“There can be no greater gift than that of giving of one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.” – Nelson Mandela
Every year on the 18 July the world comes together to celebrate Mandela Day. This is an annual, international day celebrated in honour of Nelson Mandela, a chance for all of us to create a positive movement for the good of all mankind. Mandela spent 67 years of his life fighting for every South African’s equal human rights, and so every year we are asked to give 67 minutes of our time in order to make a positive change in our community.
This year, more than ever, our communities living on the periphery of The Greater Kruger National Park, have been hit with new economic and social challenges.
Community involvement is key to who we are. The Thornybush Community Project is a registered non-profit which allows us to uplift and empower the people who work and live around us. This is our extended family and we feel very passionately about working together to make positive changes from which everyone can benefit.
This year we spent our 67 minutes at the Hananani Primary School, located on the boundary of the Sabi Sands, in the Village of Dixie. The schools vegetable garden, under the management of Keysman Nkuna, feeds 253 school children everyday with a wholesome and nutritious meal from the vegetables it grows. The school learners assist in caring for the garden on a regular basis, under Kaysmans watchful eye.
Our focus this year was to address two key issues faced by rural communities: the importance of water conservation and ensuring food security. The school and the garden currently share a water supply, which means the garden’s production is often limited. To make the water use more efficient for the garden, we helped install a drip irrigation system that allows a conservative means of watering.
We also built Tippy Taps for the school and the school’s garden. The Tippy Tap is the perfect tool for a community which does not have running water, as it works on a mechanism that only releases the water that you need when washing your hands, and keeps the rest clean for the next person.
It was all hands on deck as everyone helped plant hundreds of seedlings, learning how to plant and grow their own vegetables, essential knowledge for food security. A variety of vegetable seedlings were planted including spinach, beetroot, tomatoes, chilies and peppers, all ensuring maximum nutrition in the meal served to the children from their school garden.
One of Conservation South Africa’s (CSA) initiatives is to support the setup and development of local scout troops in the rural communities. Leadership abilities, teamwork, self-motivation, commitment, perseverance, environmental education, cultural awareness and strong values are a few of the life skills the Scouts acquire whilst having fun and learning by doing.
Positive peer pressure and outdoor activities all contribute to individual young community members growing up with the belief that they can and are changing the world in order to leave it in a better place than how they found it. These local children, who are part of the Dixie Scout troop, came and worked tirelessly alongside us, allowing them to earn their planting badge.
Our Mandela Day initiative also saw us joined by Simone Bishop and Grant Christie from Warrior 500. These two incredible, adventure loving individuals are currently walking 500 km in the Greater Kruger Park region in order to raise R5 million. They want to help support communities in this area, and to promote the region as a world-class immersive travel destination.
As an added bonus they brought along two of their celebrity ambassadors: Bryan Habana and Saray Khumalo. It was an honour to be joined by these two passionate sports stars. There was no stopping them chatting and laughing with the kids while on their knees getting their hands dirty.
The example set by so many on Mandela Day of coming together and working in unison for the benefit of our communities, is indicative of what the future holds, especially for tourism. If the Tourism Industry is to become truly sustainable we need to ensure a long-term future based on partnerships and community benefits.
We would like to thank everyone who joined us, not only for creating awareness around the needs of our local communities, but also highlighting the incredible benefits of empowering the youth of today.
It was a hugely successful day and reiterated our firm belief, as well as that of Madiba, that by work together we are stronger and can make a really positive difference in people’s lives.