Tag Archives: Africa

Nurse Grace has been making preparations as schools open in the Waterberg

Nurse Grace profile picture in TWT uniform 2020~School nurse, Sister Grace Ismail~

Schools in South Africa re-opened today, bringing a number of challenges in the light of Covid-19.

Nurse Grace has written to say, “I have been busy preparing schools, to ensure classrooms are cleaned and sanitised, also to plan the screening area for learners.” Masks are obligatory for all – by law.

Ever since schools in South Africa closed in March due to shielding, Sister Grace has been helping pupils with their studies at home. “I am attending to issues and challenges presented by learners. I have been in contact with the social development services to seek help for problems in the community.”

Sister Grace helping learners with studies through Lockdown

-Home schooling in the Waterberg –

Thanks to over fifty kind donors in the UK, who responded to The Waterberg Trust Covid-19 emergency appeal, Grace has been co-coordinating the procurement and distribution of food parcels to the needy, working with volunteers from St John’s Church ‘Acts of Mercy’ initiative. You can read more about this here.

Nurse Grace buying groceries for food parcels

-Nurse Grace purchasing groceries for food parcel donation- 

Grace writes: “The next purchase will second week of June.” If you would like to help with the purchase of food parcels by making a donation, however small, please click here for The Waterberg Trust’s Justgiving site or here to send a cheque.

Winter is on its way, with clear sunny days but temperatures dropping radically at night. “I have been handling clothes to the community which are donated by Horizon and Bulls Eye”. She has also been distributing knitted blankets. “My targets are school children and vulnerable elderly.”

Grace has now returned to work in the schools of the Waterberg, including Meetsetshehla Secondary School, where she is based. If you would like to read more about her work, please click here.

Nurse Grace at Meetsetshehla School in TWT uniform

The Environment Club

Nurse Grace Ismail and life skills teacher Ivy Rachele have  formed an Environment Club made up of 45 pupils who have been involved in establishing a school vegetable garden.  Since tilling the soil, thirty children from Meetsetshehla Secondary School and fifteen who attend Leseding High School have been going on amazing visits to local game reserves to observe wild animals in their natural habitat.

~School Nurse Grace Ismail with members of the Environment Club leaving Vaalwater for a day-visit to Marakele National Park~ 

South African National Parks have started a ‘Kids in Parks’ initiative aimed at primary schools. Nurse Grace says, they “teach children about wildlife, nature conservation and cultural heritage so that when they reach high school they will be able to understand the importance of protecting animals and preserving the environment.” Special activities make young people aware of water conservation, so critical in South Africa.

16th June 2019 was Youth Day. Some members of the Environment Club were invited to talk on Waterberg Waves community radio to educate listeners about environmental issues.  Elvis Chitanda, aged 11, who attends Vaalwater Primary School, had the opportunity to speak on air, saying, “I really hope people don’t poach animals.”

Samuel Motswi from the People and Conservation Department of Marekele National Park  in the Waterberg, delivered a number of indigenous trees that could be planted by children in school grounds.

Pupils learnt how to plant saplings, which included marula, red bushwillow, weeping boerbean and knob thorn.

~Planting indigenous trees in the grounds of Mokolo and Mahlasedi Primary Schools, Meesetshehla and Leseding secondary Schools and two creches in Vaalwater ~

The Environment Club has also partnered with Morji Kitsi, who visits schools and takes groups to Welgevonden Game Reserve and the Living Museum, which is also supported by The Waterberg Trust.

TWT pupils going to Welgrovenden

They learn about eco-systems while driving through the bush, viewing game.

The Waterberg Biosphere recently sponsored members of the club to attend a one day course at Lapalala Wilderness School when they were able to handle a python.

~Members of the Environment Club on a day visit to Lapalala Wilderness School~

Club members and other students are engaged in collecting litter and talking to people about waste, encouraging them to recycle.

The Environment Club talking to people about recycling

It is a great project for the youth and has been successful in Vaalwater where there is an agent in town who receives the materials and sends them on in bulk.

It works particularly well as people need the money earned from recycling tins, paper and glass, which would otherwise languish in the bush.

Members communicate via a Whatsapp group, giving dates for meetings or environmental activities.

Nurse Grace also gives students the opportunity to meet those engaged in traditional crafts such as making brooms out of grass cut from roadside verges.

Meanwhile the school vegetable garden sponsored by EIMS is producing a fine harvest of nutritious greens, including spinach, French beans and beetroot.

To read more about the gift of a school vegetable garden please click here.

