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South African street children surfing to a better life

South Africa

A hitherto reserved sport – surfing – appears to be helping some of Durban’s street children overcome their troubled past.

Surfing was almost exclusively a white only sport under apartheid South Africa but with the end of the regime, came the end of its exclusivity.

Thanks to training from Umthombo Street Children, a community-based project working with underprivileged and homeless youth, several former street children are taking up surfing.

One of them Thabane Ndima, who was found by Umthombo, says he “tried soccer and cricket but when I did surfing I felt like something was being lifted from my heart and I found peace and harmony”.

“Every time I do surfing I get to forget about everything in my past that is painful and I get to focus on what I’m doing” he added.

But surfing does not only serve as an avenue for Thabane to escape his past, he says “surfing has made my life better”, a feeling he says is best appreciated by “those who understand what surfing is all about”.

Having lived on the streets for a long while, Thabane now shares a home with a group of former street children at Umthombo where they are provided counseling, mentorship and vocational training.

The managers at Umthombo use sports as an integral part of the rehabilitation process of the street children. And football is very popular with the children.

In spite of the progress made so far with the children, the project managers are worried they could return to the streets.

“We are consistently there to support and monitor kids to avoid or to prevent relapses” said Umthombo Street Children Director, Mpendulo Nyembe.

He explains that “there is a high risk of relapse for kids who have been exposed to street life because mainly street life have got an ability of enabling a child to be so independent that he doesn’t even rely on anybody but rely on their own devices to survive on the street.”

But with Thabane finding peace in surfing and a roof over his head, he is most likely to focus on his new sport and stay off the street.

_Reuters _

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