Local bags global award

2020-03-24 06:00
Nigel Savel

Nigel Savel

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For his efforts in keeping children off the streets and in the water, Strandfontein local, Nigel Savel has been given an international honour.

The founder of the 9Miles Project was chosen as the 2020 recipient of the Aloha Award, a global award which recognises individuals in the surfing community who are ambassadors of the Aloha spirit, share the love of surfing, and make a difference in their communities.

“My heart’s desire is to see lives and communities transformed, to see each one of our students get to live out their purpose in life. We do this because of love - no reward needed – but just to see these children shine, so for people to recognise what we do or even nominate me, has been so overwhelming,” says Savel.

He started the non-profit organisation (NPO) in 2013 alongside his wife Sher’Neil to teach children to surf as a way of keeping them occupied and away from gangsterism, crime and drugs.

Savel recognised that the children growing up in the surrounding informal settlements were living with gangsters and drug dealers as role models and that there were very few organised activities or programmes to motivate and mould young impressionable minds.

Surfing was used as a catalyst to entice students to the project and to teach them discipline, determination and life skills.

Savel will travel to Fiji, where as an avid surfer he will no doubt enjoy the world-famous surf breaks and pristine beaches. He will also receive $5000 for the charity of his choice and he has selected 9Miles Project as the recipient.

“As an organisation, the awareness this type of award creates will help us to grow our local and global base of friends and partners. The $5000 will also help us to meet the demand for our programmes and take on additional children – who are very eager to join - in Elands Bay and St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape,” says Savel.

Around 100 children in Strandfontein, Elands Bay and St Francis Bay benefit from programmes which include literacy and academic support, feeding, welfare and holistic support, surfing and fitness, art and music therapy, and environmental education.

“Additional children also benefit from our community events like Aqua Day and Activate Youth Conference,” he says.

For Savel, his love for surfing started when he was still young.

“I started surfing at 9Miles Beach in Strandfontein at the age of 11 and it kept me away from destructive lifestyles and habits that were prevalent among the youth.

“The beach was a place of escape and tranquillity where I could switch off from any worries or the surrounding social ills,” he says.

“I discovered that surfing teaches many valuable life lessons like discipline, perseverance, and quality decision-making. As an adult, I realised that children in my community had few positive role models and were being lured into various anti-social activities. Surfing, combined with mentorship, was a powerful combination for transforming vulnerable youth and communities which drove me to found our youth and community development organisation.”

With his love for surfing and his heart rooted in community upliftment, Savel encourages the youth to strive for more.

“No one ever changed the world by being exactly the same as everyone else. Remember that You are perfect for your purpose and have unique gifts. Know your identity and use your gifts to be a blessing to your family, your community and society at large.”

The award is based on the general Hawaiian greeting, Aloha which also means love, compassion, kindness and grace, and forms the basis of a unique way of living which inspires positivity, respect for the ocean, and the spirit of community.

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