Waves for Change – Surf Therapy for Violent Communities

Grassridge Wind Farm Fuel Change Through Surfing

In November 2016 Waves for Change (W4C) and the Grassridge Wind Farm’s “Grassroots Youth Development” (“GYD”) teamed up to help change the lives of children living in impoverished areas of Port Elizabeth, by establishing a W4C site on St George Beach outside Motherwell. Six months in, 45 children already visit the site each week to participate in a dedicated programme of surf therapy, with the target being a hundred by the end of the year.

The programme at Port Elizabeth is operated by site manager Siyavuya Ntabeni and four W4C coaches from the local community. Working with children who suffer from acute emotional and psychological stress, the team deliver a curriculum of Surf Therapy designed to help the children cope with the adverse circumstances they endure in their daily lives. Since the Port Elizabeth programme began, there have already been noted improvements in the attending children’s wellbeing, with a significant increase in their confidence, trust and feeling of belonging.

Attesting to the success of the programme so far, site manager Siya explains:

“Of the 45 children currently attending, nearly a quarter report having hunger issues; a quarter report abuse by an adult; three quarters have had to face the trauma of a death at home; and almost half have a family member in prison. This gives you a picture of types of children we are working with and an indication of the issues they have. We are delighted and proud of what these kids have achieved in the past six months through coming to Waves for Change – I am often told by parents and teachers about the improvements in their behavior; that coupled with the smiles of the kids’ faces when they catch their first wave shows what we are doing here is working.”

None of what is being achieved by the W4C team at Port Elizabeth would have been possible without the integral support of the GYD programme, established by independent power producer InnoWind as a corporate social investment vehicle for its wind farms in the Eastern Cape. Waves for Change is one of 32 projects that has so far benefitted from the Grassroots Youth Development initiative. Through GYD, the Grassridge Wind Farm commits 2.1% of its revenues, from the sale of wind energy, towards the development of sport, art, culture, education and enterprise development programmes in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro area.

Speaking as to why they chose to partner with Waves for Change Angela Hobbs from Innowind said: “We are thrilled to be supporting the Waves for Change surf therapy programme as it focuses on the development of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, which is what GYD is all about. It is encouraging to see how this project connects with the spirit of young people, helping them escape from their everyday struggles and allowing them to dream and be inspired towards a better future. ”

The programme at Port Elizabeth has also welcomed the support of local partners including Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), who are providing the programme with psychological support for coaches and providing referrals for children when necessary. Local beach operations manager Anestus Makuleni or ‘Lampie’ as he is known to the team, provides space to do indoor sessions and a storeroom to keep wetsuits, and the local lifesavers are always on duty to provide extra assistance.

The proven impact of the programme so far, coupled with the on-going support from Innowind and the local community, give the conditions required to take the programme to the next level. Over the next six months, the Port Elizabeth site aims to double the number of participants. The growth of Port Elizabeth is part of a wider expansion goal for Waves for Change, who are looking to build new W4C sites in countries lacking in mental health services and make surfing and surf therapy available to as many at-risk children and young adults as possible.

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