generations have surfed magic waves here and have had incredible experiences with the culture. It’s really simple, ‘Project Nasi’ is such a perfect way to just say thanks for all of it. That’s the spirit of the whole thing”.
If you’d like to contribute to “Project Nasi”, visit their GoFundMe page here.