The township children who sail at Garden Route Sailing come from a world where daily food is not guaranteed, where “home” is made of tin, the size of a modern bathroom is shared with five other family members and where there is no running water, kitchen or bathroom. These children’s lives consist of going to school and, if they have a caring guardian, spending the rest of the time hiding in their house.
Many of them live with their grandparents because their parents either don’t want them or work far away. The outside world (and sometimes inside) is riddled with drugs and alcohol abuse. Adults and children alike do not venture out after dark as it is too dangerous.
This is everyday life for fifteen year-old Siya. His school is two hour’s walk away and is terribly overcrowded with more than fifty children per teacher. Siya’s mum works shifts as a cleaner. His dad does not come home anymore but Siya is glad as his father was always drunk.
By chance, a friend from the sea cadets brought Siya to sailing. Ask Siya what sailing means to him and his response will be a wide grin. “I used to be so bored at home but now sailing has given me a greater purpose. After school and weekends I can now meet some good friends in a safe place and go sailing. If I was at home I would be doing bad things. Oh yes and I love the warm showers.”
Siya sails on Mondays and Thursdays. Meals and transport are provided and he also gets the chance to sail most weekends. We are training him and some of his co-sailors as assistant instructor and safety boat drivers. When asked about his future plans and dreams Siya shrugged his shoulders; he dreams of working in the sailing industry.