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Culture, Reality

Burger Faces

by Ella Grimwade / Images by Luke Daniel / 11.11.2013

Spur is a typical restaurant in the photo albums of many families across South Africa. But for the two groups of children and young adults who hesitantly stepped into the Golden River Spur in Fish Hoek last week, if they’d gone more than twice in their lives they’d be breaking records. These kids are from the Masiphumelele Township in Cape Town, brought up in an environment where HIV infection is between 30-40%, drugs are rife, and Gangs rule the territory.

But, thanks to the generosity of Spur, 20 hungry Masi kids from the Waves for Change Foundation got the chance to smash some burgers in their faces. Waves for Change has been working with this community for 2 years, attempting to teach HIV awareness and pro-social behaviour through an innovative mix of traditional education techniques and surf lessons.

“They’re all good kids,” says Tim Conibear, founder of Waves for Change. But in an environment saturated by crime, deprivation, and the impact of HIV, it takes a lot for these individuals to stand up and take a different path.

The difficulty of escaping the fate apparently assigned to anyone born in the Masi Township was made particularly apparent on the Burger Faces evening. On the way to Spur, after an afternoon’s surf lesson, the Waves for Change class was attacked by 3 guys with machetes . Although no one was harmed, money and confidence was robbed from the group. The ordeal was made worse by the fact that one of the muggers was a drop out from the Waves for Change program. “They live on the same street as him,” says Tim, “but he says what is he supposed to do?”

Burger Faces

This is not a “chuck a kid in the ocean and expect him to come out clean” strategy. Waves for Change incorporate recognised counselling programs and education practice with the surf training and endeavour to work with local community in a cohesive, economically viable, approach to help troubled youths. The surfing, however, act as a binding glue, pulling different resources and a multitude of young individuals together through the excitement, adrenaline, and pure joy of riding a wave.

“It feels like you’re flying” explained Noncedo, her face lighting up with an emphatic grin. The self-proclaimed best surfer of the younger class she was among the first girls in the Masiphumelele program. Permanently struggling against pressure to drop out of school and begin work, at age 14, Waves for Change is supporting Noncedo to continue with her education, and her surfing, so she can achieve her dreams of travel and an independent career.

Although originally a 3 month HIV intervention program, Waves for Change now support their students for as long as the individual wants. The children can repeat the program indefinitely whilst in education; and older individuals are able to undergo leadership training and then go on to be coaches themselves.

Burger Faces

Many of the young people present at Spur want to become coaches when they’ve finished school and an exciting new venture is in the pipeline to establish of a surf school at Monwabisi beach. Run by residents of the township who have gone through the program, this will provide work and income for some of the Waves for Change surfers after their education is complete. Although run as a profitable venture, all avenues of this NGO recycle any money generated back into the schools program whilst also providing an income for the coaches. Community support for this venture is strong and with the guarantee of a year’s contract from the city to get them up and running, the outlook for an economically sound future is optimistic.

At Spur the focus was very much on the here and now: on celebrating the hard work and commitment these youths have put into the program, on rewarding their decision to consistently make the right, often more difficult, choices. And on replacing some of the energy burnt off by all that surfing.

Burger Faces

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* Images © Luke Daniel
** Thanks to Spur, Waves for Change, and all the individuals featured in this article.

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