Here she shares news from her weekend of tree-planting adventures:
Our first tree planting began on Friday afternoon with grade 8 learners from Bokgoni Technical High School at Atteridgeville.
Eager to learn and plant trees, the learners waited in the school yard with excitement – and this energy shone throughout our visit. I was accompanied by Mrs Samkelisiwe Chunda, who is responsible for community outreach and stakeholder engagement at the Tshwane Department of Environmental Management Services.
The learners had learnt about the history of Arbour month, our Earth Keeper campaign and the significance of planting indigenous trees as part of our heritage in September and how to take care of the trees.
In retrospect, this journey takes me back to my childhood memories, in that if it wasn’t for the Arbour champions who came to my school when I was young, I wouldn’t be talking about Earth-keeping today! Together with the school learners, we’ve successfully planted 5 indigenous trees (Wild Olive and Karee), which were graciously donated by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
This tree planting event will play a vital role in the life of this school and the surrounding communities! That is, although we’ve planted physical tree in this school, I also believe that we’ve also planted Earth Keeper seeds that will last a lifetime in their hearts.
Through our youth campaign, SAFCEI intends to return and follow up on the learners’ progress to take care of the trees over time. The vision of our youth programme is to establish a generation of Earth Keepers in schools and surrounding communities.
Following a SAFCEI presentation at the Rotary Club (WaterKloof), I was invited on Sunday the 11th September 2016 to join in the team on their Project Safari trip. Although the majority of this team were vibrant elders, it also had a fair balance of young people from Pro Arte Alphen Park school, Gerald Rheeder (the youngest Rotary club President) and myself.
We started our journey at Sunny Side Park in Pretoria central where unwanted newborn babies are given away for adoption, travelled on to New Beginnings, an orphanage in Laudium for the abandoned babies and children from the city and Manger Marine, a remote place of safety for elderly people with mental disabilities, and ended off at Philadelphia, a rural farm in Pretoria West where we planted fruit trees together.
This trip brought mixed emotions for me because I could sense indifference from those who are abandoned, especially the poor and elderly, while at the same time, the joy coming from the innocence of the kids’ smiles, playing and singing, as well as love from the care-givers.
In both these polarized emotions, a common thread of hope exists because we did not only bring a message of hope but together planted fruit trees that would benefit this community in the coming time.
Moreover, we plan to revitalise their food garden over the next coming weeks. We would like to encourage people to consider planting fruit trees along with non-fruit bearing indigenous trees to respond not only to the general ecological problem, but to also promote healthy living and link environmental well-being with social well-being.