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His Majesty The King - Recovery Coach Training (and so much more).

Updated: Apr 18

12 April 2024


May it please Your Majesty:



As an organisation founded in South Africa, but spanning the UK, Australia, Canada and Botswana, as well as various other countries, we are deeply moved and inspired by the ideals of the Commonwealth and the principles it espouses. The Charter of the Commonwealth stipulates principles which are central to us, both in terms of our history and in terms of our future. The story of South Africa and its peoples is deeply bound up and, on many levels, still informed by our long relationship with Britain.


We are therefore writing to you directly, as the head of the Commonwealth, as well as to the Commonwealth Foundation, to share with you some information about who we are, what we do and why we believe that we have common ground in our work and our ideals.


The Ubuntu Academy of Coaching Training (U-ACT PBO-930 037 894) is a registered Non-Profit Section 18a Trust (IT 9717/07) and public benefit organisation, founded in 2008 in Waverley, Johannesburg, South Africa, by David Collins. As a SAQA-registered organisation, it is internationally recognised and is ISO-17024-compliant.


It soon expanded to encompass two global education programmes (both classroom-based and online): the GLOBAL WELLNESS EDUCATION NETWORK (GWEN) and THIS IS AFRICA (TIA), whose students are situated in various parts of the world. We offer several courses, all of which are based on Recovery Wellness Coaching, a specialised form of interaction in which a coach asks powerful, provocative questions designed to prompt the youngster to interrogate themselves, visualise an alternative way of living to the one in their immediate environment and, above all, develop the confidence and motivation to begin crafting a productive, sustainable future. They are also required to commit to a course of practical actions towards achieving that goal (eg, jobseeking, doing voluntary work in their community, embarking on a study course, etc) and account for doing so the coach at their next meeting. 

Recovery Wellness Coaching is a technique we have employed extremely successfully in our work with people suffering from substance abuse, behavioural addictions and the mental disorders which accompany these conditions. However, we have found it works equally well as an upliftment tool, since it is non-prescriptive, non-judgemental, unaligned to any religious or political ideology (though it respects all individuals’ private convictions in these areas) and transfers the responsibility for recovery (ie, self-awareness, empowerment, agency and accountability) entirely to the client/patient. 


The Trust was created as a response to the widespread dysfunction and poverty in South Africa (as well as other countries in the subcontinent), which have been aggravated by crime, corruption, unemployment and social breakdown. These, in turn, have been aggravated by political turmoil and grave economic problems caused by service delivery failures, particularly continual power and water outages. The despondency emanating from this in under-resourced areas has resulted in an enormous problem of substance abuse and addictive behaviour disorders, which we have always regarded as a systemic problem affecting not just afflicted individuals, but their families, employers and communities. The misery and chaos of substance misuse are contagious, but it is our belief that recovery and well-being are equally contagious.

For that reason, U-ACT – which is now also based in the UK, and partners with numerous other organisations around Europe, North America and Asia which share its objectives and collaborate in many of its projects – has embarked on a nationwide initiative in South Africa to uplift youngsters, in particular, in some of the most neglected and overlooked areas of the country. These are townships where water, electricity, jobs, schools, usable roads and recreational facilities have been so long absent that the communities inhabiting them have sunk into abject defeatism. Their children have no way of visualising, let alone activating, a way to rise above this and forge a meaningful future. Many of them live in single-parent families, or are themselves forced to raise siblings, on nothing but minimal state grants. 

We believe that sport is a superb vehicle to restore in these children (whose ages range from about 12 to 18) a sense of morale, self-worth, purpose and joy. It is also a wonderful way of teaching them to work in teams, learn responsibility and find a healthy, meaningful pursuit, off the streets. For that reason, U-ACT has partnered with Cricket South Africa (CSA) in a project called “Thanks a Million”. It is aimed at “coaching the coaches” who are responsible for identifying talent among youngsters and teaching them rudimentary cricketing skills. We teach the coaches Recovery Wellness Coaching in three-day, classroom-based workshops (after which their proficiency in it is reinforced through continual online supervision and supportive conversation groups).

