SOAPkidz, a non-profit organisation that provides environmental awareness programmes for vulnerable children, and seven volunteers from the Exploration Society of Southern Africa (ESSA), combined with 10 children from the Paul Kruger Children’s Home in a drive to clean the banks of a five-kilometre section of the Highveld Crocodile River in Broederstroom, near Hartbeespoort Dam on Saturday April 21.
60 dustbin bags were filled with rubbish by the SOAPkidz-sponsored teenagers from the Pretoria Home and ESSA. Rubbish collected from the banks of the river included plastic bags (cynically known as South Africa’s national flower), car tyres and a section of a shopping trolley.
The aim of the day was not only to try and make even a small difference in the amount of garbage but to provide these young adults, aged between 15 and 18, with an outdoor experience. It also exposed them to river rafting and enabled them to come to grips with safe paddling techniques and, ultimately, to have fun while doing something useful.
ESSA and a local commercial river operator provided 10 rafts for the group and, even though the majority of the young men and women had no previous river rafting experience, they proved to be competent paddlers.
The following day customers and river guides of the two commercial river operators reported how thrilled they were to see that the banks of the river were significantly cleaner than before. The companies have indicated that they will participate in the next clean-up.
Originally the “Crocodile River Clean-up Day” was meant to be a major event targeting Gauteng’s recreational and commercial paddling community. At least 60 volunteers were expected but the response was dismal and the event postponed until September 1 - the first day of Spring.
However, SOAPkidz and ESSA insisted they would go ahead regardless and will continue to do so as frequently as possible in the future. There now is no doubt they have created enough awareness to hopefully set a trend and attract more volunteers.
Garbage on the river is a perennial problem that originates about 60 kilometres upstream where the river flows through Gauteng’s vast urban sprawl. The river banks could remain clean during the winter months but every time the Crocodile floods during the summer rainy season tons more garbage will inevitably accumulate, particularly on low overhanging branches acting as strainers.
As a river guide noted: “All we need now is for the people upstream to be educated in waste disposal and the government to deliver the necessary services to them. Then the river will stay cleaner for longer.”
In the meantime, SOAPkidz and ESSA sent out a strong can-do message with a moral obligation for more people to get involved to keep our beautiful river clean and to continue to attract thousands of people each year from Johannesburg and Pretoria.
About SOAPkidz & ESSA
SOAPkidz purpose is to “empower the vulnerable children of Africa by connecting them to nature where they experience love and personal growth.”
The children come from children’s homes, places or safety, orphanages and previously disadvantaged schools.
ESSA, dedicated to discovery, conservation and exploration, often provides opportunities for anyone - including couch potatoes - to move out of their comfort zones and discover they can do much more than they ever expected with the help of non-judgmental experts in fields such as abseiling, climbing, river rafting, hiking and orienteering. There is no need to limit yourself to the Discovery channel.
The brainchild of SOAPkidz is Karen Hauptfleisch. Contact Karen on 083 975 2700 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about ESSA, visit the organisation’s website at www.explorationsociety.org.
It‘s all about respect. Respect for yourself, respect for one another and respect for nature.
So, when we got an invitation from the Exploration Society of South Africa and Paddle Power to help clean the Crocodile River, we used this fantastic opportunity to take 12 children from the President Kruger home river rafting down the Crocodile River.
After a group picture was taken, everyone was transported to the start. A safety briefing followed and then it was time to enjoy the trip down the river. The experienced ESSA members were alone in a raft and kept a close eye on the children.
Between rowing and having fun, we managed to pick up more than 60 bags of litter – mostly plastic. The bags were loaded into the ESSA member‘s rafts and pretty soon, we had to stop trying to clean the river since every raft was filled to the brim with rubbish.
The end of this exciting trip was marked by a braai and lots of stories to share. Talks of future Eco-Rafting followed and by the time it was time to say good bye to new friends, everyone was dead tired but happy that we could give something back whilst having a new adventure.