Spending time in Gauteng makes you realise what a special place it is. Johannesburg lies at the heart, a strong pumping muscle that never lets up. If you dare enter, its steady beat starts to beat faster, sweeping you up on an unforgettable journey through its intricate network of arteries. It is this that we want to be able to tap into; the people, their passions and their drive to take action and create change.
This year, the Young Leaders team decided to take a slightly different approach to the clubs in Gauteng, building a network of like-minded groups and individuals to come together and share their experiences, passions and to take action. The clubs meet at a central hub space at Johannesburg Zoo during the year, where they interact with others from Gauteng, discussing and planning actions in and around their communities. Clubs attending the Annual Clubs Conference have the opportunity to create a Day of Action whereby they are given a small budget and are teamed up with an experienced mentor to plan their action.
Project 90 teamed up with the indomitable Lorna Fuller, Senior Manager of Nutrition at Johannesburg Zoo and Zanele Mabaso, an extraordinary young wonder-woman based in Pretoria, to assist with organising the workshops and planning the event. Each club is linked up with a mentor, to support them in their project for the Day of Action. Limpho, a young theatre maker from an organisation called Themba Interactive, wrote and rehearsed an interactive environmental piece for the young learners of Saxonwold Primary School. The Immaculata High School club was guided by Tebello Rampo, a graduate from the Activate Leader Training programme. The Deutsche Internationale Schule Johannesburg, had the calm support of 16 year-old Connor Berning, while the Eco-Rechargers of Tshwane University of Technology had the support and experience of Ian Dennis from Heritage Environmental Management Company along with Pearl Sekwati, also from the Activate Leadership Training programme in Gauteng.
Two workshops were held with Lorna Fuller and Gordon Ayres ahead of the big day, to assist the clubs in planning their Day of Action. The first workshop in July, focussed on project management, team work and planning ahead, while the second workshop looked at communicating and marketing the projects to their school and university communities.
On 7 September the clubs arrived at the zoo before the buzz of visitors came streaming in. Busy preparations took place at Cafe Fino, while the chimpanzees watched intensely with great interest. The Project 90 banners popped open, and the bold and colourful posters, designed by the clubs, were strategically placed on the surrounding walls.
As part of the day activities, each club was given the opportunity to plant an orange tree next to the farmyard. Zoo worker, Robert, a jovial gentle giant, spoke of the importance of trees and explained how to plant them correctly, making sure the trees were placed level to the surface of the ground, that soil and compost is mixed with plenty of water allowing the roots to establish themselves firmly in the earth. It became apparent that planting a tree is a truly bonding experience. Every time the learners go back to that same spot at the zoo, they’ll remember that they were a part of a team who planted that very tree, playing an important role in the Day of Action.
It is important to give the youth opportunities to express themselves by providing them the space to do something they are really interested in. We are understanding that without this freedom to play, engage and create, humans will just continue to do things in the same ways they have always done. The youth have a certain way of going about things that us as adults can learn from. Things like living in the moment, going with your gut and believing anything is possible, are all qualities that we find more difficult to do as we get older. It is our every intention that by nurturing these young individuals, they will continue to grow as leaders in their communities and inspiring others to join them in their quest for change.
Daniel Robinson, Project 90 National Clubs Coordinator