The coaches are taught Recovery Wellness Coaching in three-day, classroom-based workshops, where they learn the basic principles of these powerful conversations, how to initiate them, how to control them and how to direct them. Once a coach has mastered the skill, achieved the required level in applying it and been certified as a Recovery Wellness Coach, they are able not only to work with youngsters on the cricket pitch, but to coach individuals in their communities, or work in hospitals or institutions. In this way, it is also a form of job creation and economic upliftment.

We have found that in most cases, experiencing this sort of interaction with coaches is the first time these youngsters have ever been asked to explore themselves, their assumptions and their ambitions. It is also the first time they have ever been afforded respect and dignity as young individuals, and certainly the first time they have ever had a safe space in which to express their fears, dreams and anger. They finally acquire a voice, and the right to be heard; skills, and the right to develop and exercise them; choices, and the right to make them. Their parents and caregivers have noticed significant improvements in these youngsters and, as a result, have found new resolve in encouraging them and supporting their ambitions, both on and off the sports field.

This, we believe, is in accord with the Commonwealth Foundation principle of eradicating the oppression of individuals regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief and “recognising the importance and urgency of economic and social development to satisfy the basic needs and aspirations” of people, and “seeking the progressive removal of the wide disparities in living standards” among Commonwealth members.

  

The response to this project – which has already been underway in at least three provinces in South Africa, and intends to eventually enter all of them – has been overwhelming. The coaches, as well as the youngsters, have reported dramatic changes of morale. They know, as do most South Africans, that recovery for the country will not be achieved with the help of government. It will be left to citizens and communities to do the work of rebuilding a thriving society in which the needs and rights of the most vulnerable are guaranteed and accessed. Likewise, the rebuilding of the economy will be done by the people, especially young entrepreneurs, who need the resolve and confidence to do so.

As a sporting code dear to the hearts and history of England – and, indeed, many of the Commonwealth members – cricket is described as “quintessentially British in character, rooted in and developed under British rule or hegemony, [as are] football, rugby, field hockey and netball”. The passion for these sports is also evident in the Commonwealth Games. We, at U-ACT, share that passion and we are also active in promoting similar coaching and upliftment work with youngsters in football, netball and athletics.

We have seen evidence that our work has helped to save the lives of disaffected, demoralised (but enormously talented) youngsters who would otherwise be succumbing to the escape of substance misuse, joining gangs, committing crime and abandoning any thought of breaking the cycle of despair in which they live. We are also duplicating this work in other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Botswana and the Netherlands.

Our teams of facilitators and instructors offer these programmes free of charge. It is our aim to make recovery and wellness available, without cost, to all those who need it, because we believe in it as a solution to much of the malaise afflicting the world in which we live.  However, the costs of transporting our facilitators, instructors and coaches to the cities and venues where they will be working (often from considerable distances, including from other countries), accommodating and feeding them while they are there, are borne by U-ACT and present a constant problem. We have operated this dynamic project on a proverbial shoe-string and we intend continuing it, but we would greatly appreciate any assistance we can find.

As an organisation fervently upholding the principles of the Commonwealth Family of Nations and the Harare Declaration, we wanted to inform you of we are, the work we are doing and why we are doing it. We are proud of the difference we have made to the lives of young people and their communities. We are also aware, Sir, of the splendid work you yourself have done for many years in aiding and uplifting young people through initiatives such as the Prince’s Trust.

Our team members piloting this initiative are David Collins (SA), Siphiwe Ngwenya (SA), Dr Jacob Mabasa (SA), Gwen Podbrey (SA), Ocean Mokobane (SA), Mureeda Jadwat (SA), Tia Boulton (UK), Cyril Ntshidi (SA), Massimo dal Corso (Italy), Roselle Gowan (Aus), Paula Perkusic (the Netherlands), Adriaan van Buuren (Canada) and Beverley Anne Randall (SA). They manage, and/or join, the team of coaches who deliver the trainings. 

We will also be sending this letter to the Commonwealth Foundation and we hope that it might spark some interest, or offer of support of some kind, from that body. We would also be greatly appreciative of the chance to network with organisations engaged in similar projects among Commonwealth members.

We thank you for your time and have the honour to remain, Sir, Your Majesty’s most humble and obedient servants.  


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