"Relaunching Instinct in my hometown where I started it and incorporating revenue from every sale to empower underprivileged students is a dream come true. Business can solve big social problems but if I can just help with one small problem, the life trajectory of a student, then my mission will be fulfilled."
Who we are
9Miles Project is a community-based nonprofit organisation that was founded in Cape Town in 2013.
Using surfing as a form of engagement and empowerment, 9Miles provides safe spaces and structured afterschool programmes for at-risk children and youth in coastal communities; and offers mentorship, job creation, skills development, and holistic support to marginalised youth and communities in South Africa.
Active learners in various programmes
Communities adopted across South Africa
Why We Started
Motivated by his love for surfing and the pivotal role that the discipline of this activity played in his life as a young teen, Nigel Savel, along with his wife Sher’Neil, started 9Miles Project in Strandfontein, Cape Town in 2013 with the vision of improving their crime and drug-scourged community.
Nigel recognised that the children growing up in the surrounding informal settlements were living with gangsters and drug dealers as role models and that there were very few organised activities or programmes to motivate and mould young impressionable minds. Surfing was used as a catalyst to entice students to the project and to teach them discipline, determination and life skills.
The smell of smoke from open fires permeates the air…dogs bark, children cry and shout as they kick balls around on the dusty ground… laundry flaps in the wind, children curiously stare or run up to you in abandoned glee, music blares, people queue for water at communal taps and visit outdoor toilets…tin and wooden homes stand higgledy-piggledy like a maze, the South Easter blows across the sand dunes, people walk for miles to the shop for everyday conveniences, people go hungry, it’s a daily struggle…social ills are rife, illiteracy levels are sky high, and children have very few good examples to emulate.
But there is a sense of community… people support one another and there is an inherent joyous atmosphere despite all the hardship. This is the backdrop against which our children are growing up… these are the circumstances we are trying to help them rise above.
- 60% of the children in our programmes in Strandfontein are illiterate or read well below their required level for their age. The 2021 PIRLS study confirmed this dire situation and South Africa also placed last in worldwide rankings.
- 60% of the children in our Strandfontein programme come from single-parent homes with an average income of R2000 per month
- According to research, young men who are exposed to high levels of crime and violence from a young age are more likely to become involved in gangs and crime. Our own experience is that local youth often end up in gangs or jail if they are not involved in any support programmes.
- 76% of community members in our Strandfontein programme are unemployed
- With 446 households in Elands Bay, only 3.4% of youth seek higher education, and the majority follow in their parents’ footsteps doing seasonal work on farms or as fishermen.
A transformed society where created opportunities are maximised and our youth are effectively developed, empowered and integrated into their communities and societies.
Through the provision of supplementary education, literacy classes, learning adventures, life skills and leadership training, including sports (namely surfing) 9Miles Project creates sustainable opportunities that engage, uplift, equip and empower impoverished and high risk youth from coastal informal settlements and communities.
Our Partners & Donors
In addition to many private individuals and families, we are so grateful to the following partners and donors who are truly going the distance with us.
Recognition & Awards
We have been humbled to receive a few notable recognitions and awards for the work that we do.
- Nominee in the “Best After School Sport and Recreation” category at the 2023 Provincial Sports Awards.
- Recipient of a “Social Support Award” at the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Community Service Awards in 2021.
- Nominee in the “Recreation Body of the Year” category at the 2017 SA Sports Awards.
Sher’Neil Savel (founder)
- Speaker at the inaugural “Women in Sport Summit”, Cape Town, 2018.
Nigel Savel (Founder)
- 2020 Aloha Award Winner – global award which recognises individuals in the surfing community making a difference.
- Finalist in the Western Cape Government’s After School “Sport Coaching Excellence” category, 2019.
- Mandela Washington Fellow, 2018 (one of 46 South Africans from 51 000 applicants across Africa).
- Finalist in “Community Builder of the Year” category at Cape Town Sports Awards 2018.
- Recipient of a Civic Award from the City of Cape Town in 2017.
- Elizabeth Arden “Make a Visible Difference” Community Hero Grand Prize Winner, 2015.
"In the words of Nelson Mandela - May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. 9Miles has gone above and beyond the distance to provide the children in their care with hope and inspiration so that the choices they make are different to the circumstances they currently live in."
"I want to give a shout-out to the 9Miles Project team. My friends and I had a surf lesson on Saturday morning. My friends enjoyed themselves and want to have another lesson because it was so much fun. I was impressed by the professionalism of the team and the affordability. Feel free to reach out to 9Miles Project if you want to join their surf club every second Saturday or you can arrange for you and your friends/family to do it together.
Well done guys for going the distance!"
"I've worked with many organisations over the years and personally, my experience is that 9Miles Project is one of the most professional, world-class, holistic NGOs that I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with."
"I have not encountered a charity that can do so much with so little, and with so much energy, no nonsense, kindness and authenticity"
"Really was amazing to see the respect and the confidence that the Project children exude... I have no doubt that these young lives will grow to be real role models and pillars of strength in their respective communities... Well done 9Miles Project for providing the platform for these young people to rise above their circumstances... And even more well done to the children of the Project for their willingness to become all that they believe themselves to be... Bravo Zulu to you all!"
“Nigel Savel is one of the most inspirational people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He sees the very best in people and is therefore always extremely encouraging and motivating. Every interaction he has with people, regardless of who they are, leaves them inspired and uplifted. It is his absolute gift! I work with Gr 7 learners from under-resourced schools and Nigel has come to speak to them about their purpose. I can see a visible change in the kids after his talks as it hits home to them that they are here for a reason, that they are loved and that they add value. He really gets them to believe that regardless of their circumstance, there is hope.”
"9Miles Project is doing life changing work that is vital to the future of not only the youth involved but also South Africa as a whole. Thank you to the whole team for doing everything that you do."
"Just to know where to give responsibly is a really key thing for me... to know a guy like Nigel is actually doing the work in a community where he lives just down the road...it's just so inspiring for one, but secondly, you know where your donations are going and that for me is key. There's a lot of things happening out in the world and South Africa, and you you don't quite know where your stuff goes...but here you are reassured that 9Miles is giving to the people who really need it most."