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Pride & Imbewu Trails

A key point of the Youth Development programme is to build a programme with varying degrees of impact. We begin working with large numbers of youth through the Pride and Imbewu project which reaches thousands of disadvantaged scholars per year. These trails provide an entry level introduction to environmental education and the healing power of nature; ‘planting the seed’ for a passion for wildlife and wilderness.

Based on its long history of using the healing power of nature for personal and social transformation and thus realisation of how powerfully young people respond to spending time in Wilderness areas , Wilderness Foundation Africa has over the years developed a number of bespoke nature interventions programmes which are also carefully developed around physical and psychological wellness of our beneficiaries. Various levels of Wilderness trails activities are integrated into each of the main three holistic intervention projects under the Youth Development banner namely; Umzi Wethu Vocational Programme, Siyazenzela employability and Leadership Programme and Experiential Nature Education Programme.

To date (since 1996-2017) Wilderness Foundation Africa and its Funders have enabled more than 66 000 disadvantaged young men and woman to access their immediate natural environment-many for the first time - engaging with their natural heritage, restoring a respect for their cultural beliefs and traditions.

Pride

The Pride Project, which is managed and co-ordinated by Wilderness Foundation Africa, was developed to fulfil the need for an environmental education outreach programme among disadvantaged youth from urban and rural areas. The various Pride Projects scattered throughout wilderness areas in South Africa introduce over 3000 previously disadvantaged, primary and senior learners to a one-day, entry-level outdoor experience every year. The experience has been proven to help stimulate the learners’ interest in their immediate natural environment and concern for its preservation and conservation.

The sustained funding of 70% of the Projects’ running costs has been achieved through the sale of spring water through our funder Woolworths, which carries the Wilderness Foundation logo. Further funding is gathered from the support of various schools and private enterprises which are passionate about the project. Wilderness Foundation Africa recognizes that the sustainability of South Africa’s wild lands and wilderness is dependant on its social and economic sustainability. The Pride Project helps to instil pride and responsibility among South Africa’s previously disadvantaged youth with regards to their natural heritage.

Topics discussed on the Pride trails include: the impact of water shortage, the importance of indigenous vegetation, the role of invasive alien plants, and the importance of keeping the natural areas clean and litter free.

The Pride trails are all led by young, voluntary guides from the surrounding communities. Their leadership skills are identified and nurtured through relevant training in guiding, safety and environmental issues.

To date, seventy youth volunteers have been groomed to run, and help manage the trails under the mentorship of trail co-ordinators. The youth benefit through the development of leadership, time-management and communication skills which has been shown to build self confidence, responsibility and maturity in them. These are vital attributes for securing future employment.

The first Pride Project was launched in 1996 in partnership with the Wilderness Foundation, WWF – Table Mountain Fund and Woolworths. It was named after a butterfly called the ‘Table Mountain beauty/Mountain Pride’ – in acknowledgement of where the first trail took place. Since then, Pride has extended its wilderness trails to youth from the impoverished urban, rural and township communities of the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal. Pride Projects have been established in the Groendal, Boschberg and Stainbank Nature Reserves. To date, almost 30 000 youth have been reached through the Pride Projects.

Pride of Table Mountain

Tourists travel from across the world to come here and walk on it. It’s an intrinsic part of Cape Town’s identity and it’s one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It also casts a heavy shadow across the city. But imagine seeing Table Mountain in plain sight every day and never setting foot on it!

Through the PRIDE OF TABLE MOUNTAIN programme, over 25 000 children from the outlying areas of Cape Town have now had the opportunity to walk on the mountain and visit the world-famous gardens beneath it.

A Group Of Learners Being Led Through Kirstenbosch Gardens Before Hiking To The Contour Path.Pride Of Table Mtn 167Pride Of Table Mtn 176

Every second Saturday, from February to November buses fetch 40-50 children and take them to Kirstenbosch Gardens and then on to Table Mountain for a fun, educational walking excursion where they learn about fauna and flora. The messages of conservation, healthy living and biodiversity are clearly communicated.

