We are thrilled to announce the expansion of our surf therapy programme to two new sites – East London and Port Elizabeth – in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. The launch of the new centres adds an exciting new chapter in our commitment to providing a child-friendly mental health service in communities where mental health services are under-resourced and stigmatized, through the sport of surfing. The expansion coincides with increased investment in the Cape Town programmes, which now reach 400 children per week across seven Cape Town communities.
The sites were selected due to lack of infrastructure and limited programming within the local areas. In East London, W4C partner Mercedes Benz identified the potential for setting up a centre to service Parkside and the Mdantsane township, both low-income communities that have little engagement with the ocean. With the support of Laureus, the centre at Orient Beach officially opened at the start of the year and now welcomes 125 children to the site. Local support has been integral to the success of the programme including involvement from professional world surfer Greg Emslie who, along with support from Surfing South Africa, works with the W4C coaches to improve their surfing skills.
The Port Elizabeth site has been established in partnership with Innowind, a SA based integrated renewable energy company dedicated to positive community development. The centre, based at St George’s beach, employs four coaches and welcomes 50 children each week with intake increasing after the March holidays.
The aim with both sites is to successfully embed the W4C Surf Therapy programme before scaling up to the same size as the programmes operating in Cape Town which now host 400 children per week and engage a further 400 parents & teachers in mental health education programmes through home and school visits.
Speaking of the expansion, Waves for Change Founding Director Tim Conibear said:
“We are delighted to be operating in East London and PE providing surf therapy to the kids in these areas who have often been impacted by significant traumatic experiences. Our goal is to give them emotional and mental support so they can cope with the stresses they endure on a day-to-day basis. I would like to give a big shout out to all the local organisations in East London and Port Elizabeth who have showed us overwhelming support, to Greg for his invaluable input in helping train our coaches and, our partners Mercedes Benz, Laureus and Innowind for enabling us to make it happen.”
Both sites will run weekly sessions that provide interactive activities focused around evidence based “teachable moments”. These are interactive sessions led by trained community members that help the W4C surfers build trust and confidence, and master techniques for coping with stress.
The launch of the new sites is part of a larger expansion piece for W4C who will look to the new centres to help refine their model for national and international growth. In addition to the three existing sites that operate in Cape Town, W4C is also piloting a programme in Harper, Liberia.
“It is our goal to keep building new W4C sites in countries lacking in mental health services. The success of the programme proves that surfing is a legitimate tool for social change, and has genuine therapeutic qualities that we are beginning to understand in more depth. We want to make Surfing and Surf Therapy available to as many at-risk children and young adults as possible.’