Every year at the beginning of spring SOAPkidz rounds up a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers and stacks of energetic kids and heads off to the banks of the Moreletaspruit in Pretoria. The goal is to clean up a 10km stretch of the Moreletaspruit. Volunteers come from various backgrounds, from corporate groups to individual volunteers. The kids are also from various backgrounds, such as children’s homes and schools (including The Hope School, a school for physically disabled children). A total of 360 volunteers and children took part in the event.
This year we met bright and early at the start behind Pick ’n Pay Hyper Faerie Glen. It was a beautiful sunny day and everyone was amped and ready to go. At first glance the Moreletaspruit looks pristine and there was not much litter to be seen, but when you go down to the river banks, this impression changes. Rubbish gets picked up by the spruit, further up stream, and gets deposited all along the banks. We picked up hundreds of bags of rubbish (my group alone, with 5 volunteers and 11 kids, picked up 60 bags!).
But the day is not only about picking up litter and is focussed on environmental education. During the day we also planted trees, learnt about re-cycling litter and all took the pledge with “Manzi”, the Water Wise character, to care for our environment. Karen Hauptfleisch aka Noeksie the founder of SOAPkidz says, “SOAPkidz uses events like this to foster respect for our environment and strengthen our children”
The 10km walk along the river was really beautiful and it was great spending the day with the kids. My group was a bunch of kids from Maria Klopper Children’s Home. These kids would usually spend their day watching TV and playing Play Station, but instead, they got a chance to enjoy nature, learn about conservation and spend time with successful young adults.
All in all the day was very rewarding and most enjoyable.
SOME STATISTICS FOR THE DAY:
Volunteers: 211 volunteers participated and 96 joined the children hiking. (361)
Litter: 322 bags of litter were collected. 97 were collected before the time.
Children: 150 children hiked and there were 15 teams from various children’s homes and places of safety
90% of the children filled in the questionnaire. Of these 90% of the children
- 100% said they had fun
- 57% loved planting the tree
- 25% loved the music
- 39% loved the games
- 43% said they loved the food
- 53% loved the 10 km hike
- 40% enjoyed the environmental education talks
- 38% said they loved the volunteers
- 33% said they loved the singing
- 99% said they would like to do it again (Danny and Christopher from Maria Klopper home apparently had a fall out with the rest of their team mates)
Comments made from the children on what they enjoyed most:
- Most of the children said they loved the hiking, river crossings and learning about the environment
- They also enjoyed the picking up of litter
- The physical disabled children all said they loved the hiking and the difficult parts.
- Steve seemed to have had quite an interesting team since some of his team’s comments on what they enjoyed most were (they were also the winning team!)
- Kicking Steve (Louise)
- Not hiking with the turtles (Danny and Christopher)
- The nice houses (Sandile)
For the fourth year in a row the highly successful SOAPkidz Environmental Day was held on September 19th at Moreleta Spruit in the suburbs of Pretoria. While cleaning up litter along the 10km stretch of the stream was still an important part of the day, the focus this year was on educating children on the importance of recycling, re-using; and respecting their environment in the hope that in years to come there will be no litter to clean up!
Early Saturday morning the open veld behind Pick ‘n Pay Faerie Glen became a hive of activity with bus loads of children arriving, cars loaded with volunteers from Pretoria and Johannesburg vying for the best parking spots, Max and his fellow security officers looking super efficient and ready for action; and a slightly overwhelmed group of organizers registering teams, collecting indemnity forms, handing out t-shirts while endeavouring to answer questions from about ten different people at once. Minette coped wonderfully with duplicate paperwork, missing teams, an extra team that just arrived and vanishing indemnity forms; while Glennita determinedly marshalled the milling crowds into their teams despite the fact that the megaphone had mysteriously disappeared. Photos were taken, games were played, breakfast was served and then the first team headed down the trail, each person armed with a bright yellow bag for litter and a spring in their step.
The first activity was tree planting at Faerie Glen Nature Reserve, adding to the baby forest of trees planted in the previous years this event has been held. After each team had planted their tree they hurried on (following red arrows placed at most of the turns and river crossings along the route). The first challenge was a slightly collapsed concrete footbridge which everyone, including the two blind participants, negotiated more or less successfully. Competition for the ‘Most Litter Collected’ was hotting up already and larger items were in particular demand to fill up yet another yellow bag. The day was sunny, the air full of songs, laughter and hadeda calls; a festive spirit was taking over the hike - despite some volunteers and one or two kids being disturbed by the fact that they still had about 7kms to go. After a tricky crossing under Lynnwood bridge (thanks for carrying the guide dog Frans!) and avoiding falling into the construction excavations on the other side, it was an easy walk to the first water point rest stop at Priory Road. Icies, fruit drinks and environmental education games revived everyone. One particularly enthusiastic team arrived carrying an abandoned, wheel-less shopping trolley!
The river crossing bridges constructed by Theo from old wooden pallets provided adventure and the odd wet foot here and there; and the litter tally rose steadily as the day wore on. Popcorn, water and encouragement were provided at the next two water points keeping everyone going despite some sore feet and muscles. Bern Goosen and the rest of the wheelchair team stopped any of the able bodied participants from complaining too much! They and their support team negotiated narrow rocky paths and sudden drop-offs with inspiring determination and good humour. After the challenging rocky stretch there was just one more detour around construction work (more random red arrows) and a narrow concrete ledge to walk under the last bridge, before a long straight stretch with the end in sight.
At the Pioneer Museum each exhausted team arrived carrying their last bags of litter --- some singing, some dancing and some heading straight for refreshments and a shady patch of grass. After lunch the wind down fun really began with Manzi from Rand Water providing music, education on wise water use and dancing; Black Cat Bones and Rethabile Marching Band playing up a storm ( Yes, lots more dancing!) and games with a message on the lawns. Certificates, photos and prizes were given out before one by one the busses arrived and each happy, weary team headed for home.
A big thank you to all the sponsors, supporters and volunteers who provided food, logistics, funds, security and, most importantly, their time and enthusiasm to ensure that the 150 or so kids, mostly from children’s homes and places of safety had a wonderful, fun day while also learning how special they and their environment are to the future of Africa, and indeed the whole world.
Last of all a special thanks to Karen Hauptfleisch, founder of SOAPkidz, for her vision, her 110% commitment and enthusiasm which inspires others to make a difference, and her countless hours of hard work which make this and other SOAPkidz events such a rewarding experience for both children and volunteers alike. You can have your holiday on the coast now Noeks --- Enjoy!