This story is about hope.
A languid African wind is blowing and the sun is low on the horizon. Day collapses into the waiting arms of the night.
The seed-planter, still salty from the ocean, is smiling. “Why did you come today?” he asks. The child shrugs self consciously and looks away. But the seed-planter is insistent, his curiosity overwhelming. “Why did you come today?” he asks again. This time the child answers, “I came because we can talk, and you listen to us.”
Tim is an ordinary Englishman who planted a seed of curiosity in an African township called Masiphumelele. The seed, was a surfboard. Masiphumelele lives on the fringes of an enormous wetland a short distance from Cape Town. By an early age, most of the children who live here have already been hurt by adults. Many have witnessed shootings, violent protests or had someone close to them go to prison.
Many of the children who live here suffer from anger, depression & hopelessness. Krista Tippet once described depression like this. “For me, depression was not so much about being without faith or hope or love; it was, rather, not being able to remember those things, not being able to imagine ever experiencing them again”.
If hope were a seed, then human kindness would be the milk that nourished it.
Tim met a young African soccer coach called Apish. They became friends and Tim taught Apish to surf. Together, they started teaching the children of Masiphumelele how to surf and called their initiative, “Waves 4 Change”.
They found that listening to children and showing them kindness was nourishing the seed called hope.
More and more children wanted to surf with them and so the seed grew into tree. Tim began using the phrase “surf-therapy” to describe the effect that their surf programs were having on the children.
Their programs are intriguing to watch. Groups of children singing, dancing and laughing together followed by times of quiet meditation. Gathered in circles on the beach, shoulder to shoulder, they listen attentively to each other as they share about their joys and frustrations. Then, in an explosion of excitement, the group charges into the ocean where they clamorously ride waves together. As word got out of their “surf-therapy” programs Tim and Apish found that they were able to train up and employ other mentor-coaches, teaching them how to listen to children too.
Over time the program was expanded to include school and home visits as well as food and transport for the stoked young surfers. The surfboard shaped seed has grown into a large tree with branches that have spread out into other parts of South Africa and now Liberia. It has become a tree that shelters hundreds of children each year.
Waves for Change is about role models, friendship, community, belonging, value and purpose. But, mainly, it’s about hope. It’s about hope that grows in a childs’ heart when you…..listen to them.