A young Mossel Bay-based business that describes itself as “a social enterprise of travelling companions rather than just a tour company” is using its social non-profit arm and voluntour programme to bring real value to kids in the rural village of Friemersheim.
Unravel Surf Travel – which was established by husband and wife team Hermann Vivier and Jenya Zhivaleva in 2010 – has been teaching surfing to local primary school children through a separate trust, The Surfer Kids NON-Profit.
“The Surfer Kids NON-Profit aims to address social issues through the development of a healthy lifestyle based around surfing, to spread the love of surfing and respect for nature, to broaden horizons through travelling, and to provide the possibility of self-created opportunity,” said Mr. Vivier.
The trust takes groups of up to 18 local children surfing on Saturdays – while the business brings overseas surfers into South Africa for two-week-long surf tours.
“The oldest kids have been surfing with us every weekend for over three years now,” said Mr. Vivier. “The most senior surfer kid, Marchall, has already progressed to surfing at The Point in Mossel Bay, which is no easy task – it requires real skill and years of practice.”
Mr. Vivier said that The Surfer Kids NON-Profit is incorporated into the programme on the weekend in the middle of every one of the company’s Garden Route itineraries.
“On the Saturday we take both the kids and the tourists to Buffalo Bay in Knysna, where they spend their time surfing and socialising. And then on the Sunday we bring everyone together again in Friemersheim, where we let the older kids show the visitors around, and we all go to our favourite swimming hole – which is also where The Surfer Kids NON-Profit teaches the children how to swim.”
Through its Voluntour Programme, the trust helps Friemersheim Primary School with instruction in subjects like English and computer literacy.
“The school has a beautiful computer room, with 24 computers and internet access, but it’s hardly ever used due to a lack of training and available personnel,” said Mr. Vivier.
“So this is where our Voluntour Programme comes in. Depending on their skills, volunteers help with tuition, or with yoga and physical exercises – and our last volunteer helped local gardeners with their vegetable production, because that was her passion.”
Volunteers stay in Friemersheim with hosts like Laurika Jacomina Appels, who also offers accommodation to people working on other programmes.
“Apart from helping with The Surfer Kids NON-Profit and teaching at the Primary School, volunteers can also join a surf tour with Unravel Surf Travel, and help with things like cooking and driving,” said Mr. Vivier.
The Surfer Kids NON-Profit is managed by four trustees – Mr. Vivier and Ms. Zhivaleva; archaeologist and leader of the Human Origin Tours at Pinnacle Point, Dr. Peter Nilssen; and community leader Benjamin Joubert.
“Benjamin is our community coordinator,” said Mr. Vivier. “His two kids joined the programme almost at the beginning, and because of his respected position in the local community, he’s the person who makes it possible for outsiders to get involved and make a difference.”
Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm said that Unravel Surf Travel is leading the way in combining the business of tourism with social responsibility.
“It’s a shining example of responsible travel in action because it generates meaningful engagement between visitors and their host community,” she said.
“The concept of responsible travel – which grew out of the Cape Town Declaration of 2002 – is defined as ‘creating better places to live in, and better places to visit,’ and Mossel Bay Tourism is excited that Unravel Surf Travel, the people of Friemersheim, and the people who visit them are finding innovative ways of achieving this ideal.”
Mr. Vivier said that
The Surfer Kids NON-Profit does face certain challenges. “Particularly with transport: we take the kids to the beach in our own vehicles every weekend, and we don’t have a bus – so if any member of Mossel Bay’s business community wanted to help us out with this, we’d really appreciate it.”
The Trust will also accept sponsorships and donations of equipment.
Please contact email@example.com, or call 084 893 1543.
“As you can imagine, we go through a
lot of surf boards!”
• Mossel Bay Tourism