I can’t think of a more wonderful South African than Nigel Savel, founder of the 9Miles Project. 9Miles is aimed at the youth of Strandfontein and the 7de Laan informal settlement in the Western Cape. Through surfing, after-school academic support, reading programmes, mentoring, educational trips etc. the kids are given the necessary support that will boost their self-esteem and create opportunities for enhanced social participation.
9Miles was established in 2013, when Nigel had a vision to turn around the now drug-and-crime infested community he grew up in. Due to limited opportunities, the absence of positive mentorship and (for some) extremely impoverished circumstances; many young people had fallen victim to drugs and other destructive habits. The drug epidemic seemed to spread faster than anyone expected and even those close to Nigel were soon trapped in destructive addictions that webbed the community. While growing up, surfing offered Nigel an “escape” as it required discipline, focus and commitment. Nigel thrived through surfing, his coaches’ mentorship, and other role models in his life, which helped him to become goal-driven and to escape the plight that threatened to engulf him and his peers.
Seeing that many others had not been so fortunate inspired Nigel and his wife, Sher’neil, to act and start an organization that would stand in the gap and give a lost generation support and hope for a better future. This is how 9Miles Project was conceived and it has achieved so much in the two years since its inception. One of the troubled men Nigel took under his wing is now Head Coach for the project and gives back to the kids with surfing lessons and by being a role model for those who have no positive male figures to emulate.
Nigel is energetic and selfless – he lives and breathes 9Miles and proved his commitment by giving up his job last year to devote himself to the project full-time. This means that the couple support the kids with a single salary and the kind donations of volunteers and partners. The children are at his home every day and are fed and ferried around in his little car. Their slogan of “Going the distance” is very apt because he believes that relationships are for life; and they plan to walk the road with each child until they’re grown, graduated and are married one day. I have the seen the growth and development in the kids and their passion and purpose have been ignited by someone who took the time to give them guidance, love and direction! Nigel is a true inspiration and real life superhero.
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