Outings and routes are also arranged for partially sighted, blind and mentally challenged people who may have otherwise not been able to tour Kirstenbosch or hike on Table Mountain.

Sharon McCallum believes that the success of the project is largely driven by the leaders, whose dedication and commitment is infectious. “We wondered why our leaders joined and many of them have said that they had such an incredible experience when they visited that they wanted to share it with others.”

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The leadership programme is voluntary; there are 18 leaders, most of whom have been part of the programme for more than five years. Guides learn practical skills from how to give and deal with constructive criticism, to how to use leadership in everyday life.

From Sipho, the eldest, who has been with Pride of Table Mountain for 18 years, to his 17-year-old son, who is the youngest and is now also a junior ranger volunteer, the programme inspires full allegiance from the Leaders. For many now, Pride is their life.

Several of the leaders have gone on to take formal jobs in the eco-tourism industries and conservation. Some have opened their own nongovernmental organisations and continue the message of empowerment, conservation and overall pride in the natural beauty of South Africa.

The leaders develop confidence and also enjoy increased status in their communities. “In their township, people say ‘that man takes people on tours on Table Mountain’”. Table Mountain no longer looms in the distance and has been brought that much closer to home.

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Imbewu

The Wilderness Foundation Imbewu (meaning ‘seed’ in isiXhosa), project constitutes 4-day Wilderness Experiential Trails, implemented on a scheduled basis throughout the year. The aim of Imbewu is to deliver quality primary outdoor experiences to stimulate, spark and inspire interest in the natural environment and conservation. This project also aims to provide our community the opportunity to rediscover the relationship between their cultures and nature through the power of education and the experience of their natural heritage: wilderness areas, national parks and their immediate natural environments.

The Imbewu project is run as a joint partnership between the Wilderness Foundation and the People & Conservation Department of the South African National Parks.

The specific objectives of the Imbewu project are:
  • To provide previously disadvantaged school children the opportunity to experience wild places for the first time, educating on the importance of caring for and preserving our natural areas & environment.
  • To utilize the power of experiential learning to provide learners with knowledge & understanding of their immediate natural habitat & the importance of ecological preservation.
  • To provide youth with an opportunity to rediscover the relationship between their cultures and nature through the teachings of elders in a wilderness setting.
  • Developing the skills capacity of young community volunteers through relevant training, experience and leadership enhancement and to recruit these potential leaders from trail participants. 
  • Introducing youth from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience the wilderness environment in our National Parks.
  • Providing youth with an opportunity to rediscover the relationship between their cultures and nature through the teachings of elders in a wilderness setting.
  • To deliver a youth empowerment initiative that offers a quality experience which restores self-identity and natural heritage links, developing an environmental consciousness and ethos.

Expected Outcomes

While Wilderness Foundation Africa continues to direct large amounts of its funding resource (utilizing unspecified grants) to advocacy and awareness campaigns related to its Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative launched in May 2011 in response to the heightened rhino horn poaching in South Africa, it is also very clear that unless this is supported by other strategies aimed at reducing the demand such as experiential education and exposure of people to their natural heritage, these efforts may still fall short from achieving their intended objective. 

The outcomes of this Imbewu project therefore are:

  • Developing young South Africans who are aware of the value and power of nature and as they grow older influence others positively with this knowledge. 
  • Developing young people and youth leaders who have completed a wilderness trail with the Foundation to carry the deeply spiritual connection we have with the earth into their futures and share the message of conservation with the families, communities and society in general as they grow in influence. 
  • To harness the impact that wilderness trails have on young people’s ability (personal growth) to recognise their own inner strength and resilience and guide youth to apply this towards reaching their dreams. 
  • By including wilderness trails in all skills development projects the foundation hopes to harness the healing and inspiring power of nature to give young people a boost towards their new futures.

