New to SOAPkidz but certainly not new to minding children as I have raised two daughters of my own and have a fair idea how to engage children. After my first outing as a volunteer with SOAPkidz I find that I need to revise my ideas. I have learnt from SOAPkidz and now know exactly how to make children’s faces shine with joy and laughter. The recipe is quite simple – Firstly choose a really hot day and make the children hike 10 kilometres over rough terrain. To make it more fun give the kids a really heavy, dirty, smelly and waterlogged object to carry for a few kilometres. To ensure that they do not get bored and stay truly happy, give them spades and make them shovel dirt. Albeit a bit scary, I must admit that issuing the kids with pangas and something to chop was a stroke of genius and finally to complete their day, make the children pick up and fill countless bags of litter. I would never have believed it but I saw their shining eyes, heard their laughter and had about as much fun as I have ever had in a single day.
The day started very early at Pick and Pay Faerie Glen with a bunch of volunteers already tired from working late into the previous night preparing, nervously waiting for the 300 children to arrive.
My kids were the first to arrive and after a delicious cup of soup and bread provided by Pick and Pay we got underway. No sooner had we started when we were all startled by Dawn perched precariously in a tree. This really got the kids’ attention and they listened carefully to her orientation lecture, all the while wondering what she was doing up the tree and hoping against hope that she would fall out of it.
Next stop was through the bush and off the prescribed path to fetch a trolley that I wanted to clear out of the spruit. Numerous attempts to free the trolley failed. It was frozen solid in the mud and even with 10 kids hanging on my legs whilst I pulled with all my might, it would not budge. We turned our attention to a broken fish tank and water logged door lying close by in the spruit. After convincing the girls that the smelly water logged door was worth at least three litter credits they all climbed in, dragged the door out of the spruit and in procession proceeded to carry the door to the nearest litter drop off point. Crossing the Moreleta spruit was interesting, with the door and a couple of children falling into the spruit.
Tree planting was next on the agenda. We all learnt something. Who would have thought of planting a tree with containerized dry water or what might happen if ten kids with spades and great enthusiasm, at the same time, plant a single tree?
A slow meander next to the river with great echoing war cries at each bridge we passed under. Thanks to Frans who kept us supplied with water and on the right path and thanks also to the friendly gardener that hosed down my tired and hot team.
The rest of the day was spent playing in the spruit and chopping down alien invader plants.
At last we reached Pioneer museum where welcome refreshments awaited us. A creative building project using clean litter and prize giving and too soon we were at the end of a wonderful day.
Tired happy faces shouting goodbyes as the buses left filled my heart and I thank SOAPkidz for letting me be part of something really special – Phillip van der Merwe
A whopping 279 bags of litter were picked up – and without the following sponsors, it would not have been possible, thanks go to:
- Pick ‘n Pay Faerie Glen – for providing breakfast, refreshments and wonderful staff who are always willing to assist with the children;
- Rotary Club of Pretoria East – for refreshments and manning the litter drop-off point;
- Round Table Section 19 – for providing the water bottles and for assisting with the clean-up;
- City of Tshwane Municipality – for providing transport, black bags, trees and the Game Drive prize;
- Nature Conservation East Section – for helping arrange the special day and assisting with the environmental projects;
- Media 24 – for volunteering and for the prizes;
- The Spider Club of SA – for volunteering and sharing their passion for nature;
- The Centurion Canoe Club – for volunteering and refreshments;
- The Development Bank of South Africa – for the wonderful prizes;
- The Magaliesberg Mountain Club – for the wonderful climbing course offered to the team that picked up the most litter;
- The different Friends groups that got involved helping with litter-pick up points; and
- To all the volunteers, who shared their love and passion for nature with the children.
Together, we do make a difference!
"Dankie vir die geleentheid Saterdag om tussen die kinders te kon ‘ontspan’. Dit het my weereens bewus gemaak van hoeveel ek het om voor dankbaar te wees. Julle doen goeie werk! Sterkte!"