All posts by Sophie Neville

About Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

News from Lapalala Wilderness School in the Waterberg

Mashudu Makhokha, Director of Lapalala Wilderness School has sent The Waterberg Trust a report on World Rhino Day celebrations.


‘I personally cannot describe the absolute joy of the 42 children attending from 21 rural schools and their individual ‘speech’ giving performances on the subject of rhino conservation.’

In addition to the children, the following organizations in this collaborate event clearly illustrate the power of co-operation in our task of EE:
The Endangered Wildlife Trust, My school my village my planet, Bushpigs (WESSA), Save the Waterberg Rhino, the LWS. In attendance was the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, Welgevonden and Lapalala Wilderness Reserve were also present.

A day such as this reminds one of the wealth of talent that resides in our youth who need no more than an opportunity to express themselves. This collaborative effort on the part of all these fine organizations coming together gives one hope for the future of conservation.

The first Prize taken by Thabang Nkoe (Meetsetshehla Secondary School), Second Prize was a taken by Majoki Masenya (Meetsetshehla Secondary School) and Hope Digashu (Kgaba Secondary School), Third Prize taken by
Mpho Ramasobana (Bathokwa Secondary school) and Thapelo Molefe (Bakenberg Secondary School).

In a world where so much seems negative these days we need now and then with events like this, especially with our youth.

This was made possible by donors’ contributions to our programme, which assists us to be effective in helping our children discover the value of biodiversity in our natural world and our place within it and to identify and nurture Africa’s future conservation champions. Through event like this, we are starting to see those future leaders emerging.

Dr Peter Farrant of the Northern Education Trust based in the Waterberg

Dr Peter Farrant, who works with The Waterberg Trust

News from Nurse Grace in the Waterberg

The Waterberg Trust supports Sister Grace, an experienced school nurse based at Meetsetshehla Secondary School just outside Vaalwater in the Waterberg. She has been reporting on the school programme for June 2018, which started well at Mokolo and Mahlasedi Primary Schools.

Grace 21 June 2018.jpg

~Sister Grace helping children of the Waterberg: This little girl has a chronic illness. She’s an orphan living with her granny who wanted to learn how to take her tablets on her own. She is being monitored and we will continue educating her during school holidays~

Primary school children are being screened using the recent tool which the Department of Education has introduced to all schools to identify early learning barriers, physical, social and health challenges. The information will be kept in each child’s file and used together with a transfer letter when they go to secondary school. Those with problems will be referred to the relevant bodies.

Grace Aug 2018 2

~Sister Grace in the classroom~

Secondary school students were visited by the South African Police Service on the opening day of term. They were addressed on security issues. It was emphasized that they need to report any problems to the nearest police station i.e. rape, gender-based violence, abuse etc. This campaign will also be conducted at the primary schools in the next quarter. The police want to ensure the students are well protected and safe whenever they walk to and from school. Pupils were advised not to move during awkward hours without the knowledge of parents.

Grace Aug 2018 5

The Department of Health team came to screen all the Grade 8 students and gave them immunization. Among the team were the nursing sister, the dentist, nutritionist and optometrist. Those who had health issues were referred to the clinic for further management and treatment.


  • After-school and weekend classes continue to help students catch up and improve their performance. During the holiday, the Grade 12s from surrounding schools will continue with extra studies in readiness for their final examination.
  • The Grade 12s had an opportunity to go on a career exhibition trip in Lephalale and Welgevonden game reserves and learn how to choose different careers before they go to college and University.
  • The secondary schools have been assessed in readiness for the final Matric examinations and given new center numbers.
  • Families of students who face challenges with food at home were assisted to access food parcels from Social Development Services and will continue to receive these on a monthly basis.
  •  Stake-holders and the community are positive and ready to work with schools.
  • The Student Christian Fellowship continues to meet once a week. More students have come forward to be inspired spiritually.

