- The dozens of children happily paddling the Orlando Dam in Soweto became a familiar sight for passers-by.
- The Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club encourages children in this community to establish a healthy relationship with the water.
- Children learn essential skills like discipline while keeping them off the streets.
The Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club (SCARC) encourages underprivileged children in Soweto to embrace water rather than fear it.
The club was founded in 2003 by avid paddler and CEO of Dreach, Brad Fisher, who hoped to ensure more black paddlers participate in the sport.
Every week as the sun sets, motorists passing the Orlando Dam, just a few miles from the bustling Bara taxi rank, spot local children paddling the calm water.
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“The Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club is a home that we try to create for the kids when they come back from school. We try to take them off the streets and make them better people,” Nkosi said. Mzolo, coach and manager of the club.
Mzolo, who also works as a paramedic and firefighter for the city of Johannesburg, said the township’s children need to develop a healthy relationship with water.
“We all grew up with parents who told us we shouldn’t be playing near water,” Mzolo said, adding that this had led to fewer black water sports participants.
Children’s safety is the top priority and the club ensures that all members are proficient in swimming.
The club also wants girls to feel included and participate in sport. Over 40% of SCARC members are women.
Normally, in black communities, sports are reserved for boys, with running and soccer dominated by boys. Since this is a different sport we want to change that and say that even girls are more than welcome. They can play any sport, not just canoeing or water sports.
Lungile Mahwayi, 15, told News24 that canoeing has become his favorite hobby over the past four years.
“I learned about teamwork, discipline, respect, and I also learned to have maximum fun,” she said.
Over the years, members of SCARC have participated in many professional races, including the famous Dusi Canoe Marathon, which covers approximately 120 km between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
“For the rest of the kids who want to join but are scared, life is about taking risks, yes, of course, calculated risks. You’ll never know where your talent is unless you try it,” said Mzolo. .