The Academy for Canoe Development was founded in 2008 by Phillip van Tonder and is the only club in South Africa that focusses on sprints and flat water kayaking. It offers a high performance programme for elite athletes training at an international level, and also has a unique development programme for young disadvantaged children who are given the opportunity to better their lives through sport and extra academic assistance.
The Academy is affiliated to the Gauteng Canoe Union as well Canoeing South Africa and is registered as a Non-Profit Company. It is about 40 minutes’ drive from Oliver Tambo International Airport and 15 minutes’ drive from Pretoria.
The Academy offers its facilities to international and local teams for training camps. It is situated in a Nature Reserve and is the perfect all year round training venue.
Founder Phillip van Tonder’s vision is to develop the community through sport, life skills programmes and cross cultural activities. The Academy is entirely dependent on donations, so this vision is being achieved through generous donations from Kievits Kroon Country Estate, Equifin, Kamcare and Unisa, which have enabled the building of a clubhouse, lecture room, kitchen, gym, change rooms and two cabins which are rented out as accommodation to visiting canoeists. Over the past several years, thanks to the generous sponsorship of our suppliers, Kievits Kroon has raised more than R400,000 for the Academy.
Says Phillip: “Kievits Kroon management shares the same sentiments about upliftment and development of disadvantaged children in the Roodeplaat area and the partnership with them has provided huge value to the development of the children over the last eight years because of their generous donations and support.”
There are more than 60 children in this programme, most of them from the informal settlement at Plot 175. These children come from very poor families and most of them have learning difficulties. Their parents are unable to support them academically since they themselves did not complete their schooling or are illiterate.
After school classes for primary school paddlers are facilitated by a qualified teacher. Ten volunteers (retired teachers) from the community assist in this effort. Additional maths and science classes for high school paddlers are given by teachers from Tuks and a computer lab with 20 computers has been developed in partnership with Kamcare. As a result, the childrens’ school reports have shown a significant improvement, specifically in Maths.
The Academy has introduced camps for the children which focus on leadership and cross cultural skills. Life skills are also an essential part of the programme. A nutrition programme provides healthy cooked meals three days per week. A clothing programme ensures that the children receive new and good second hand clothes.
The Academy has given swimming lessons to more than 150 children from the informal settlement in order to make them familiar with and safe in the water, while organisations such as BOSASA and youth groups are also invited to attend basic kayak courses as part of their efforts to uplift children.
The children are trained to participate in a number of Gauteng school league canoe races and have dominated in recent years, taking more than 50% of the medals.
Phillip van Tonder recently updated us on some of the achievements of the academy:
“The Academy has produced five athletes from the previously disadvantaged community who represented SA at the World Championships and African Championships. Hosea Seleka is currently working at the Department of Water Works, and in his spare time helps out at the Academy with coaching and sharing his international experience with the younger generation. Lucky Masela went on to study a diploma in electrical engineering with the help of the Academy and sponsors, and is now successfully working in the field.
“In addition to these achievements, the Academy has also produced several other SA team athletes who achieved top 9 and top 5 positions at the u23 World Championships. Our younger athletes also boast several provincial and national titles from the u/8 to the u/16 age categories.
“Our dream is to, with the help of our partners, provide basic education for all our children. We might be able to collaborate with a private school in order to establish a decentralised campus. The purpose would be to develop the child as a whole, physically and mentally, inside the classroom as well as through sport while integrating the close relationship between the two.”