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The England U18 squad today visited a charity project called Waves for Change in Monwabisi as part of their summer development tour in South Africa.
Waves for Change uses ‘surf therapy’ to give vulnerable children the skills to cope with stress, regulate behaviour, build healing relationships and make positive life choices.
The England squad spent time in the charity’s centre learning about the project before putting the children through their paces with some rugby drills on the beach.
The children involved in the charity also performed a traditional song for the squad – who then returned the gesture.
The children then spent time in the sea, as they were introduced to the ocean with some also learning to body board and surf.
“We use surfing as the hook,” said national director Robyn Cohen.
“It’s about getting them to the beach and encouraging them push their own boundaries; making them believe they can do things they never thought they could do, as well as learning life skills that they can then take back into their communities.”
Cohen added: “It’s not a high-performance surf programme, we are not looking to find the next world champion, the purpose is to reach as many vulnerable children as possible and to give them some coping skills as well as some life skills.”
England U18s are currently in South Africa as part of the ‘U19 International Series’ but visits to the community are an important part of the tour. Wednesday’s visit was the fourth consecutive year they have visited the charity.
“We hope they will come away from today’s visit with a better awareness of the world,” said head coach John Fletcher.
“It’s hugely important for rugby players to do things like this as they are role models, or they are going to be role models, and they have the opportunity to affect change as a result.
“People will look at their behaviour so they have a responsibility to young people.”
Waves For Change works in communities affected by violence, poverty and conflict, where mental health services are often stigmatized and under-resourced.
According to the charity early surfing sessions have showed that participants noted improved feelings of belonging, strength, trust and confidence.