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Tom Hewitt MBE – Surfers Not Street Children 

  • Director – Surfers Not Street Children
  • (Founder and ex-CEO – Umthombo Street Children)

“Tom Hewitt MBE is committed to a”global popular movement around the rights and potential of street children.” He is a campaigner who has worked “in the field” with street children for over 23 years. He and his wife, Bulelwa, founded Umthombo Street Children in Durban, South Africa in 2004. It grew out of the Durban Street Team, that Tom had started in 1998. Tom was CEO of Umthombo between 2004 and 2012, he then set up a new chapter to his work called Surfers Not Street Children, which he now runs. In 2015 he founded  Freedom Tree, a British charity that supports his work around the world including Surfers Not Street Children. In January 2011 Tom was awarded and MBE by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II for his services to street children in Africa. Surfers Not Street Children is an empowerment project for ex street children entering adulthood in Durban, South Africa. As well as leading these youngsters on a journey towards independence, Surfers Not Street Children has two other important and unique functions. Through their surfing and life stories as well as their charisma and compassion, this team of ex street children are both committed to advocacy around issues that affect street children around the world and inspiring other youngsters still on the streets in various locations around the world. See this recent independent documentary about Surfers Not Street Children: New documentary about Surfers Not Street Children

Tom’s other involvements include advising, consulting and speaking around the global phenomenon of  street children. He also provides technical fieldwork support, strategy advice as well as support around advocacy and campaigns. He works in different parts of Africa and further afield. He is based in Durban, South Africa which makes it easy to access the African continent and visits the UK regularly.

Tom is perhaps most well known for his successful advocacy campaign to end the forced removals (round-ups) of street children in Durban, South Africa, which used to take place to “clean-up” the streets ahead of international conferences and events. He called for more compassionate responses to street children. He is also known for his pioneering model of fusing high-intensity engagement activities, such as surfing, with psychosocial services towards finding alternatives to street life.  Tom is passionate about finding niche job opportunities for ex street children through the activities that they become good at such as with surfing where youngsters have gone on to become surfing instructors, lifeguards, beachfront business operators, beachfront restaurant staff as well as sponsored and professional surfers. Tom assisted the national Department of Social Development in South Africa with its development of new policies around working with street children there. Pic: Ocean Driven Media

His work is supported by British Airways, O’Neill Wetsuits  and Overboard Waterproof bags, The British High Commission in South Africa, Edusport among others. Tom still surfs as often as he can. He also competes in Stand-up Paddle-boarding (wave riding).