Making a splash for mental health

On World Mental Health Day, Waves for Change, an organisation helping children from poor areas through surf therapy, welcomed the public for an immersion session at Muizenberg Beach.

More than 100 people met at Muizenberg Beach last Tuesday to make a splash for mental health.

They were there to take part in a public immersion session held by Waves for Change on World Mental Health Day, October 10.

The event had a dual purpose: raising awareness about the benefits of surf therapy for adolescents as well as fund-raising for Waves for Change’s surf therapy community mental health programme.

The non-profit started in 2009 as a weekend surf club for a handful of children from Masiphumelele, and its surf-therapy programme – which starts with an immersion session to build trust – now blends the benefits of surfing and physical activity with activities that support young people’s emotional and social well-being.

Waves for Change co-founder Tim Conibear said immersion sessions helped children deal with their fears and anxiety.

“During this session, participants learn about Waves for Change’s culture to respect, protect, and communicate as they enter the water together and learn positive peer engagement through trust and listening to each other and learning to connect to their feelings and their body’s biofeedback.”

Every year, Waves for Change reaches 2 500 children and adolescents through the surf-therapy programme.

The children come from poor communities across the city, referred by schools, social workers, the provincial education department and hospitals.

Waves for Change also operates in Gqebera and East London, and its coaches, aged from 18 to 25, are trained in surf coaching, first aid, counselling, and child safeguarding. Many of them come from the same communities as the children, and some attended the programme as children.

“We provide a safe space for our participants to feel free, belong, and inspire them to make positive changes in their communities. Our organisation raises awareness about mental health through our programme, which has a significant impact, both in their personal lives and as mentors and coaches,” said senior coach Liaan Ali.

Waves for Change is attempting to raise more than R600 000 for child mental health through its Therapy is Now in Session campaign to cover the costs of transport, food, surfing equipment, coaching and more.

Visit waves-for-change.org for more information.