About four years ago, Rodney Cupido, the headmaster at Emil Weder High School, told the GTT team that the problem for the children at the school was they had no hope. What was the point of studying hard for matric when there was little for them at the end of it other than unemployment, low paid employment or early parenthood? The work of the excellent Greyton Genadendal Education Fund has done much to provide more hope and opportunities to youngsters in the school and GTT has been helping in a different way by creating a ‘gang’ that all kids want to join.
Thanks to the near iconic status of GTT’s director, Marshall Rinquest, amongst youngsters in this area, due partly to his natural, calm and open demeanour but also to his role as a bass player in a famous band and as occasional presenteron SABC’s Hectic Nine 9 programme, our eco-crew has grown from 70 to 200 in just two years with up to 350 children expected to participating in 2016.
The impact that the programme is having on children has led teachers to invite GTT to deliver it both in-class as well as after school. More children are being reached and are moving away from less desirable influences to join the GTT eco-crew to learn about environmental awareness and humane education.
Central to the success of the project are our flagship rewards whereby eco-crew members who have demonstrated commitment, focus, leadership, punctuality and reliability over the year are treated to a special outing. For three years now around 25 children enjoy a four day adventure camp in the Cederberg sponsored by the Cape Leopard Trust.
Earlier this year a group of children joined the Two Oceans Aquarium in a Penguin Waddle around Cape Point and six lucky youngsters were sponsored by people in Greyton to attend a Greenpop tree planting festival in the ancient milkwood forest at Platbos near Gansbaai.
Surely the pinnacle of all adventures must be the start last year of an annual trip for one or two lucky eco-crew members to Zambia for a one week tree planting festival, again with our friends Greenpop, to restore a forest near Livingstone which has been decimated by illegal logging for charcoal kilns. The two children who attended in 2015, Chantel Fielies and Byron Majiedt, had demonstrated considerable commitment to the eco-crew programme over the past year and were selected by their teachers because of the improvement in their class work, largely attributed to the focus and inspiration provided by eco-crew activities. The trip was sponsored by Klipheuwel-Dassiefontein Community Trust part of the Dassieklip renewables energies project based at Caledon and without this contribution we simply could not have afforded the airfares.
We experienced the added adventure of being thrown on the mercy of Home Affairs who have just changed the rules regarding minors leaving and arriving in the country. While we were waiting at the airport, a doctor travelling from the Mayo Clinic in New York with her eight children was held by security and almost deported because she didn’t have the right papers. Neither did we, despite having followed Home Affairs instructions to the full and being allowed to travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Fortunately a good friend of Nicky Vernon, GTT Chairman who was accompanying the children, came to their rescue, swooping up the whole party and putting them up at her home overnight while parents in Greyton and Voorstekraal ran around getting more documentation and faxing it through. Thankfully all was in order the following day and the children arrived safely into Marshall’s care in Livingstone. The children planted over 400 trees and returned home energetic, confident and happy. Piet Majiedt, Byron’s father, said, ‘He had such an adventure, he can’t stop talking about it’.
In 2016 we were unable to raise sufficient funds to send two children but because Byron had this time worked so hard to raise some money towards his trip we again approached the Klipheuwel Wind Farm Community Trust and were successful in securing his air fare. We are so grateful to the Trust for stepping forward once again.
Whilst it may seem extravagant to give such an expensive opportunity to only one or two children, with our flagship adventures we show local children that they are worthy of and deserve the best, that these adventures are not just for privileged kids but for them too. We are told by teachers and parents that all children are uplifted. It gives them something to strive for, a reason to hope and a focus that investment in their own development and the local environment is valued and rewarded.
We are now being offered opportunities by organisations which have heard about our eco-crew. The Dyer Island Conservation Trust has offered an adventure to some of our children.