Surfers Not Street Children’s core project is leading former street in Durban, South Africa, through the transition from childhood into adulthood. The idea is to prepare them for life and journey with them towards independence and vocation. Street children are all to varying degrees, traumatised so ensuring that they are able to overcome this is crucial to their future.
Surfing is a key ingredient to the model that Surfers Not Street Children uses. However, although surfing has extraordinary therapeutic value of its own, it is when it is connected to the array of programmes that Surfers Not Street Children offers that the depth of results is seen. Surfers Not Street Children fuses
The Surfhouse is the Surfers Not Street Children base. As most of the youngsters were orphaned and lived on the streets for sometimes a decade, they really don’t have communities to go back to. They have just been away for too long and settling in their original communities, especially with the stigmas attached to having been street children is difficult.
Surfers Not Street Children has created a community at the Surfhouse which slowly enables them to reconnect with their original communities (extended family and sometimes siblings) in a way that breaks the stereotypes of having lived in the streets.
The Surfhouse, is run by Vukani Mhluzi who is a 31 year old former street child, who is a child and youth care worker and has a diploma in finance. Vukani, who is also a surfer, was one of the children in Tom Hewitt’s first street children project in the Wastern Cape in 1994.
The home is different to a children’s home and enables the youngsters to understand the nuances of living in community whilst at the same time develops their sense of individual responsibility. Each of the youngsters has a small, private room but also commits to the cooking and cleaning roster as well as the array of programmes on offer.
The youngsters living in the Surfhouse have access to the following programmes:
- Personal mentorship
- Counselling services
- Addiction counselling
- Health and sexual health awareness (including HIV)
- Life-skills training
- Catch-up education: basic literacy and numeracy (Numberwise Maths programme thanks to Edusport)
- Skills training
- Access to apprenticeships
- Job creation assistance
Surfers Not Street Children aims to develop the young surfers into independent and successful young adults and ambassadors that will inspire other children. This means ensuring that the youngsters are propelled along a journey of healing from the trauma of their past as well as being developed to reach their potential. Ensuring that each of them has access to a job at the right time is central to that.
When the young adults start to earn money they do so with the understanding that they have a responsibility to empower any siblings/extended family that they have in the local townships. The are required to ‘pay it back’ and are never reluctant to do so. In doing so they go from being am outcast in their original communities to a provider and this power dynamic opens up the possibility of reconnecting meaningfully and in a dignified manner to their original communities.
The Surfhouse is a safe space where the complexities of the street child experience in the lives of these youngsters can be worked through. It is a vibrant and surf orientated home which has been has a massive mural of their beloved “New Pier” surf spot around the living room space.
It also has a bedrooms, a kitchen, toilets and showers, a woodworking area and a computer lab and education centre. The youngsters, like most groms, adorn their bedroom walls with surf posters and their contest trophies and medals. On the walls of the communal living space are signed pictures and words of encouragement to the team from such surf stars as Jordy Smith, Kelly Slater, Shaun Tomson and Tiago Peres.
Visiting surfers often try and call in at the Surfhouse and over the years the team have had visits from the likes of Rob Bain, Dean “Dingo” Morrison, Chad du Toit and other traveling surfers. Pro surfer Jordy Smith has been a real ambassador for the work of Surfers Not Street Children for some years now and is a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to the team. Local New Pier chargers surfers like Chad du Toit, Davey Van Zyl, Chris Frolich and many more are a constant encouragement to the team in and out of the water. The Durban surf community has been great allies in the work of Surfers Not Street Children and a key component of this unique Durban story.