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Clipper Round the World Race reaches Cape Town, South Africa: New experiences all around

UNICEF South Africa/2017
© UNICEF South Africa/2017

Cape Town, Western Cape, 28 October 2017 - In the port of Cape Town, in the heart of the sailing frenzy that is the Clipper Round the World Race, the excitement from the chosen Clipper Crew is clear – after weeks on a boat the team are keen to jump back into land life with a visit to one of the Isibindi Safe Parks, which are run by civil society organisations and supported by government, the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) and UNICEF near Cape Town. Many organisations and individuals have been fundraising for UNICEF as part of their quest to sail around the world, with some individuals raising as much as 15,000 GBP. This was motivation enough to want to see “Where the money goes”; but also, to give children an opportunity to experience the ‘sailor’s way of life’. It was a fair trade and it is safe to say, both parties benefited enormously from their experiences.

This trip to Isibindi was designed to show case the holistic nature of the programme – supporting the child from as many angles as possible to support their development. Isibindi is a community-based care and protection intervention for children. It is implemented in over 400 sites in the nine provinces of South Africa. The Isibindi model aims to respond holistically to the needs of children, youth and families who are vulnerable and at risk of abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation. Unemployed community members are screened, selected, trained and deployed as child and youth care workers servicing families in their own communities.

The visit commences with a warm welcome from the Isibindi staff – they share their stories with the crew and how they support the children. Their dedication is clear and touches many. “The Isibindi staff are inspirational, they show us how we should be leading our lives…they are doing a fantastic job and I would like to say thank you”, says Tessa Hicks, a Clipper Crew Member. After this, the crew is divided into two groups and heads out for a home visit in informal settlements. The Clipper Crew is able compare their cramped living spaces (for just 12 months) with the lived reality of many in the townships. The situation in the families visited is reflective of the real challenges the children of South Africa are confronted with: inequality and poverty. This was observed clearly where the granny who is raising two grandchildren stays with them in a one-roomed shack that serves as a living space, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom for the family of three. In the other family, the adverse impact of social ills presented itself where a child presented deviant behaviours because of the family situation where parents are seasonal workers and must leave children alone with no parental care for more than six month – working in farms, which forces them to migrant to other areas far from their home.

Finally, it is time to meet the children at the Safe park and spending some time with them: sharing stories of the clipper race; playing games with the children outside; and most importantly helping to serve lunch. The meal shared at the Safe Park is, sometimes, the only balanced meal that a child will receive in the day. It is clear that they love and appreciate every minute in this place. One Clipper Crew member says: “The value that, UNICEF and Isibindi place on childhood is exceptional. It is clear to see that these children are safe and happy in this space. Many children grow up with much more, but the happiness and love I see here is irreplaceable.”

UNICEF South Africa/2017
© UNICEF South Africa/2017

A couple of days later, the sun is out. The children from Isibindi are soaking in their surroundings as this is the first time into Cape Town city for many of them; for all of them it is also the first time seeing both the sea and a boat. Taking everything into their stride, they spot multiple fish, and count 15 seals. But Clipper was not to be outdone by the magical surroundings – the children participate in an interactive session prior to getting their tour of the boat. The children can touch and write on the UNICEF sail adding their messages of support and luck to people from all over the world; they learn how to tie two different types of knots (vital for any future sailor); and some get to experience the interactive 3D Sailing Experience using Virtual Reality goggles. By day end, they feel like experienced sailors, relaxed and able to take on the challenge of the wobbly pontoon and leap into the boat.

On the boat, the crew take their time to explain how each of the elements worked: there are races on deck “while clipped in”; trying on the life jackets and the wet weather gear; and getting to hoist a sail. The children thoroughly enjoy the experience and are inspired to consider new careers – William asks: “Do I need a licence to sail on one of those boats? Or could I just learn on board?”

UNICEF South Africa is supporting the great work of the UK National Committee in developing a partnership with Clipper Round the World Race. By sharing their stories with each other, both the Isibindi children and the clipper crew have benefited deeply from their interactions. UNICEF South Africa in partnership with the government of South Africa is supporting the work at the Isibindi parks under the leadership of NACCW. This partnership will continue to grow from strength to strength thanks to the support of our sailing partners.




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