Part of the MCF Environmental Learning and Leadership Programme is to encourage Conservancies to engage with the wider community in their area. N3TC agrees that building relationships and sharing knowledge is important so are funding the programme again this year. Each Conservancy has the opportunity to arrange interesting hands on environmental activities with expert facilitation by the Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMAEP) or the KZN Crane Foundation. Dargle Conservancy used their portion of the funds to organise a Holiday Club at Nxamalala village on the Petrusstroom Road. Gugu Zuma (MMAEP) ran it with enthusiasm and imagination! She reports:
The kids were so happy to be involved as it was the first time they had ever had a holiday club. Thobani Gumede said “It is the first holiday that I do something meaningful. Usually we just play soccer.” On Wednesday the focus was on Farming – comparing industrial and family farming and discussing the importance of healthy food. Everyone was surprised to learn that healthy food is that which you grow in your garden, rather than that you buy at the shop. Most commercial vegetables have been sprayed with chemicals that are not good for your body. Now everyone is keen to make an organic garden to keep their families healthy and pass this message onto their friends. On the second day we discussed the water cycle and water pollution before heading down the road to do a miniSASS test in the uMngeni River. We found some insects and worked out that the river was in Poor Condition which is not good for drinking. Mhloniswa Ncele was surprised “I always thought that moving water was clean.” We also explored the wetland. The kids knew a lot about wetlands from school lessons and have made a commitment to look after the wetland in Nxamalala. Sabelo Zuma found a frog “I always thought that frogs were dangerous, but now I am not afraid to touch and hold them.” Using candles and watercolours, everyone drew pictures of things they observed in the wetland. On Friday, we made mandalas using leaves and flowers that we picked around the houses. This was part of an Anger Management lesson. The basic principles being: expect the best, think before reacting, ask for a non-violent path, care for others and respect yourself. All these are transforming powers and I taught the children how to apply these in their own lives. We used these words when we created the mandala. The boys were so amazed to know that there was a way to solve a problem non-violently through good communication. Conservancy members supplied sandwiches, juice and fruit each day. “They asked if we could please have a regular Enviro Club in Nxamalala.” concludes Gugu.
The Dargle Conservancy is seriously considering adding this to their regular environmental education programme, which this year includes wetland and forest excursions, snake presentations and permaculture workshops in Dargle, Lion’s River and Impendle schools.