Riding the ocean waves, the young South Africans making a difference

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A year ago, the ten young South African ambassadors of the Sapinda Rainbow Project were in Durban competing against 20 other hopefuls to be part of the project and take on the challenge of the Clipper Race. Many had not seen a boat before taking part and, coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, wanted to push themselves and learn new skills to develop as confident and influential young people within their communities.

The spirit and energy that resonates from the ambassadors is infectious and has generated great support from crew including Clipper 2015-16 Race crew member Valerie Phakeovilay.

Learning about the Sapinda Rainbow Project when signing up for the next edition of the race, Valerie, a  Fujitsu EMEA Alliance Manager from London, recognised very early that as well as being a big personal challenge for the ambassadors, the initiative and fundraising alongside the race resonated with initiatives in the corporate world.

Valerie and her team decided to invite the Sapinda Rainbow Project to present a case study at the recent annual Fujitsu Imaging Channel Conference which brings together global partners to network, share ideas and learn from industry though leaders whilst raising funds for charity.

Fujitsu Vice President, Mike Nelson commented: “We believe that people are the strongest power when it comes to driving change and shaping the future. That's why we place such importance in our corporate social responsibility and aim to support people in need whenever possible.

“By supporting the Sapinda Rainbow Project and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund we are happy to be giving children in South Africa the chance to foster their talents and live their lives to the fullest."

The event raised over 3,000 Euro’s that was presented to Clipper Race Development and Recruitment Director David Cusworth and Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund European Fundraising Manager Kathi Scott.  

The Invest Africa yacht has hosted eight young people from the Sapinda Rainbow Project, one on each leg of the race. The final ambassador to represent project joined in New York and is Lebalang Molobele, a 22 year-old graduate from Meadowlands, Gauteng, South Africa. Two weeks ago Lebalang left from the River Hudson against the backdrop of the iconic Manhattan skyline to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland before sailing onto Den Helder in the Netherlands and finally London.

Lebalang will be reunited with the rest of the Sapinda Rainbow ambassadors in London on 12 July to celebrate the completion of the 11-month, 40,000 mile global ocean odyssey.

Embarking on her adventure, Lebalang said:  “I said to myself ‘go for it’. I applied because it seemed like an adventure and something very different from what I would normally do, and it involved water. I have a fear of water so I thought of it as a way to conquer my fear, which it has.

“Before I was selected to represent the Sapinda Rainbow Project I was job hunting and would volunteer and join youth clubs and programmes. This gave me the chance to do something I would never normally get to do.”

Lebalang adds: “The Clipper Race is the biggest highlight of my life so far, greater things may happen but I know they will have started with this experience. When I completed the training I felt so positive, I am now looking forward to the race and the results when I come back.

“Being involved in this project has made me know who ‘Lebalang’ is and what I want. I may not have the perfect answer but I understand myself a bit better. This project has made me realise that strength is not only physical but comes in different forms, and just because you don't have big muscles, it does not mean you cannot get to your goal. There are different ways to reach the same goal.

“My mom says I came back from my Clipper Race training with more determination and character. I can see that I have because now I start a mission and I finish it even when obstacles arise I go and get what I want. It is an honour and I’m humbled to be part of Sapinda Rainbow Project. It is my second family.”

Since joining this exciting initiative, the ambassadors have visited the UK, completed 3 weeks of training to learn how to sail Invest Africa, one of twelve 70 foot ocean racing yachts competing in the Clipper 2013-14 Race. As the fleet reaches the end of its penultimate leg of the overall race series, seven ambassadors have successfully completed a leg of the 8 leg race, clocking up thousands of miles whilst raising awareness for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.

They have conquered four of the world’s five oceans, overcoming storms, hurricane force  winds and 10-metre waves during their life changing adventure. They have been introduced to other youth projects across the world and attended fundraising events and walked the red carpet at the German premiere of the film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German President Joachim Gauck, Zindzi Mandela and Idris Elba, who played the iconic ‘Madiba’ in the biographical film of his life. 

The initiative is funded by the Sapinda group, an investment holding company with particular focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. Dirk van Daele, Sapinda Executive Committee member and CEO of Anoa Capital, participated in the 2009-10 edition of the Clipper Race and saw how it developed young people from around the world in building their confidence and leadership skills. It inspired him to see how he could offer a similar opportunity to young South Africans who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate.

You can see a video of the Clipper Race Sapinda Rainbow Project presentation to the recent annual Fujitsu Imaging Channel Conference HERE