Surfing towards a better future.
Sports are Apish’s life.
Apish Tshetsha is driving his lime green van with surf board attached to the roof, weaving his way down the main street in the Masiphumelele township in central Cape Town. It’s Freedom Day, celebrations are taking place and the community is a hive of activity. The softly spoken 26-year-old comes to life as he drives through the community, his van stopping every five or so metres as a young member of the community greets Apish. ‘Awe!’ he shouts to his friends and community members. After minutes in his company, you sense that to Apish, sport is life.
He waxes lyrical about the football teams he supports and his Springbok heroes, the South African rugby union team, but much of his time is taken up by his newfound love of surfing.
Stability for young people.
Three years ago, Apish couldn’t swim. “I can do a few lengths of the pool now”, he laughs. Through the Laureus “YES” (Youth Empowerment through Sport) programme, Apish was introduced to an award-winning social entrepreneur called Tim Conibear, who was trialling a programme called “Waves for Change”, using the sport of surfing to help stabilise young people affected by emotional and psychological trauma. Tim said: “Apish had a pretty tricky childhood, growing up pretty much alone. He is fiercely independent but also quite a vulnerable soul and when I met him he had been unemployed for quite a long time. He loved his sport but he didn’t have many formal skills to work with. He’s done brilliantly, he’s now a trained youth care worker”.
“YES” changes their entire life.
Tim introduced Apish to surfing and the 26-year-old has not looked back since. He completed his youth care worker training and progressed through the Laureus “YES” programme, learning a variety of life and social skills along the way, as well as developing his confidence as a public speaker.
“The ‘YES’ programme came at the right time for me”, Apish reflects. “When you’re a young person and you’re a bit confused about your future, ‘YES’ really changes your life. We were taught everything there; health lifestyle, sexual identity, goal setting and also the generous things you can do in your community to influence change”.
The norms of the township.
Drugs, peer pressure, gangs and staying away from the wrong crowds. Apish highlights the struggles he faced as a youngster. “It’s tough because of the things that go on, the challenges of society; you have to live by the norms of the township where there are drugs, alcohol, teenage pregnancy and gangs. Peer pressure is tough but luckily I’ve never been involved in those things, I’ve always tried to keep myself busy with sport”. Apish used his hard work on the football field to keep a focus in his life and help him concentrate on his studies, keeping him away from falling in with the wrong crowd.
“I would spend my whole day playing sport and at night I would be with my books studying, so sport and education have made me who I am, even in terms of my values as well. You don’t want to disappoint your elders, your family and the young people as well because role models are so, so rare in the township, especially for young people”.
Playing and exploring.
“When you’re old at least you can be influenced by media and role models on TV or in magazines but when you’re young you want to play and explore and you’re faced with choices”. To say the 26-year-old is a role model would be an understatement. Apish has introduced the sport of surfing to the football-loving youngsters living in Masiphumelele. Through the “Waves for Change” programme, surfing has become a sport of the community today. “It feels great to mentor other people, knowing that you make a difference”, he states proudly. “With young people who are still stumbling, they maybe cannot see now what impact ‘Waves for Change’ has for them, in a couple of years to come they might be grateful that they were part of Waves for Change. Maybe in 10 years, they’ll look back and say ‘Thank you Apish!’”.
Nothing is impossible.
The Laureus “YES” programme empowers young people from community sports organisations to become the future leaders of the “sport for good” movement. Through the “YES” programme, young people are given the information and tools to take back to their communities and pass on. Judging by the youngsters of Masiphumelele, many of them are already thanking Apish Tshetsha. Through sport, Apish was given a chance and an opportunity to pave his own path, one which he grabbed with both hands. When asked if he has one message for the youngsters in his community and other communities around the world, Apish doesn’t hesitate.
“I would say if I had one thing to tell young people it would be, please, hold on to Nelson Mandela’s legacy. What Laureus is doing now is the true definition of what Mandela meant when he said: ‘Nothing is impossible’”.