Climbing to stay ahead of gangs

Bringing the freedom and joy of climbing to vulnerable youth is the aim of a Fish Hoek based outreach programme.

Zack Wright, from the Moya Centre in Fish Hoek, runs an outreach programme aimed at teenagers from underprivileged communities, where he teaches them climbing and parkour – the sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.

A sports scientist, Wright has worked extensively with children of all ages. As a child counsellor he has a special interest in the psychological benefits of exercise and play. He frequently drove past Ocean View and noticed the children playing, “ tricking, jumping and essentially using their environment, no matter the condition, as a playground”.

“This is what parkour is all about,” he says.

“Aside from the amazing exercise and philosophy inherent with these sports, South Africa is uniquely enriched with opportunities for exploring and earning with these adventurous activities. We have some of the best and most abundant natural climbing and bouldering spots in the world, with a vast variety in natural and urban obstacles for parkour,” he says.

Both climbing and parkour allow children to become comfortable with failure, Wright explains, as children have to try numerous times before mastering a move.

Added to this are the physical benefits of strengthening muscles, improved concentration and building confidence.

“We have been working with 15 youths, but with the correct funding, plan to empower each individual to fulfil their full potential, either in parkour-related industries – such as advertising, the movie industry or as athletes (parkour has recently become a recognised sport globally) – or as teachers and coaches. We work closely with the local community for the community,” he says.

“The teens we work with have gained in confidence, life skills and athleticism and are having a whole lot of healthy outdoor fun while doing so. This has reduced the allure of drugs and gang-related activities and has led to a more positive outlook on life.”

Climbing and parkour are related in that they can both be done in urban or rural areas allowing the youth to use the environments they live in.

“That way, the programme can spread organically and kids can have something constructive to do, with increased health and wealth potential. Parkour and climbing change the way you view and interact with your surroundings, so another big plus is that the culture it fosters is one of environmental consciousness and appreciation.”

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