Sales of produce are being saved to buy more seedlings. Some of the vegetables have been used by students studying hotel and catering management at Meetsetshehla School.

If you would like advice or are able to help with the Environment Club please contact TWT

donate_white Justgiving button

TWT sponsors another residential course at Lapalala Wilderness School

This year, The Waterberg Trust enabled 59 students and two teachers from Meetsetshehla Secondary School in Vaalwater to attend a week’s residential course at Lapalala Wilderness School in the Limpopo Province of South Africa about 3 hours due north of Pretoria.

The group travelled north into the Africa bush on a bus also funded by TWT so that no one was excluded by the cost of transport.

Since other pupils from Meetsetshehla had been on the environmental course on previous years, everyone was expectant, eager to grasp the opportunity to learn about ecology and nature conservation.

After a course on snakes and the value of all creatures in balanced eco-systems there was a module on plastic pollution and re-cycling.  Everyone learned how they can make a difference and improve the environment, allowing wildlife to thrive.

Students donned life-jackets to examine aquatic organisms and try swimming in the Palala River, which runs in front of the eco-school.

This was a new experience for most and proved an opportunity to learn about physics.

Teamwork proved essential when constructing a raft and negotiating the river.

Leadership training has always been recognised as an important life-skill at Lapalala Wilderness. It will be interesting to see if any of these young people take up a career in wildlife conservation or management of natural resources.

Learners were set a number of different challenges during the course of the week.

There were a range of outdoor activities that tested pupils in a variety of ways.

The obstacle course in the African bush was enjoyed by one and all

including the teachers accompanying the teenagers who found themselves wearing many hats.

It proved an unforgettable, life-changing experience. To read more about previous visits to Laplala Wilderness School, funded by TWT and watch a short film, please click here.

If you would like to sponsor children of the Waterberg to go on a 5 day residential course at Lapalala Wilderness, please contact us using the comments blow or find details here.

The gift of a vegetable garden

The environmental consulting company Environmental Impact Management Services (EIMS), based in Gauteng, has made the astonishing gift of a vegetable garden to aid sister Grace in her work teaching life orientation skills at Meetsetshehla Secondary School at Vaalwater in the Waterberg.

Andrew Smith and his team of twenty environmental scientists wanted to contribute to the work of The Waterberg Trust by making a gift of their know-how before spending a weekend in the African bush.

We never guessed that they would arrive with 33 bags of compost.

The staff and pupils gratefully accepted trays of lettuce, spinach, beetroot and onion seedlings as well as a variety of much-needed seeds. ‘I was speechless,’ Nurse Grace said. It was an answer to prayer. They even brought seed markers.

EIMS also donated garden netting, watering cans, tools and ordered treated poles from a local supplier so that pupils could erect shade-netting to protect the seedlings from birds and drying out in the sun.

The team from Environmental Impact Management Services also bought a year-planner and books that provide information and advice on when to plant and how to gain optimum productivity.  Nurse Grace said, ‘We learnt a lot about keeping vegetables healthy and effective planting methods.’

School exams were in progress but the team were able to meet some of the pupils and explain how best to sustain the vegetable garden established by Nurse Grace a year ago. While Meetsstshehla has been acknowledged as a leading Green School in the Limpopo Province, nurse Grace plans to share the vision with other schools that she visits in the Waterberg.

Nurse Grace had time to discuss other plans for the community. Environmental Impact services are generously donating 95 packs of washable sanitary pads so that all the Grade 8 school girls can participate fully in school activities. A team from Dignity Dreams  in Pretoria will come to instruct both boys and girls on menstrual health when exams finish.

~Explaining to guests about our green school project~

Andrew Smith said, ‘We have been involved in developing an air quality awareness campaign for one of our clients over the last 12 months. The programme is aimed at education focused specifically on how burning practices in the homes and communities can negatively impact the air we breath. Burning of waste and the use of coal fires in the home for cooking and warmth during winter are some of the issues the campaign focuses on. We have rolled the campaign out in some primary schools as well and we’ve developed puzzles, colouring books, quizzes and drama competitions. We have asked our client whether they will allow us to use the material elsewhere and we’re waiting for their comments. This educational content might be something Nurse Grace, or other teachers, could use during some of the Life Orientation classes.’

~Showing EIMS part of the garden and how we make compost manure from waste~

Andrew Smith's donation 4

If you would like to make a donation towards the creation of a school vegetable garden in the Waterberg or towards multi-use sanitary pads for pupils please click here detailing your wishes. Sets of sanitary packs cost R220  and last for approx 48 months. We are hoping to raise enough money for all the school girls in the Waterberg to be kitted out.