Grace 3 21 June 2018~Hospitality students learning more about nutrition and food preparation~


  • Overcrowding of students at primary schools, with more than 50 children to one teacher, means it can be difficult to help those who are not coping nor doing well in class. Some schools have more than 1,200 children.
  • The older girls at primary schools have problems coping with menstrual issues so stay home when menstruating and miss out classes unless we issue them with sanitary pads:

Nurse Grace 6

~Pupils receiving sanitary pads donated by TWT~

  • The number of pregnant girls has increased despite all the education about contraceptives, abstinence and complications of teenage pregnancy.
  • The local Government Clinic has shortage of contraceptive pills and those seeking help are being told to buy from the chemist, which is difficult for those without money.
  • Some girls still hide their pregnancy until it is discovered late by the help of the educators.
  • Teenage moms leave their small babies with parents and grannies which may lead them to develop malnutrition.
  • Grannies who look after orphaned children face many challenges supporting them with schoolwork, as they can’t read nor write.
  • Unstable and poor families don’t care about their children’s future.



We continue to sustain and manage the vegetable garden that will go a long way in stimulating the interest and passion to these young people:

Grace 5 21 June 2018~Students learning how to grow healthy food~

Grannies who are guardians of orphaned school children from both primary and secondary schools have formed a support group where they meet to share different experiences looking after the orphans.

Grace 4 21 June 2018

~A support group for guardians of orphaned children in Vaalwater~

They meet weekly, do exercises and have a vegetable garden as a source of income generation. Their dream is to participate in sports like netball to help them cope and to accept the loss of their children. They too need to be involved in counseling and education regarding their children’s behavior and performance in schools.


Sanitary pads, bras, first-aid dressings and orthopedic shoes were donated by TWT riders and delivered by TWT Chairman Belinda Chaffer.

Bras donated by TWT Riders

The pads and bras were distributed to Leseding Secondary and Mokolo Primary school students. It really made a huge difference, as many girls can’t afford to buy pads.

Grace Aug 2018 1

One pupil needed an operation due dislocated knee caps. She is doing well, can walk with the help of the orthopedic shoes shoes and is attending school. Sister Grace supports her with daily walking exercises. She will go for her check up in September.


  • Parents meeting at Leseding Community Hall
  • Meeting with Social Development Services
  • Limpopo Green Schools for the Earth Program by the Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Health event held at Leseding Secondary School about In-School Risk Behavior.


  • Continue to offer extra classes for all students to catch up and have enough time to focus on subjects they don’t understand well.
  • To take our Green School Program Club members to Lapalala Wilderness School where they will learn more and be motivated about environmental and nature conservancy.
  • To continue with health education in schools and focus more on early childhood development, teenage pregnancy and substance and alcohol abuse.
  • To continue supporting girls with free sanitary pads, whenever we get donation, to keep them in school.


Total number of 67 students personally consulted for:

  • Health – 20 (dental, diarrhea, severe injury, genital sores, urinary infection)
  • Social ­­­­­­­­­­­– 10 (family problems, addiction, stress, no food, teenage fathers)
  • Minor – 15 (headache, period pains, sports injury, dizziness)
  • Counseling – 10 (HIV/S.T.I, drug abuse, care of baby)
  • Pregnancy – 12 (6 Leseding Meetsetshehla Secondary School and 6 Meetsetshehla Secondary School) NOTE: Number of pregnant students went up after a meeting with all the girls was conducted and they were advised to see the school nurse for a checkup. Some were already 7– 8 months pregnant.

101 Grade 12s (60 from Meetsetshehla and 41 from Leseding Secondary Schools) were assisted with Life Orientation healthy topics and were mentored on how they can prepare for their exams and to understand the questions before answering.


25 family members were reached to assess their home situation and referred to Social Development Services and are currently receiving food parcels. These families were identified through a follow up of some students who raised issues of not having enough food at home and some are on chronic medication.

Compiled by: Grace Ismail (School nurse/Counselor)

If you would like to make a financial donation to help Sister Grace in her work please click here

If you would like to make a donation of sanitary pads or bras, please email







Highlights of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

Ant Baber led the fourth Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride, taking a new route across the Waterberg Plateau from Ant’s Nest to Jembisa on the Palala River to the north, covering 187kms on horseback over six days and crossing seven different game reserves.

