Marine programme gives hope to the youth

The five South African participants on board the classic schooner Aloha-J of Cariba in the Bay of Palma during their Marine Inspirations programe in Mallorca, Spain. PHOTO: Terry Clark

FIVE teenagers from Durban and Cape Town travelled from South Africa to the Spanish island of Mallorca recently, to take part in the latest Marine Inspirations programme.

The programme offered young people from disadvantaged backgrounds a unique insight into careers in the superyacht industry. During their stay the five participants, who were selected from candidates at Lawhill Maritime Centre in Cape Town and non-profit Sail Africa Youth Development Foundation in Durban, spoke about what the opportunity meant to them, their families and wider communities back in South Africa.

Durban’s Praise Baras (16), said: “My family is so proud of me. I’m learning so much and I can see the opportunities coming.”

One of 10 siblings, Swaziland-born Baras lives with his brother and says that sailing has become a way of life for him since he responded to an announcement over the school intercom which said: “If you want to go sailing report to the office”. When he arrived at Sail Africa he was 13 years old and had never set foot on a boat before, let alone sailed one.

Through his involvement with Sail Africa, winner of the prestigious Murray & Roberts Jack Cheetham award, Baras has resisted the peer pressure to be involved in crime, drugs and alcohol, which dominate the lives of most young people in his area.

“I do get pressure from my friends who think I’m not cool if I am not doing drugs or alcohol, but every time it happens, I always look at the poor background that I come from. I always want to be different and break the cycle of poverty in my environment and be a better person,” said Baras.

He said he would love to work on super yachts. “My mum always says ‘Keep going and don’t give up’ and that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” Baras said.

Smangaliso Dlamini (17), who also started sailing in 2013 at Sail Africa, is an orphan and lives with his grandmother. He said he gets his inspiration from his teachers who always say that he should never allow his background to determine his future.

“This made me realise that if I commit myself to my studies I can change my life and the whole situation at home. Sometimes at home I can see that the load gets too heavy for my granny and my uncle to take care of us with my cousins. That gives me an inspiration to do my best in every opportunity I get,” said Dlamini, who had never left Durban, let alone South Africa, before travelling to Mallorca last month.

Dlamini is currently the top performing nautical sciences matric learner in the state of KwaZulu-Natal, an achievement that helped him to secure his spot on the Marine Inspirations programme.

“This is a really great opportunity for me. I’m looking forward to everything,” he said.

The other students from Cape Town were Saluse ‘Cake’ Tsengiwe, Phaphama ‘Penguin’ Kepu and Gershwyn Poole.

Marine Inspirations was founded in 2014 by South African semi-retired superyacht captains, Phil Wade and Anthony Just, as a way of giving back after having enjoyed successful careers themselves. In addition to the annual sailing programme in Mallorca, Marine Inspirations has taken its support a step further by acquiring an L26 yacht which will be used to provide practical sailing to Lawhill students.

Jackie DeFin, Strategic Director at Sail Africa said the Durban-based non-profit’s partnership with Marine Inspirations had contributed to it being named the winner of the Murray & Roberts Jack Cheetham Award for the best development sports’ organisation in the country with the ability to make champions.

“Champions are not only viewed as sports champions but as champions in overcoming difficulties such as the life experiences that Praise and Smangliso have faced,” DeFin said.

As part of the judging process for the prestigious award, a group from Sail Africa travelled from Durban to Johannesburg to make a presentation. Among the group was Menelisi Mkhize, who took part in the 2015 Marine Inspirations programme and went on to secure a bursary to study at Lawhill.

Lauren Walford

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