Transforming Lives Through Surfing and Mentorship


  • Building Advocacy to create sustainable success

Surfers Not Street Children is a team of ambassadors who are being trained to combine their life experiences with a new knowledge of the global phenomenon of street children in order to be an important voice of integrity around the rights of street children. The team are committed to changing the way that society perceives and treats street children in South Africa and further afield. They share their life stories and experiences in web clips, documentaries, news pieces and in other media related ways and also engage in public speaking both in South Africa and around the world. The Surfers Not Street Children ambassadors have become well known in South Africa and are really changing perceptions around street children. At the end of 2014 the South Africa government nominated Surfers Not Street Children for “Recreational Body of the Year” at the South African Sports Awards. This was a great endorsement of the teams efforts.

In 2013 the team visited the UK to speak with networks that are concerned with the plight of street children as well and to surf in local surf contests. It was a speaking and surfing tour that lasted six weeks taking them all over the UK. IN 2014, Sihle Mbutho, a Surfers Not Street Children ambassador and ex street child visited Australia with Tom Hewitt and surfer Jordy Smith to film a piece about his life with the surfing company O’Neill. Sihle also met with local groups and people sharing his life story and ideas around working with street children.

Surfers Not Street Children engages in campaigns around key issues that street children face. The team chooses these campaigns by fusing their won experiences with experiences that youngsters are currently facing on the streets around the world. In 2015 Surfers Not Street Children is campaigning around the often brutal forced removals of street children (round-ups) that happen in many countries around the world to ‘clean-up’ cities when they are hosting international conferences and events. This is something that the team has intimate knowledge about as it happened to them all in Durban when they were street children. Tom Hewitt campaigned against this issue in Durban for nearly a decade and the practice was ended in 2010 due to his advocacy campaign. This places Surfers Not Street Children in a good position to campaign for the ending of this globally and for recognition of models for empowering street children that are compassionate and in the interest of the children.

Forced Removals

The Forced Removals of street children by city authorities in many cities around the world is often carried out during city festivals, conferences, visits of dignitaries, as well as sports and other events. It is a way of “cleaning” the streets for international visitors in order to hide the fact that there are children on the streets. It is a practice that allows Safety and Security mechanisms (enforcement agencies) to run roughshod over children, whose plight is a Social development one. Surfers Not Street Children is fundamentally opposed to street children being categorized as a “Safety and Security issue” in order to give license to local authorities to “clean” the streets, often brutally. Often authorities dump the youngsters outside the city, but sometimes they put them in internment centers or even jail. Durban used to be a city where children were ‘rounded-up’ during the hosting of international events but thanks to local campaigning that Tom Hewitt spearheaded, street children are no longer targeted in such round-ups. All of the Surfers Not Street Children ambassadors were ‘rounded-up’ by police in Durban when the lived on the streets and were often dumped out of town and told not to return (and sometimes worse). The team is passionate about using their experiences to campaign that this practice be deemed internationally unacceptable.

Psychosocial Services

Surfers Not Street Children is also passionate about the model of fusing surfing and other high intensity and consuming activities with psychosocial services. It believes that such services that include counseling and mentorship should be central to any street children organization. the reason for this is that all street children are, to varying degrees, traumatized. With this in mind, ensuring that ex street children are propelled on a journey of healing becomes paramount. Surfers Not Street Children campaigns around ensuring that such services are available to street children