Swimming for a cause

Reece Slade offers moral support to Christopher Kleynhans.

Christopher Kleynhans and Reece Slade are planning a 12-hour continuous swim to raise awareness about the challenges of starting high school.

On Saturday March 18 these Grade 8 Wynberg Boys’ High School pupils will #SwimForChange, under the auspices of a charity they started while in Grade 6, called Keep Your Head Above Water, to raise funds for mental health awareness.

Christopher explains that starting high school has been a challenge for him. “And I realise how much pressure there is, going from primary school to high school. Not only is there a lot more work, but there are social issues, which suddenly become very stressful,” he says. Elaborating, he says these include fitting in, bullying, teasing, academic achievement and making new friends.

Western Province long distance swimmer Christopher, and Reece, who is organising the event, are asking people to join them in swimming as many laps as they like to help them achieve a continuous swim of 12 hours. “All funds raised will be used to promote mental health education to fight the stigma that comes from negative attitudes and misinformation,” says Reece.

For the past two years the two have been part of The Chaeli Campaign ambassadorship chapter. Zelda Mycroft, CEO of the Plumstead-based organisation, says one of the goals of this leadership development programme, through social entrepreneurship, is for youth from nine to 15 years is to run their own Pay-It-Forward Ambassador project in support of their choice of beneficiary.

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Chaeli Mycroft and Justine Terry, co-founders of The Chaeli Campaign, were the first graduates of the Pay-It-Forward Ambassadors Programme in 2009 and are now facilitators.

Today they have Ambassador Chapters in Plumstead, Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Lansdowne, Hanover Park, Lotus River, areas in the northern suburbs, and Masiphumelele. They also have two chapters in East London and a group each in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg. That’s 120 ambassadors from 70 schools in four cities.

Christopher says he chose mental health awareness as the theme of their campaign as they want to get the point across that one should not be afraid to talk about one’s feelings if they are affecting them negatively. “And that everyone should fight the stigma attached to doing this. For some people it’s more difficult and they should be supported and encouraged to work through any challenges they might face,” says Christopher.

Jessica Shelver, the spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department said statistics for attempted suicides for last year numbered 13, of which four were fatal. The previous year there were 17 attempted suicides of which four were fatal with two fatal in 2014 of the 19 attempted. “We are proud of the pupils of Wynberg Boys’ High School for identifying a need and then looking for ways to address this. We are also so pleased that the school is inculcating the values of citizenship and community service in our young people.

“Every democratic society faces the challenge of educating succeeding generations of young people for responsible citizenship. Educating our youth to be tolerant and respectful of difference is crucial, and the school plays an integral part in that. We believe that every single one of our learners has the potential to change our country. It starts with the simple acts of standing up and doing the right thing, just like these two young boys have done,” said Ms Shelver.

Zane Wilson, founder of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) says youth have many reasons for depression, among them relationships, abuse, substance abuse, or rape. By having a permanent line open for them to get the local help they need in an emergency youth can be helped before the situation gets out of control. In 2017 SADAG is concentrating on the teachers so that they know what to look out for and how to contact the organisation – on 0800 567 567 – to get the help they need for their students.

Ms Mycroft says they are incredibly proud of the leadership and initiative taken by Chris and Reece to drive Swim For Change as their project to raise awareness of mental health and funds in support of support programmes.

Jan De Waal, headmaster of WBHS was asked for comment and while he did reply to three emails, did not supply a response by the time this edition went to print.

The event is being held on Saturday March 18 at the Wynberg Boys’ High School swimming pool, from 6am to 6pm. Entry is R45 for scholars and students, and R85 for adults. Tickets available at www.quicket.co.za Information is also available on Facebook – @swimforchangeZA.

The Chaeli Cottage Ambassadors will graduate on Friday March 24, at 6pm, at Chaeli Cottage in Culm Road in Plumstead.