A 27-year-old woman by the name of Mel Devilliers, who lives in Muizenberg, has been a senior mentor and teacher for three years at a surfing organisation called Waves for Change.

Waves for Change is an organisation which engages youth – often young people from very under-resourced and disadvantaged areas around Cape Town – who are exposed to violence on a day to day basis. Due to high-stress factors, many South African youths suffer from dire emotional and psychological problems which breed anti-social and high-risk behaviour towards others and themselves and perpetuate a cycle of suffering, alienation, anger and depression.

Waves for Change aims to assist in contributing to the betterment of youth and to building participants’ feelings of belonging, confidence and trust – helping eradicate the scars of the past and the negative challenges that come with fractured communities where social ills have a tight hold.

Mel is one of the organisation’s mentors. She evaluates and monitors children’s self-improvement and progress through teaching them how to surf – a positive skill that can hone many positive attributes in their lives. An excited Mel explains that she was inspired to be a mentor and teach surfing by a deep need to change children’s lives for the better and the knowledge of how surfing has changed her own life.

“Surfing has definitely helped me…I compare a wave to the challenges in my personal life. If I can’t catch one wave, I will try to catch the next. I’m going to try and not give up. The ocean is a calming place, which helps me to keep on going and helps me find my inner peace.”

Mel goes on to explain that the mentorship and organisation help improve children’s sense of well-being, as they usually face challenges where they have to be adults long before their time. Waves for Change is a place where a child can be a child. She was inspired to do work there as the ocean is second to none when looking for peace of mind. It also gives children opportunities which she never had, and at no cost.

She explains that the organisation provides guidance, role models and mentors to children who feel that they don’t belong. At Waves for Change children involved belong to a team in which they can feel capable and motivated to achieve positive goals and keep away from the negative issues surrounding the fractured communities they come from. Sports can really help influence and build up society for the better, Waves for Change and its mentors like Mel Devilliers are truly taking steps to change South Africa.

Helping to change communities which face gang violence, teen pregnancy, domestic abuse, drugs and other major problems on a daily basis sometimes seems like an uphill battle. Waves for Change is invested in recruiting as many children as they can. They include and inform, not only the children, but their parents and families to take part.

Change is about looking forward, and it’s organisations like Waves for Change that are helping to change communities in South Africa.

The key to the success of Waves for Change is its mentor’s abilities. People like Mel Devilliers inspire youth and her lessons live on inside of them long after they leave, impacting on the people they meet further down the line. Change is in the air!


Tell us: What inspires you the most about Mel’s story?