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They might live on two separate continents, but this week two young women were united in Derry-Londonderry as they met for the first time to share their inspirational stories which are making an impact on their local communities to inspire change.

Arriving this week in Derry~Londonderry, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean as a crew member of Invest Africa - one of the 12 teams competing in the Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race, is a young woman from South Africa who has a fear of water.

Lebalang Molobele, a 22-year-old from Meadowlands, Gauteng, near Johannesburg, is one of ten young South Africans aged 18 to 23 who was chosen to take part in the race as part of the Sapinda Rainbow Project. The aim is to develop young community leaders of the future and for the ambassadors to raise international awareness and funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital through their participation in the race. 

“I’m so pleased I was selected to compete in the Clipper Race. It has been an incredible experience for me. Crossing the Atlantic was really tough, but it’s not all about the racing. It’s also the time it has allowed me to think about what comes next – this has really opened up my pathways to a better future,” explained Lebalang. 

Now thousands of miles from home after conquering her first ever ocean crossing, there was another young woman who couldn’t wait to meet her and who knew exactly what it is like to be thrown in at the deep end.

Shauna O’Neill, won a place on the Clipper 2011-12 Race as part of Derry City Council’s Bursary Programme - Kickstart to Work initiative. She recalled: “When I took part in the last race I was so nervous before I got on, but once I did it was incredible. It gave me so much confidence.”

“The two were united in Foyle Marina where Lebalang gave Shauna a tour around her brand new Clipper 70 yacht which has been the Sapinda Rainbow Project Ambassadors’ home for the last 11 months.  The visit gave Lebalang and Shauna the chance to compare experiences from when Shauna took part in the race two years ago on board the Derry~Londonderry entry.

“We both realised quite quickly when we met today that we have quite a lot in common, mainly that neither of us had sailed before competing in the race. Shauna told me how she struggled with sea sickness when she took part, and I just felt so grateful the conditions during my race weren’t as rough.”Added Lebalang.

Shauna was accompanied by volunteers from her current workplace, Children in Crossfire, a charity that supports organisations to train professionals in the interest of children and their rights worldwide. 

“I started working for the charity which works in Tanzania and Ethiopia because helping people is something I’m really passionate about. We absolutely share links to Africa and wanting to inspire change for young people who otherwise might not be able, or know how to, help themselves out of difficult or challenging situations.”

Shauna added, “Taking part in the Clipper Race changed my life completely, it gave me so much confidence. Lebalang is a fantastic ambassador for the Sapinda Rainbow Project and I know she will go on to inspire so many young people to dream big and not to be scared to aspire for more in life – no matter what challenges they might face.”

After competing in the 2011-12 edition of the Clipper Race Shauna completed her Level 2 Certificate in the Yachtmaster’s Course.  She later secured a 50 week paid placement with the Loughs Agency, back on the water as a temporary Assistant Scientific Officer enforcing river activity regulations.  After her work placement Shauna was then offered continued employment with the Loughs Agency.

After struggling to find work back in her native town back in South Africa Lebalang is now determined to take things into her own hands.

“Before I heard about the Sapinda Rainbow Project I was job hunting and trying to give my career a jump start; I would volunteer on occasions and join youth clubs and programmes.

“The race has given me the chance to do something I would never normally get to do. I’m far braver now and I can’t wait to get home and start something for myself. If the work isn’t there, then I will start a business of my own – you have to make things happen in life.”