Strandfontein activist reflects on time in US

Nigel Savel, centre, with fellow fellows in Washington. They are, from left, Anthony Eshun from Ghana, Emmanuel Agunze, from Nigeria, Shok Nshokano from the DRC and Bass Kebe from Senegal.

Bloomington Indiana, Washington, New York and Baltimore these were some of the stops for Nigel Savel, of Strandfontein, who founded the 9Miles Project.

Mr Savel recently spent three intense, but fun-filled, months in America on the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

One of only 46 South Africans (out of 700 African fellows) selected for the fellowship, the passionate community and youth activist was exposed to networking and learning opportunities with business pioneers, industry professionals, and founders of creative grassroots projects.

“My life on campus at Indiana University was filled with practical academic sessions, leadership training, community engagement, cultural and social activities and, most inspiring of all, was meeting and connecting with 25 wonderful fellows from across Africa,” Mr Savel said.

After the leadership coursework at Indiana University, the highly anticipated pinnacle of the fellowship was the three-day summit with all 700 fellows which was held at Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington DC and offered a range of empowerment and opportunities for the fellows such as entrepreneurship grants, skill-building workshops and networking.

Mr Savel then moved on to an additional professional development experience (which is only awarded to a select 100 of the 700 African fellows) at International Youth Foundation, a youth development organisation that has impacted more than 1.7 million youth globally through solutions such as education, employment, entrepreneurship and social innovation.

“The depth and breadth of the training and exposure that the fellowship offers, and the knowledge gained from mentors and peers are invaluable and hard to articulate.

“We were stretched and taken out of our comfort zones and grew so much in those three months. I feel energised and inspired to put everything into practice in order to create safe spaces and a better future for our youth.

“I’m so grateful to everyone I met who shared their strategies and success stories so freely with me. I can’t wait to transfer all my knowledge to my team,” Mr Savel beamed.

9Miles Project is a registered non-profit organisation that was founded in Cape Town in 2013. The project provides mentorship and support to at-risk youth in the coastal informal settlements of Strandfontein, Elands Bay and St Francis Bay.

This is achieved through surfing lessons, supplementary academic support, life skills and leadership training, health assessments, feeding schemes, educational trips, community events, and day-to-day mentorship and support.

With headquarters at Strandfontein Pavilion, the project is a safe haven and refuge for youth who have very few positive role models in their lives.

The 9Miles youth development programme celebrated its fifth birthday in May and has grown from seven to 85 children.