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Made for More breaks down the barriers of disability through sport

by | Print Articles, Summer 2022

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”  Nelson Mandela

It was while working at a Durban-based school for children with physical disabilities that KZN South Coast resident, Julia van Zyl, discovered the incredible power sport could have on these young lives.

“While journeying with one boy, Ranetsi Manyoni, and seeing the effect that sport had in transforming his life physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, I began to wonder why it should stop there.”

Embracing her long-held Christian faith that every person has been created with a purpose and passion for their lives, Julia van Zyl embarked on a life-changing journey that started with the establishment of Made for More in 2016.

This non-profit organisation empowers those with disabilities through sport; from those with quadriplegia, Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy to amputees and those with vision impairments, every person is included. One of its offerings is adaptive surfing – or para surfing – with surfing sessions provided in Durban and Scottburgh.

“Our adaptive surfing programme started with just three surfers and has grown over the past eight years to include around 80 surfers,” she continued. “We have seen the sport bring hope, create opportunities and transform lives. The ocean heals, it brings joy but, most importantly for our adaptive surfers, it brings freedom.”

The success of this undertaking is also evident in the achievements being made. Just this year, eight of the Made for More para surfers were selected to represent South Africa at the ISA World Para Surfing Championship in California later this year.

One competitor is Oliver Sinclair (47), a Winston Park resident with multiple sclerosis, who happened upon Made for More three years ago. With a dream of swimming in the sea, Oliver asked his wife, Michelle, if she would be able to push him across the sand.

“We arrived at the beach and there was a group of people with all sorts of ‘abilities’. We weren’t part of their group so we moved into the shade so I could watch what they were doing,” recalled Mr Sinclair, who said that was the moment ‘Lion Man’ Leon van Zyl approached him and asked if he wanted to surf.

“They taught me to feel safe in the ocean, they taught me to surf and, most importantly, they have restored my love for the beach – something that was inaccessible at the time,” he continued. “The team from Made for More see people and not disabilities, which is so rare.”  From that first lesson, Oliver Sinclair has since won the TyreLife Solutions SA Para Surfing Championships 2022, and is preparing for his chance on the international stage. And he isn’t alone!

His teammate, Sabelo Ngema from Eshowe in Zululand is another success story. Born with albinism, including a visual impairment, Ngema actually learnt to surf before he could swim. He was also the first in his community to go on an aeroplane when he made the SA Para Surfing team in 2020, coming seventh in the world; and was named Sportsman of the Year with a Disability at the KZN Sports Awards.

Also joining the team is Alulutho Tshoba, known as Miss Lulu, who started the adaptive surfing programme five years ago, aged 10. This Claremont resident, who was born with spastic diplegia, has had her life changed by surfing. The skills learnt have seen her make the national team, becoming the first Zulu woman ever to represent the country in para surfing.

Volunteer surf coach with Made for More, Tayla Du Mont, said: “Sense of community is a feeling of belonging that everyone matters to each other and the shared belief that each person’s needs will be met through the commitment of being together. This Made for More family does just that and continues to inspire me daily.”

Alongside the coaching, Made for More offers exercise therapy, hosts leadership camps, provides organisational training for inclusivity, runs a mentorship programme and is involved in various community projects. One such project is the Family-First Drive, Farming Initiative and Training that the team started during lockdown to create sustainable programmes that feed and fund local communities.

We exist to walk a journey and to see people with disabilities living passionate and purpose-filled lives. We appreciate all the support we can get in people joining our mission, volunteering or helping with either once-off or monthly funding to ensure sustainability in including, equipping and empowering people with disabilities in our beautiful country.” Julia van Zyl


Be a part of this movement by contributing towards their cause. Made for More is a Non-Profit Company (NPC Registration no. 2016/038814/08) and a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO no. 930055257).