Waves for Change (with Laureus)

In brief

Waves for Change provides a child-friendly mental health service to at-risk youth living in unstable communities. Through access to safe spaces, caring mentors, and a provision of weekly Surf Therapy sessions, Waves for Change gives children skills to cope with stress, regulate behaviour, build healing relationships, and make positive life choices.

Problem to be tackled

Mental Health in South Africa – economic and health burden. According to a national survey, in 2016/17, South Africa’s public mental health expenditure was 615 million USD, representing 5% of the total public health budget (provincial range: 2.1-7.7% of provincial health budgets). Inpatient care represented 86% of mental healthcare expenditure, with almost half of total mental health spending occurring at the psychiatric hospital level and almost none on community-based services.

The average young person in a South African township experiences up to eight traumatic events every year. At-risk youth cannot access the psychosocial support needed to deal with the impact of constant exposure to trauma. Waves for Change is designed to fill this void, reframing community-based healthcare by training Surf Mentors to engage at-risk youth in daily Surf Therapy programmes.

Local partner

Waves for Change grew across Cape Town by training and resourcing community mentors to engage youth in after-school surf and mentoring programmes. It also partnered with the University of Cape Town to run a formative evaluation of its programmes.

Waves for Change works in communities affected by violence, poverty and conflict, where mental health services are often stigmatized and under-resourced.

The actual sites are Masiphumelele, Monwabisi, Lavender Hill, Port Elizabeth, East London and Harper in Liberia.


Waves for Change works with previously disadvantaged, under-served communities where access to critical resources, such as mental health services, are scarce; approximately 90% of referrals to the Waves for Change programme comes from Quintile 1, schools which cater for the poorest 20% of South African children, across the most under-served communities in South Africa, access to and uptake of healthcare services is extremely limited.

SOL’s contribution

With the support from The SOL Foundation, Waves for Change will be able to continue the co-operation and to operate programming through South Africa, specifically supported are three Surf Therapy sites and one Support Hub office in Cape Town, Western Cape, and two sites in East London and Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

Project partner

Laureus Sport for Good Foundation

The SOL Foundation

Laureus uses the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage for children and young people all around the world. It supports actually more than 200 programmes in over 40 countries with funding and capacity building, helping to change the lives of over 200’000 marginalised and disadvantaged children and young people – from increasing access to education, to tackling gang violence, to supporting the mental health of youth in post-trauma situations.

Laureus Sport for Good was founded under the Patronage of Nelson Mandela, in line with his belief that “sport has the power to change the world” after seeing it play a crucial role in rebuilding post-apartheid South African society.