making a difference on mandela day

planting trees in south africa for mandela day“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Our Intrepid Bundu team in South Africa used this Nelson Mandela quote as their inspiration to invest in the local community school in Zandspruit. As their celebration of Mr Mandela’s 94th birthday on 18 July, the team decided to plant fruit trees at the primary school and then teach the children how to take care of these trees. It was a fantastic day and Intrepid’s Lorell Strydom fills us in on what it was like to be filled with the spirit of Mandela…

A bit about Zandspruit…
Zandspruit is an informal settlement in the West Rand of Johannesburg. This is like a forgotten community as it is too small (although 70,000 permanent residents!) to be recognised by the authorities. It started in 1994 just after the election, when people came to Johannesburg with a dream in their hearts for a better future – today housing and primary living conditions are still a daily struggle. This community has 2 primary schools – 1 that looks after Grade 1 to 4 and the other looks after Grade 5 to 7. There are no secondary schools, libraries, youth centres or parks and recreations areas, and a lot of children are still not getting the opportunity to be educated.

What we did on Mandela Day…
It’s almost impossible to drive a normal vehicle on Zandspruit’s dirt roads. So on Wednesday afternoon, 18th July, we loaded our Intrepid overland vehicle with fruit trees, shovels, picks, compost and all our staff. As office staff we are usually excited to get away from our desks, but this feeling was different because we all knew that what we were about to do could change people’s lives for future generations.

The primary school is about 15 minutes drive. Driving through the settlement and looking at their ‘squatter’ houses it is clear that there are a lot of needs in this place, but what impressed me was the friendliness and hospitality of its residents. We were welcomed by the school’s secretary who showed us the area on the school grounds that we can plant the trees.

Our mission: to plant fruit trees and we had 8 different trees from avocado to nectarine.

Why fruit trees? We like to teach the children the importance of sustainable living. Hopefully these trees will deliver fruits to the school community, especially those that do not have the means to buy any fruit or vegetables for themselves.

It took us about 2 hours to get all of the trees planeted and watered and then the Grade 5 class joined us. We wanted give the responsibility of maintaining the trees to 1 class and then they will teach the next year’s class how to care for the trees. So we had a good informative session with the pupils explaining to them the importance of tress (especially fruit tress) and how to take care of them.

While planting the trees we realised that the ‘orchard’ would need a small barrier to separate the area from playing kids, balls etc – especially while the trees are still small. We then committed to supply the fence material and the Grade 5 class agreed to build the fence. We will then also supply some benches for children to sit under the shade of the trees.

It’s our plan to return next year and see the benefit for the Zandspruit primary school community and to share with more children the spirit of Mandela Day. For us the day was very successful and we hope that these trees will provide fruit and shade for the children for generations to come. For the Intrepid Bundu team this is just the beginning…”

How can you also get involved?
Our Intrepid Bundu Deputy Operations Manager, Philén Naidu, is the Founder of the My Life My Africa Children’s Foundation, which is committed to child and youth development in this extremely neglected area of Zandspruit.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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