The Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club (SCARC) was founded 6 years ago by a few passionate paddlers that wanted to introduce disadvantaged youth in Soweto to watersports.   Inspired by the vision of providing "Empowerment and growth through sport", the club aims to not only teach residents of Soweto how to swim and participate in watersports, but also to develop crucial life skills that will assist its members in becoming economically active in their chosen fields.

SCARC has grown into a robust and sustainable club that is run by several dedicated volunteers covering coaching, mentoring, administration, treasury, sponsorship, education, feeding programme and general management. The club has also been adopted as the "Development Arm" of Dabulamanzi Canoe Club, which is South Africa’s largest canoe club, providing further support and long-term sustainability.

The foundation phase of the programme is to ensure that members receive their basic swimming proficiency, after which they are introduced to the rest of the programme, including both flat water and river racing. To date, the club has taught hundreds of kids to swim but every year we focus on a core group that shows aptitude for paddling. It is on this core group of children that SCARC focuses most of its energy, to ensure that they can have a maximum impact in their lives. Once members have shown their dedication and commitment to the club, they are adopted into the feeding and education programme. The feeding programme was introduced to ensure that the children, most of whom are below the bread-line, have energy to train and race and are well nourished to ensure sufficient physical growth. We very quickly realised that their families were consuming their food and so we expanded the feeding programme to feed their families as well. We supply these families with monthly food packs that provide a well balanced nutritional diet for a family of four.

SCARC has also recently introduced an education programme that, for now, is focusing on supplementary English lessons to raise each child’s level of written and spoken English. We are currently in the administration phase of introducing supplementary Maths & Science lesson. When first introducing the English lessons, we ran an assessment of each child to gauge their level of proficiency and were shocked to discover that on average they were 2 – 3 years behind the accepted level. When we see how the township schools are just not equipped to deliver the level of education that the children need to succeed in life , this has given us even more determination to ensure the ongoing success of this programme. On an ongoing basis, we access each child, assist with subject and long-term career choice and for those leaving school, provide career counselling and guidance. We are also starting to offer vacation placement and job shadowing.

From a training point of view, we meet every day of the week in Soweto, as well as time trials at Emmarentia Dam (on a Thursday night) and races at the weekend. We transport key members to and from time trials and to and from races, where the kids have the opportunity to interact with a wide mix of societal levels, including top sportsmen and top businessmen, exposing them to a side of life they would never otherwise have seen. In recent years, we have had a huge amount of success with our kids rising through the ranks at a local, national and international level. Some of our kids are topping their age groups consistently across the country, with some being touted as the next Dusi winners and Olympic material.

SCARC is more than just a sports club or a swimming programme, it is a powerful platform that enables us to touch and change the local community. It is evidence of the enormous talent that remains untapped within the Soweto community, it is proof of the hunger within our youth to transform their futures. It is testimony to our capacity as individuals to make a positive contribution to the future of our country.

SCARC could not exist without the generous contributions of Adreach, Business Connection, FoodCorp, Boyden as well as many other contributions to the food and clothing programmes from Dabulamanzi members. Going forward, SCARC plans to build a clubhouse in Soweto, which will include a lecture room, media centre and library. We will need assistance with that as well as providing work life experience for the members and possible job opportunities.

For more on SCARC, please see