How a brave young woman found freedom in the ocean, three years after she was raped.

Most of us experience around four really unfortunate events in our lifetime, whether it be the death of a family member or friend. But in parts of Cape Flats, South Africa, a young person will experience as many as four times that every single year.

Brutally raped by a family friend, 19-year old Noncedo Mabhunu knows this all too well.

“I was shocked, I was out of my mind,” she said on last night’s episode of Foreign Correspondent. “I couldn’t concentrate at school, I wanted to tell someone, but I couldn’t talk to anyone about it.”

One month later, she finally managed to reveal what happened to her mother. But the trauma and the shame clung to her. She stopped surfing, she began to fail at school, she isolated herself from the world.

“I felt like a dirty person,” she said. “I can’t even wash myself anymore. I felt like there’s no moving forward.

“I thought that God has cursed my life, has cursed everything that’s happening to my family, especially me.”

Support services are limited for victims like Noncedo. But one organisation is trying to break through, to give children purpose, confidence and a sense of community by teaching them to surf. It’s called Waves for Change.

“When something like this happens, and Noncedo’s story is by no means unique unfortunately, it’s, it is really difficult,” Waves for Change founder Tim Conibear.

In some parts of Cape Flats in South Africa, half of all children have witnessed a stabbing, one in three have seen someone get shot and countless others have been threatened by a weapon.


Desensitised to violence, they tend to act up in school, lash out and struggle to regulate their emotions.

“It is really difficult so you trying to think well, what can we do and it is just a surfing program,” said Conibear. “What is the depth that we can go to? You do you get really concerned but obviously the presence of some caring adults at the really difficult time is a very small part in a much bigger picture.”

That care and compassion was what ultimately persuaded Noncedo that she deserved to get back out amongst the waves, that she deserved to heal, no matter how difficult it might seem at first.

“When I went back to surfing it was not the same,” she said. “I [would] always get angry when I’m catching a wave and I’m not catching it nicely. I’ll beat the surfboard, like “No, no, no, no like this, do this.

“So it was not easy just to get through all of that. It took time for me to get used to that I’m coming back now and everything is like I’m starting over again.”

via ABC.

Now a Waves for Change coach herself, Noncedo has regained enough confidence to start thinking about the future, about travelling the world, becoming a social worker and maybe even a professional surfer.

"I was nervous at first, I didn’t think that I could become a coach to coach kids. It’s great," she said.

"Catching waves, it gives you something strong. The next day, that all your dreams are going to come true."