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My Personal Trail Experience

          Pakamani

Pakamani Nombila recently joined the WFA as a Junior Report Writer and joined our Umzi Wethu youth on a trail in the Tsitsikamma area as part of his induction. Below is a blog on Pakamani’s experience on trail.

For me, one of the most amazing things about being on trail and camping has to be the mornings. Being a villager almost all my life, waking up to the chanting and singing sounds of the birds in the morning reminded me of a place very close to my heart. It reminded me of home, where in the morning roosters would alert you that it was time to get up and get on with your day.

The trail walks, up the mountain and alongside the beach also had me visualize and think of home. Growing up, on weekends I’d go out into the open plains to herd cattle and sheep. I always enjoyed the peacefulness of the open plains, listening to water running down the stream. It gave me a peace of mind when I wanted to think and be by myself. This is also what I got from the trail, time to think and reflect in a soulful and peaceful environment.

On trail, I got to learn about things I never thought of recognizing in my daily life. It was my first time hearing of blue flagged beaches and that only 11 exist in South Africa. More than this, at night I had the opportunity to see, first-hand, the two galaxies – Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) and all the myriad types of stars. Nothing beats that!

Another special moment for me was when the students from Umzi Wethu, would eagerly engage with the natural environment they were in. They could identify species, plants and even different types of water on their own. They were truly taking everything they learnt in theory and putting it into practice. Having engaged with the students on a personal level and knowing that before Umzi Wethu, they were clueless about nature and wilderness; yet here they were now, able to identify things in the natural world outside of their classes. That’s really something special to witness.

On trail there’s something called Solitaire and the Talking-Stick. This was my first time experiencing Solitaire. The chance to go off alone for 15 minutes to 45 minutes, in the dark, without talking to anyone was an experience on its own. Solitaire gives you time to reflect and think about your life, your plans for the future and ways of getting there. It made me consider why we don’t really have these moments in our daily routines. We tend to just take things as they come.

With Solitaire, you are in an uninterrupted environment, with no buzzing noises and interruptions like we have in the city. So your thought process is at peace, and you are really able to focus and dig deep into what you are putting into your mind. From this, people then get to share their goals for the future and what they’d like to achieve. This is simply amazing because it is always nice to be in a safe environment where you can let other people know and still trust in your dream. Often in life, we are in spaces where we have to safe guard our dreams and desires, because we fear them being rejected by society or people telling us that they’re invalid. I loved the safe space this trip provided for people to share their plans for the future and even stories from their past with no fear of being judged or laughed at.

What also touched me from the trip were the different individuals that I got to spend time with and get to know better. These are young people who come from very disadvantaged backgrounds and each one with a story that somehow resonated with me. Home is from a very small village where not many people are educated and we’re constantly looked down upon by surrounding communities. Getting an education and being the first graduate in my immediate family saw me escape that cycle, it saw me working for the Wilderness Foundation Africa. I am doing causes very close to my heart as opposed to having to go to look for work in the mines and firms either in the Western Cape or Gauteng province; like most people my age do back home. On this trip, I was with people from similarly humble backgrounds, people with the desire to escape elements from their own unfavourable environments and make something out of themselves. People with a desire to get an education – that touched me.

Most of the people were first time campers like myself, so pitching a tent was a new experience to some of us, camping and sleeping out in the wilderness was also a new thing. We had all sorts of birds flying past us and resting amongst the trees around us, a bush pig that roamed around our camp and Cape bushbuck. All these animals I’m used to seeing only on shows like National Geographic. The beach was so full of uninterrupted aquatic life also. I saw dolphins – not in a pool, but in their natural habitat. Star fish, crabs and even clams.

Another wonder came from canoeing down the Salt River leading to the sea. Canoes are actually much more work than they seem from when you’re an outsider looking in. Finding the rhythm with my partner in the canoe was hard. But I enjoyed every moment of it. On our way back, we made a stop at the magnificent Bloukrans Bridge with the highest bungee jumping spot in the world. The view from up the bridge is indescribable. I enjoyed the camping trip and would go back for more any day.

Pakamani Nombila

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