Tom Hewitt, a lifelong surfer, first went to South Africa in 1990 on an anti-apartheid fact finding trip with local activists. He also spent time with peace activists in Maputo, Mozambique during Mozambique’s civil war. It was here that he met street children for the first time. Inspired by the movement against apartheid, Tom stayed on in South Africa to volunteer further. Shocked at the plight of street children in Mozambique, upon his return to South Africa, he noticed and befriended a group of street children in East London, a town in the Eastern Cape. In 1992 he started working with street children in that town as a way of supporting, in a small way, the transition of the country into the new South Africa and in 1994 he was a peace monitor at South Africa’s first free and fair elections.
In 1997, he relocated to Durban and a year later, set up the Durban Street Team which introduced surfing as an activity. This was so popular among the street children that they soon pioneered a new model for working with homeless street children which fused surfing with mentorship and care. This organisation would go on to be renamed Surfers Not Street Children. The charity has gone from strength to strength and now works with both street children and children at risk in the downtown Point area of Durban. Surfers Not Street Children also operates in Mozambique and in 2017 launched Girls Surf Too, specifically targeting girls living in difficult circumstances.
In this episode, Tom shares more of the backstory to Surfers Not Street Children and how it has evolved and developed over the last 20+ years. We discuss the challenges he has faced along the way and the unexpected benefits that have come from his work with the children and those who support them. We also discuss the growing body of evidence around the power of "blue health" initiatives and his plans for the future of the charity.
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