Two years ago, Chadwin George was making R90 a day picking up litter in a job-creation project. Today, he’s a qualified lifeguard and surf instructor teaching children how to ride waves of change.
Twenty-year-old Chadwin is the poster boy for an ocean-education programme being run by Hout Bay professional surfer Frank Solomon.
Launched last October, Sentinel Ocean Alliance goes hand in hand with NPO surf school Waves for Change. The programme was set up to create opportunities for the underprivileged youth of Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg, and Frank was pivotal in bringing the school to Hout Bay.
The idea of Sentinel Ocean Alliance, he says, came to him when he saw a video on social media of 14-year-old Ona Dubula getting shot in the face by a police officer (“Bullet boy traumatised,” Sentinel News, September, 22, 2017).
“Something kind of just clicked inside me that made me realise that when I was his age, I was able to go and learn a skill that would eventually become my job. He got shot coming down from walking on the same beach where I surf.
“So the next day, I went driving around Hout Bay beach trying to find a possible spot where I could set something up,” says Frank.
“This year has been incredible for us. The Waves for Change programme got a new container and now has up to a 100 kids a week who come and surf.”
“I’ve basically set up Sentinel Ocean as an umbrella body to manage the site and all the different projects that run within the site, with Waves for Change being one of them, the lifesaving club being another.”
Chadwin, who lives in Hangberg, is the biggest success story to come from the initiative.
“Everything about me has become so much better; my life has become easier,” says Chadwin. “Also, the way I think, the way I speak to people. Mentally, I became more confident and stable.
“Because of Waves for Change and Sentinel Ocean Alliance and everyone involved, I get to do what I love.”
Surf therapy – a very recent development in psychotherapy treatment – combines the therapeutic elements of the ocean with the adventure of surfing to create a safe and mentally stable space for individuals.
The programme teaches children how to cope with stress, manage behaviour, maintain healing relationships and make positive life choices.
While he’s thrilled to be living his dream, Chadwin says he is still worried about the future generation.
“I’m very concerned about them because they are the little upcoming surfers and lifeguards, and they’re exposed to many negatives on a daily basis. I hope by teaching them, I can impact and influence the youth in my community on a greater level.”
When he isn’t on the beach teaching the children essential life skills, Frank, a former Camps Bay High School Pupil, is advocating for cleaner oceans.
He has travelled to many communities across South Africa, driving awareness of eco-innovation to keep beaches spotless.
Frank wants to set up an “ocean school” to teach children about the environment and how to care for it.
In the past, many in Hout Bay drew their living from the sea, but that way of life is fast vanishing, and it’s not just happening in Hout Bay but in many other small coastal communities around the country.“The people don’t have that kind of income anymore,” says Frank.
“So if I can set up a lifesaving club, Waves of Change surf therapy and an ocean school in a lot of these disadvantaged communities around the coast, then I’d love to think it would make a huge impact and create employment that can give these kids a future income.”