I had watched a program on AGRI SA one morning and learnt how invasive the Pompom weed is and therefore I was really looking forward to Saturday 2nd February and the chance to make a difference at Rhino Park – I was not expecting to have fun!
I followed Phillip early in the morning to where he had to meet Wayne. I left my bike there and took Phillip’s car to the venue at Rhino Park about 10km away, whilst he went with Wayne in a huge flat bed truck to collect the kidz.
I was feeling a little lost, upon arrival at the McCarthy 4x4 adventure boma in Rhino Park, as there was no-one in sight and I was not totally sure that I was in the right place. However Amos assured me that he was expecting SOAPkidz. Half an hour later, the owner, Kobus arrived with two able bodied helpers and within a few minutes tables and chairs were in place and coffee, milk, sugar and rusks were out on the table together with a huge caldron pot on an open fire boiling the hot water. By this time a new member Dawn had arrived followed shortly by Elsje and between the 3 of us it was decided to put out the 50 coffee cups (we were expecting 46 kids) coffee, sugar and milk were pre added to prepare for the rush when the kids arrived.
The truck arrived with 40 kids and after a quick re-count of the available volunteers was done, it was decided to co-opt two of the kids, Mpho and Bethual, to be team leaders. Name tags were attached to kids and volunteers. Theo and Frans then took charge of sorting kids into teams – 6 teams in total. Kids were sent to their allocated volunteer, where we, the volunteers, attempted to instill some team bonding/spirit, sort out team names and team songs. Some of the kids, having been split from friends and family, were a little reserved in getting to grips with the new dynamics of the team and others were way out their comfort zones. Volunteers had their work cut out to “bond” the group.
After a quick coffee and rusk breakfast the kids were assembled for a talk by me about Pompom weeds, rules around the camp and the need for respect for oneself which leads to respect for each other.
Each team was assigned a farm worker who would accompany them to spray the weeds with poison. We were sent down the road back to the airfield and the kids with great enthusiasm set off to collect the most Pompom weeds. There was a prize for the most weeds collected and the competition was on with kids running in all directions with their designated volunteers and sprayers hard put to keep up.
Within the first hour it looked as if we had managed to pick each and every Pompom in the area between the boma and the airfield and the “sprayers” then lead us to an area at the back which seemed to have more weeds than grass. Now the games began in earnest with us having to drag the kids away from the fields at 11.30 for lunch.
Lunch consisted of lamb chops and wors on the braai with a really great “pot brood” which I just have to get the recipe for! Each kid was given the opportunity of keeping an eye on the food while the rest of the group made mobiles out of things they had picked up around the farm and with some pre-packed goodies from the rubbish bin and nature. It was quite amazing to see the different designs that came out. Kids given a little encouragement are more than willing to show off their creative sides.
Once lunch was over we were all herded onto the truck and taken to the farm’s nursery where each of the kids was given their very own tree to plant. Our host, Kobus, told the kids that the tree that they would plant was their very own and that they were welcome to come visit, water and nurture it as often as they wanted to. While planting the trees some of the comments were really heart warming. I had one child ask me if Kobus really meant that it was his tree and he could name it anything he wanted. I assured him that this was indeed so and that he was welcome to come visit HIS tree anytime he wanted to. The kids were fascinated with the machine that drilled the holes – I was glad that Kobus had this really neat drilling machine to do the job or else we might still be there digging holes.
Even though we were not on a mission to pick up rubbish and the park was really clean, in true SOAPkidz tradition we still managed to pick up 3 bags of rubbish.
Some of the comments from the kids:
Team Tigers - “When we got here, we didn’t know what to expect. We were divided into teams, had some coffee and learnt about Pompom weeds. We then walked out into the park on a mission of ‘search and destroy’. We got bitten, scratched; we were itchy, sweaty, dirty and tired BUT we enjoyed it and we would love to come again. It was very hot, but the hosepipe was refreshing and fun. – the best team Grrrr”
Unknown Team -“We came here then we all had some coffee and biscuit, then we went to pick all the pom-pom weeds. While we were walking some of us were stung and got stuck in the mud. We all had fun. On the way back the one girl was very slow and we called her granny.”
Team Massive mix - “We woke up way to early(5am) and bundled into a truck. The wind blew us away and at last we were here. Sweet coffee and lots of laughter, new faces to make friends with, it all seemed a bit scary, but not that hard once we started doing things together. Thanks for the new experiences and thanks to our braai master for a great job!”
Team Pompom Hungry Lions - “We had to rescue our team leader when she fell in the mud. We loved planting the trees. De-weeding was hard work but we loved swimming and getting stuck in the mud was great fun.”
This was a great day and hopefully even though we inadvertently dispersed a few seeds ourselves, the flowers we picked, that can not longer make seed, will make a difference. May our SOAPkidz forest flourish and we look forward to being invited back to make a bigger difference to the pompom weed problem.