Arriving in darkness last night couldn’t prepare me for this morning. I wake at the hotel in Durban to this view of the sun rising over the sea. A little later surfers scoop the waking waves. No sooner had I seen this than I was off to the city.
I’ve never enjoyed the word orphanage. Though children are orphaned they shouldn’t be defined by what they haven’t got. There are street children in Durban. Children for whom the street is home. Durban is a city but also an international conference centre. And these children would not do so before the conferences police would round up, beat up and imprison these children – to clean up the pretty city.
The CEO of Umthombo is a surfer called Tom Hewitt MBE. With a few friends in a car he raced in front of the police to collect the children or warn them. Then he and Umthombo – which he set up – took the police to court and changed South African law forever. Besides this Umthombo is on one hand a children’s home and on the other a surfing school. That’s right. A surfing school. It’s also an education centre a food station and offers psychotherapy and all the support services a parentless child in Durban needs.
It reminds me of Kids Company in SOuth London. An addicted street child comes to Umthombo is given a home and relief and taught to surf. Durban is a surfing city and the sea is a great resource for spirit and mind. Each day the child catches waves. Surfing is about balance. I know these children because of my own experiences in childrens homes. There is an unspoken international language that comes with a certian kind of childhood. So I sat with them and together they wrote a poem. It is in the next Blog. The surfers I saw in the morning scooping those first waves – it was them.