Team members from the UK and Bermuda had been busy raising sponsorship, 50% of funds going to Save The Waterberg Rhino and 50% to community projects that uplift the people and place of the Waterberg in the Limpopo Province of South Africa

White rhino on Ant's Nest

While we had excellent game viewing, we also enjoyed very good food.

Meals were served in a variety of different settings, enabling the team to get to know each other and have time to chat to guides and directors of the game reserve. It was a true safari, in that we went on a journey through the African bush.

Coming across wild animals made our spirits soar.

We were able to get unusually close both on foot and on horseback.

What the animals thought can only be guessed.

But the riders wrote to say how amazing it was. ‘I think you have a winning formula as the riding is wonderful but all the extra experiences such as the school, youth club, church and visiting Clive Walker, enriched it and made it a truly unique experience and insight into the Waterberg.’

On the second day we had a real life adventure, helping the local vet.

‘It was a truly memorable adventure’

The horses were used to approaching wildlife as they graze with other animals in the bush.

It was high summer in South Africa so the afternoons could get hot and tiring

and the road was sometimes steep

but each day was full of variety

and we developed a huge sense of camaraderie.

‘…it was just pure fun and I felt so carefree’

We each had time to develop a relationship with our horse.

While the herd enjoyed the grazing we loved finding out about the projects supported by The Waterberg Trust.

It was a privilege to meet the local people.

These included exceptional women changing the lives of children.

‘Apart from the riding, we so enjoyed seeing all that The Waterberg Trust supports. There are some incredible people involved.’

We met the conservationist Clive Walker and learned of  what he had achieved for the UNESCO Biosphere and good to hear his new plans for the Waterberg Living Museum.

It was a privilege to be able to watch wild animals from horseback.

The landscape was ever-changing.

After five days in the saddle we reached the Palala River without mishap and thanks to the teams at Ant’s Nest and Jembisa, we were able celebrated the finish in style.

‘It really was a very special trip and a challenge at that.’

Special thanks go to Ant Baber and his family for looking after us and enabling us to ride across the land of their forefathers and beyond.

It was ‘a really amazing experience’.

The horses needed a good rest and the riders were tired but everyone agreed that it had been an incredible week of exploration.

Nurse Grace at work in the schools of Vaalwater: Part 2

Nursing Sister Grace Ismail has sent us more photographs of her work in the secondary schools of Vaalwater in the Limpopo Province of South Africa:

~Examination couch with linen covers~

‘We received a donation of examination couch which is helping a lot when learners are feeling unwell and can rest before the family takes them to the clinic.

~Grade 8 pupil with chronic illness under diet supervision~

‘We received disposable sanitary pads and bras, which were distributed to leaners of Meetsetshehla and Leseding Secondary Schools. This helped our girl learners a lot and gave them opportunity of attending classes without any worry of menstrual challenges.’

~Girls who received donated sanitary pads~

‘Health education was conducted to all grade 8 learners about hygiene and communicable diseases. These are learners from both Meetsetshehla and Leseding Secondary Schools.’ It was a form of welcome, educating them on the importance of hygiene and prevention of infections in schools. ‘The team from the local government clinic who are involved in youth and gender based programs (Love Life) were also present during the sessions as motivational speakers.’

~Learners participating during class health talk~


  • ‘To reinforce early childhood development from primary school level and ensure the children are well-informed with various issues that will help them to cope in Secondary School.’
  • ‘Meetings with stakeholders will continue as they also contribute to support our learners i.e. The Social Development, Local Government Clinic, Social workers, Police and the Community at large.’
  • ‘To continue supporting girl learners with menstrual issues whenever we receive any donation of sanitary pads in order to keep them in school when menstruating.’
  • ‘To ensure that all the learners with HIV are taking their treatment and adhering to the appointment as scheduled from the clinic.’

~Transformed learner witnessing to students~

  • ‘To have our own library at the school where learners can utilize for study and do their homework. The library in our township is very small that learners are unable to fit in to search for relevant study information on internet and books because of congestion.’