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’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 in 2018.

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-

Viewing Bushmen painting and visiting Lethabo Kid’s Club on 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.

Day 6 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

TWT Ride 2018 - DAY 6 walking down to the Palala River (2).jpgAfter walking the horses down a steep track on Jembisa game reserve, we finally made it to the Palala River. It’s normally too deep to cross on a horse but the drought of 2017 resulted in unusually low water.

The rocks looked slippery but Ant Baber decided we could walk across.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 6 - Riders crossing the Palala River going north.jpg

As we made our way the Rooisloot valley we came across interesting plants such as this Transvaal gardenia.

Greater kudu enjoy eating the green seed pods and had effectively pruned the bushes.

The aim was to ride up to the wetlands at the very north of the reserve.

We had entered at the gate just south of Emily’s Camp. Today we reached Kwarriehoek near the road to Makopane, which you can see at the top right-hand corner of this map.

It was good to have reached the open grasslands after having spent six days in the saddle.

 

Mission accomplished. We could ride no further north.

A highlight of the day was lunch at a house on the game reserve which has a pool with an incredible view, looking north down the Palala River Valley towards Lapalala Wilderness where we had been the evening before.

We mounted the horses and crossed back over the Palala, which flows north into the Limpopo on the South African border with Zimbabwe.

TWT Ride DAY 6 2018 crossing the Palala River - photo Sophie Neville

Without pausing to remove our helmets, we dismounted and climbed up the steep cart track in our hot clothes. The horses were fine but it was hard on the riders.

Once we reached the plateau, it wasn’t long before we were met by the back-up team.

They had brought us champagne to celebrate the end of the challenge ride.

Everyone was tired, but happy, if a little dazed.

No one had fallen off. There had been no injuries or mis-haps. The horses were still in good condition. We had explored a new route, which had proved varied and exciting. Ant Baber decided the ride had been a success.

We’d made it!

We had come so far and seen so much. The experience had challenged and extended each one of us..

We climbed back into the saddle and had a cheer from the team from Newbury, before making our way back to the lodge.

The riders enjoyed one last exciting gallop before bidding farewell to the horses, who had all done so well. We’d covered 187 kilometres in total – 197kms if you counted the ride before the official trek began six days before.

Very many thanks to all our sponsors and donors who encouraged us on our way. The funds raised will go a long way to help Save The Waterberg Rhino increase security in the area and will support community projects run by trusted charitable organisations that uplift the emerging generation by providing education or healthcare.

If you would like to make a donation to The Waterberg Trust please click here

~TWT Trustees: Belinda Chaffer and Sophie Williams-Thomas~

60 pupils from Leseding sent to Lapalala Wilderness by The Waterberg Trust

In February 2018, The Waterberg Trust enabled 60 local teenagers from Leseding Secondary School in Vaalwater to attend a week’s residential course on environmental awareness at Lapalala Wilderness School in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

The students were given a grounding in nature conservation and experienced the beauty and importance of South African wildlife.

This python was very much alive as was the chameleon that the young people also handled.

27858732_1LWS wildlife 2

The idea was to take away fear of culturally reviled animals and teach students how to handle reptiles and creepy crawlies they might encounter. When they return to the township of Leseding, the teenagers are given a mentor who they can text if they find a snake in the house or hear of worrying wildlife issues.

Everyone enjoyed the obstacle course in the African bush and learnt how to use maps in a wilderness situation.

One day they donned PFD life-jackets to experience what it would be like to swim in the Palala River. It was a great way to cool off after a hot day in the African bush.

One exercise was to build a raft and get out on the water, which was an eye-opener for many. Mr Mashudu Makhokha, Director of Lapalala Wilderness School said, ‘Raft building is one of the activities that enhance teamwork, problem-solving and communication skills.’

The pupils also studied wildlife in the river system and learnt more about water. They  learnt to identify various kinds of aquatic animals – and the basics of how to use SASS (South African Scoring System) – which uses the presence/absence of a variety of freshwater macroinvertebrates to gauge the health of riverine ecosystem.’

Co-operation, team-building and leadership training were important parts of the course. ‘Students discovered that good teamwork is essential.’

However, recycling, eco-systems, the environment and the significance of South African wildlife was at the core of this inspirational week that ties in with the school curriculum and gives the teenagers a grounding for life.

