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29 Jul 2016 00:00
Thumbs up: Children at the Green Kidz education centre in Hoedspruit not only learn about the environment, but can also do homework and improve their reading skills
Nourish: Green Kidz Initiative
Winner: Youth Leadership & Job Creation
Founded by Sarah Bergs in 2014, the Green Kidz Initiative is a community youth project and a subsidiary of Nourish, a holistic community upliftment programme working in the Hoedspruit region of Limpopo.
“Many people or projects aimed at addressing poverty simply put a band-aid on the issue, distributing food or clothes,” says Bergs. “Our focus in on building a relationship with the community and focusing on sustainability.
For example, putting in permaculture food security gardens, and teaching kids how to farm their own food and be healthy.”
Working with over 12 schools, nine of which have qualified as WESSA (Wildlife & Environmental Society of South Africa) Eco Schools, Green Kidz teaches on average 1 300 children each week, focusing on grades five and six, using a special environmental curriculum that was created and aligned within the national education framework.
Children take weekly field trips to wildlife spaces where classroom knowledge is embedded and complemented through a hands-on nature experience.
Local anti-poaching teams Protrack and Rhino Revolution give children talks with real-life insights, as well as educating them on the potential for jobs in the conservation and anti-poaching realm.
Daily, between 35 and 55 children visit the Green Kidz library and education centre to do homework, English reading and take part in the Eco Club.
Mothers and other community members also utilise the library to learn recycled crafting alongside their children, and a moringa orchard has been planted on site to complement the 20 000 indigenous trees that have been sown in and around the local communities. A food security garden is thriving in Acornhoek, alongside the food gardens in each of the nine WESSA schools — the produce of which is used in the school feeding scheme.
The library and education centre was built from rammed earth on land donated by the head of the local community. Further involvement with the community includes the employment of five local women who visit the network of Green Kidz schools each day and who join the children on field trips. This was made possible through a partnership with the Kruger to Canyons Biospheres Region.
A sustainable approach is prevalent in all aspects of the Green Kidz Initiative. Permaculture principles and rainwater harvesting are used in all the gardens. The library is built from rammed earth and the greenhouse is made from PET plastic.
“Our approach is one of preventing children from becoming poachers, through education and conservation experiences,” explains Bergs. “We believe in teaching by inspiring and we aim to change hearts. Through fostering understanding of the environment and responsible sustainability, we hope to change the outcomes of many children’s lives.”
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