~Women who prepare meals for more than 500 learners daily~

  • ‘Learners have a project called UBUNTU whereby they collect unused clothes from teachers and then donate to the needy in the community, presenting clothes to needy children’

~Donation of clothes to the needy children in the community~

Two pupils represented the school in Provincial competition held in Polokwane City. One boy came 1st in the high jump.~Two who excelled in athletics~

Sister Grace says, ‘I still have more work to do with primary schools next term.’

If you would like to make a donation to support Sister Grace in her work, please click here

Nurse Grace’s work at schools in the Waterberg

The Waterberg Trust instigated the role of School Nurse to minister to the young people and children of Vaalwater in the Waterberg, South Africa.

Exam on new bed

-A pupil with Sister Grace, using an examination couch donated by Dr Albert Poitier-

Nursing Sister Grace Ismail is the first school nurse assigned to state schools in the Limpopo Province. She is based at Meetsetshehla Secondary School in Vaalwater where she is in the ideal position to help the emerging generation face the HIV/Aids pandemic and cope with problems such as drug and alcohol abuse in the township of Leseding.

Tree Planting (2)

-Tree-planting with students-

500 learners were reached in class this term and offered different healthy topics ranging from hygiene, infection control in schools and HIV/TB prevention.’


Life Orientation Teacher at Leseding HighSchool

-Sister Grace working with the Life Orientation Teacher at Leseding Secondary School- 

Sister Grace has also been working with Life Orientation teachers and Community Workers at the schools, getting pupils keen on growing vegetables and planting trees. This encourages everyone to look to the future and care for their environment.

Working in the garden

-Growing fresh vegetables-

Some learners have psychological trauma and can’t concentrate in class due to dysfunctional families and lack of support.‘ Others have nutritional needs. 

Life Orientation - Working in the garden

Nurse Grace initiated a re-cycling project to generate funds to provide learners with sanitary products so they do not miss school. She gives counselling and careers guidance as well as providing First Aid.

While Dr Peter Farrant of the Northern Education Trust oversees the nursing work, The Waterberg Trust provide this NGO with a grant to pay for Sister Graces salary.

-Sister Grace with the Community Workers programme-

If you could make a donation or monthly contribution to support the school nurse’s life-changing work, please click here for details on TWT’s Donate Page.

Examination on new bed-Sister Grace at work in schools in the Waterberg, Limpopo Province, South Africa-

Day 7 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

TWT Ride 2018 weaver nests

We woke to the sound of birdsong and were soon up and off, walking to a site of historic interest that cannot be reached on horseback.

TWT Ride Day 7 walking off to Bushmen paintings

Being on foot gave members of the team a chance to study the insect life:

TWT Ride 2018 Day 5 locusts in aloe

Some opted to reach the spot in the Landcruiser

which proved good for warthog-viewing.

The aim of the morning was to climb down the escarpment a little way

to find ancient bushmen paintings, preserved from weathering by overhanging rocks.

We learned about the original inhabitants of the Waterberg who called themselves the people of the eland, hunting with bows tipped with flint arrowheads.

After a quick brunch we drove into Vaalwater to visit Lethabo Kids Club in the township of Leseding.

TWT Ride 2018 Little boy at Lethabo Kids Club

A portion of the money raised by the riders went to  help this outreach that supports little children in the community.

Lethabo Kids Club run a ‘Back to School’ project whereby families battling to kit out their children for school can apply for one item of uniform.

Most of them chose school shoes. These are fitted properly at a local shop who are able to give a discount as up to 160 children were brought along this year.

Riders were thanked and entertained with songs and dancing as more children arrived.

Some of the performances were excellent.

The riders also met Sister Grace who has begun working as a school nurse in Vaalwater.

The Waterberg Trust provide her salary and she has an office at Meetsetshesetla Secondary School. She gave a talk explaining all her job involves, including HIV/Aids prevention and awareness.

We then visited Kamatsogo, a community based sewing project, that has a workshop and craft shop in Vaalwater selling fine embroidery and beaded crafts.

It was great to learn about this  not-for-profit enterprise involving local women.

While some riders returned to Johannesburg airport to catch their flight home, others were able to stay on for a last game drive and evening of celebration under the stars.

The Waterberg Trust would like to extend a big thank you to all the riders and their supporters for raising funds and awareness to uplift the people and place of the Waterberg.