You can see the students here on an interpretive hike that gave them an opportunity to learn basic ecology and gain a changed attitude towards biodiversity.

Could you help raise funds to enable more local children to go on this residential course? It only costs R380 per person a day (about £24) so is exceptionally good value. All food and dormitory accommodation is included. The Waterberg Trust like to provide the cost of transport from the township of Leseding, to ensure that no one is excluded for economic reasons.

Thanks go to those who took part in The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017, who raised enough money for these 60 pupils and two of their teachers to enjoy this life-changing opportunity. Hopefully some of these young people will consider a career in nature conservation, tourism or teaching in the Waterberg.

Trustees of The Waterberg Trust took TWT Riders to Lapalala Wilderness School in January, when they enjoyed meeting the staff and learning about new projects.

TWT Riders 2018 learing about community projects in the Waterberg

You can read more about Lapalala Wilderness School here and watch this video made for their 30th Anniversary. It’s fun:

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:  Lapalala Wilderness School is immensely grateful for the assistance that The Waterberg  Trust has given. This support has enabled 60 children and two adults to attend an environmental education course in 2018. We hope that with ongoing support from TWT, we can continue to bring young people to LWS and awaken in them a love for the environment and a commitment to conserving it.

Day 5 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

We rose early and saddled up the horses for a day full of promise.

Ant Baber, who had planned the route, was keen to cross Lindani game reserve and reach Jembisa to the north that morning. We had a long way to go.

The riders set off from Motseng Lodge where we’d spent a comfortable night.

We crossed the Melkrivier, a tributary of the Palala River, avoiding the footbridge.

TWT Ride 2018 crossing a stream on Lindani - photo Sophie Neville.jpg

It was a good chance to water the horses.

From here, we made our way up a steep, jungly kloof chocked with dense vegetation.

It is in these valleys that you find the most ancient trees that thrive in relatively sheltered conditions where they have access to water.

Being on an intercontinental convergence zone, the Waterberg is home to over 350 different species of tree from baobabs to wild fig – a greater variety than the whole of western Europe.

We suddenly found ourselves at the top of the hill where the vegetation opened out.

Wild proteas, the national flower of South Africa, were growing here.

TWT Ride 2017 wild proteas.jpg

We climbed higher still, taking a track that gave us occasional views across the Waterberg.

This unique unspoilt wilderness area  has been declared a UNESCO world biosphere.

On reaching the top of the Buffelshoek escarpment we dis-mounted

and lead the horses, on our quest to reach the very north of the game reserve.

TWT Ride 2018 dismounting to tackle a steep hill - photo Sophie Neville.jpg

We walked some way down the steep trail.

It was good to stretch but quite hard work as temperatures had risen.

TWT Ride 2018 walking down a steep section.jpg

After a while, we were able to look back at the impressive escarpment, looking for vulture roosts in the rocky outcrops.

A sandy path led to the north gate of the reserve and out onto the road.

We were able to canter up this track to reach the southern gate of Jembisa,

a 3000 hectare private game where the manager was waiting to let us in.

We were soon able to water the horses and rode through the bush, looking out for wildlife such as zebra, wildebeest, warthog, oryx and impala who had young at foot.

After about five kilometres, we took the chance for another exhilarating canter down an old air strip.

After untacking the horses, rubbing them down and making sure they had plenty of hay and water,

we made it to the lodge in time for a late lunch, which was served under the trees.

It was difficult to leave Jembisa,

especially since they have a wonderfully refreshing pool

but we climbed into two game drive vehicles and were taken to the neighbouring reserve.

We had come to find out about the Lapalala Wilderness School, established in 1985

Funds raised by The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride are being used to enable sixty local teenagers and their teachers to attend a week-long residential course on nature conservation here. You can see photos of the last group sponsored on Facebook here.

For local children, this course costs 375 Rand each per night, fully catered, which is exceptionally good value for a life-changing experience. TWT also fun transport from the township of Leseding.

After meeting the director and learning how the school raises environmental awareness,

riders came face to face with one of the teaching aids – an impressive Burmese python.

Rescued from a life spent in restrictive captivity this beautiful snake is used to show local children how important it is to treasure the wildlife of South Africa and that all animals have a role in the eco-system. To find out more about Lapalala Wilderness please click here.

TWT Ride 2018 Viv Thomas handling a Burmese python.jpg

You can find out about Jembisa, who kindly sponsored the ride by letting riders cross across the reserve and stay for the next two nights in great comfort by clicking here

or watch their marketing video here: