Surfer and Social Entrepreneur, Tim Conibear, is the recipient of the 2016 Inyathelo Award for Philanthropy in Community Sports Development.
Waves 4 Change provides a Surf Therapy Programme in three Cape Town communities – Lavender Hill, Khayelitsha and Masiphumelele. The programme is open to children primarily in the 11-14 age group who have experienced traumatic events in their lives and uses a combination surfing and personal strength development courses to help them acquire new coping skills.
Waves 4 Chage had its beginnings in 2011 when Tim Conibear met Aphiwe Tshetsha and they spent time surfing together. Says Tim: “The catalyst was spending time with Aphiwe and getting to know the community. There was no agenda. We just went surfing together and talked a lot.”
Today Waves 4 Change employs 20 surf and life coaches who are mentored by a team of three health care professions. They work with 250 children per week as well as 150 parents and 50 teachers. The aim is to provide a safe space and a caring adult in a programme that works to improve how children who have come through difficult ordeals in their young lives perceive themselves and their futures.
The philosophy that drives Waves 4 Change is that the work is rooted in the community as it is through a strong and healthy community connection that the children learn to trust, speak about their difficulties and perceive of a future for themselves. The coaches and health care workers come from the same communities as the children giving the participants access to care and a measure of stability as they progress through the programme.
When asked why he chose surfing, Tim explained that surfing is a tough sport that requires commitment and bravery to take on. It is also a very physical sport that requires great skill, concentration and ultimately confidence to master.
The children who come to the programme are having great difficulty coping with their lives and typically cannot swim. Most of them are unlikely to have had even social access to the beach because of our South African history.
Waves 4 Change gives them the beach, access to the surf and puts them into the water with a caring adult who they can trust and who stands by them, encouraging them to try. Within about six weeks the children are standing up on a board and five months later they are paddling to the back line - fearless and surfing. Says Tim: “It is a massive achievement and we help them realise that it is a big deal. It takes bravery, confidence and strength – all of the things that get knocked out of you when you go through a difficult experience, and we show them that they can get it back.”
According to the coaches, the day a child first stands up on a board is one of the best reasons for being part of Waves 4 Change. The screams of excitement can be heard hundreds of metres across the Muizenberg sands, and it never fails to make them feel enormously proud and joyful that they have helped put a young child on a path to a more positive life experience.
Plans are underway to extend the programme to East London, Port Elizabeth and possibly Liberia.