Experiences of connectivity by Sunnye Collins.
Bereaville youth, Jayme-Lee hopped over riverbed rocks to catch up with me. She tapped me on the shoulder and smiled without saying a word. We were on a silent hike for the first 30 minutes. She showed me what she had in her hands. Berna-Lee caught up and we muffled our giggles. She knew I was on the hunt for heart-shaped rocks. She had one…another one weighing about 4 kilos. My backpack was already heavy with at least a dozen heart-shaped rocks.
This was one of several memorable moments I had as a chaperone on a camping trip with 15 youth from Greyton, Genadendal and Bereaville. The common link, aside from geography, was a budding interest in the environment and taking up the challenge to get out of our comfort zones. After a 5-hour bus journey to the Cederberg, we arrived at The Cape Leopard Trust on a Friday afternoon. Nicky and Sue situated our vegetarian kitchen and the rest of us set up our tents. Some of these kids had never been camping and they embraced the challenge of not only roughing it in the rain, but also voluntarily giving up their sweets, meats and chips in exchange for vegetarian meals! In the last 15 years of working with youth from all walks of life and several different countries, I can honestly say that this was one of the best youth groups (not to mention camping trips) I have ever experienced.
Over the course of 5 days, we covered a lot of ground…ecologically, historically, creatively, educationally, socially, nutritionally and literally! We hiked at least 12 kilometers through rocky riverbeds, meandered through mountain fynbos, scaled incredible sandstone formations and ran along footpaths trying to decipher between types and ages of scat (animal poop). We marveled at rock art, played games, told stories and roasted marshmallows by the fire. On one evening in particular, I was amazed at the patience of 4 youth as they patiently taught me how to count to 20 in Afrikaans. I am still working on the proper pronunciation of the number 4. We tried our hands at clay sculpture and using charcoal to depict landscapes and animal skulls. Using our newly acquired compass and orienteering skills, we created a perfect circle, made up of 12 people and 50 meters in diameter. We listened and watched for birds and giggled at the sounds of baboon troop drama in the cliffs above our camp. We saw signs & tracks of genets, baboons, and klipspringer and learned how to set up a camera trap in hopes of maybe…just maybe catching a glimpse of the ever-elusive cape leopard.
The compost toilets, bucket showers, and late night baboon hooting reminded all of us that we were far from home, but close to something special…maybe a moment or two that we will fondly recall decades from now. Who can really know when passions are galvanized, when we make a change in our habits, or form a lifelong friendship? All we can do is work to create these opportunities for challenge, exposure, growth, and character building for youth (and not to mention, adults)!
Going on this trip gave me a sorely needed boost of hope. With the recent crime wave in Greyton and Genadendal, it is easy to become discouraged, negative and helpless. I was taking a walk through the Gobos the other morning pondering the recent and rampant burglaries on my street. My brow furrowed and I felt myself getting angry again. And then, in that moment, I stepped on a heart-shaped rock. I found 4 more after that. And these rocks remind me that when you look for the good happening in any community, you will find it. And once you’ve trained your heart and mind to look for it, it becomes easier to find.
Sunnye Collins hails from across the oceans. Originally from the USA, she has wound her way to Greyton where she contributes her energy and passion for life by working as a volunteer for Greyton Transition Town.