Former South African crew member inspiring a new generation

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Lebalang Molobele, a 22 year-old from Meadowlands, Guateng, near Johannesburg, South Africa, who participated in the Clipper 2013-14 Race aboard Invest Africa as part of the Sapinda Rainbow team, has been talking about her desire to inspire other young people following her experience. A foundation has now been created to continue the work of the Sapinda Rainbow project and Lebalang is acting as a liaison and spokesperson for her former crew mates.

Last weekend the Foundation supported her travel costs to Cape Town so she could accept an invitation to attend the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture presented by Dr. Michelle Bachelet, the President of Chile, a respected women’s rights activist and the first Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

 The lecture discussed building social cohesion through active citizenship, which is very close to Lebalang’s heart. She has sent us the following blog about her participation in the prestigious event:

“I have a lot of interest in social justice and describe myself as a ‘social entrepreneur’ because I  value  the principles enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of human dignity, equality and freedom to participate in all political, socio-economic and cultural spheres of society. This is the main reason I had applied to get an invitation to the event. 

“I live in a society where young people are not united and functional which creates a problem as we cannot flourish. Dr Bachelet captured the concept of education for participation very well as she expressed that education is not sufficient - it has to be quality education. 

“After listening to such an inspirational woman and talking to others like her, I have a dream to be an inspirational woman, a leader in my community, a young African woman that will bring change for young girls. I used to think my potential will always be limited by my background but it is because of it I know how it is to eat dry bread and starch water for a month and now appreciate when I eat meat. I can relate to a person who suffers from poverty. It is also because I have lived in a house that was a shebeen (an informal licensed drinking place in a township). I have come to know that through education I can escape the chances of selling alcohol to feed my family.

“It is because of the same background of living with 11 people in a three room house with one bedroom that I have exceptional social skills and have the ability to adapt. I have seen my mother take care of other people’s children and look after people who suffer from AIDS and her strength and courage humbles me. Women of the African continent have achieved so much oppression but we will continue to fight because we are born with the will to do more than we are expected to achieve.

“The Sapinda Rainbow Project has made me want more and believe that I deserve more. I am proud to be a part of it and am profoundly grateful for all the opportunities I have benefited from as well as the support, words of wisdom and encouragement. What the foundation has done for me is something no one can take away, today I write this with confidence that in the next five years I will do great things, and it all started with me crossing the Atlantic Ocean.”

Lebalang is in the early stages of fundraising and growing her registered club Kganyo Training Institution. Kganyo meaning ‘brightness’ has been set up by Lebalang for youths in her community to help develop public speaking and debate to engage with one another alongside strengthening their life skills including computer literacy. 

It’s been a huge journey for the young 22 year old woman, one of eight young South Africans from challenging backgrounds who participated in different legs of the world’s longest ocean race as part of the Sapinda Rainbow Project.   

Many had not seen a boat before and wanted to push themselves and learn new skills to develop as influential young people within their communities.  The selected ambassadors aged between 18 and 23 created a ‘relay’ team, funded by the Sapinda Group and supported by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

Before hearing about the project Lebalang was struggling to find a job. After being selected for the project she went back to university and passed her LLB Law degree with distinction. In South Africa Lebalang has played an active role in community outreach as part of the public governance society, volunteering at the Nkosi Johnson Home for women and children who are HIV positive and has also helped with skills development at Sparrow schools for children with learning difficulties.

Lebalang, who has a self-confessed fear of water, took part in the final leg of the race from New York across the Atlantic to Derry-Londonderry, Den Helder in the Netherlands and London.

At the Race Finish in London, organisers of the project revealed the launch of the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation to ensure that Lebalang and her fellow ambassadors are supported on their return home to South Africa to help achieve their goal to inspire youth.  The Foundation has established an advisory board which includes Clipper Race Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who has spent his career supporting youth development initiatives through sailing.

The Foundation will also become involved in the next edition of the Clipper Race and hopes to build its youth development further in Africa. Former crew will be involved in the selection process and organisation of finding future young Africans who can benefit from the personal development participation in the race offers.

To learn more about the Sapinda Rainbow Foundation, visit their new website at