The Healing Power of Nature: The Spirit of the Mountain – Episode 9

Produced & Directed: Liz Fish. TX Date: 1 October 2006 at 18h30, SABC3.  24mins.

This lyrical film tells of how at the age of 12 Lindela is taken to Cape Town where he struggles to adapt to township life and the stress of living in a crime-ridden squatter camp, a life tougher than anything encountered in the Eastern Cape. He finds himself in a world where his peers find it hard to stay out of the shebeens, and where, in his words “rape is a common act, robbery is becoming a hobby, drinking and doing drugs is like eating on a Sunday meal”

Time out to think about the future

Merit award, Environmental best practice in not-for-profit organisations: Beyond Expectations Environmental Project. Mail & Guardian Online.

The beauty of nature can have a calming effect, allowing the observer to sit, reflect and soak up the wonders of the planet. This is why Lindela Mjenxane, founder of Beyond Expectations, says a trip up Table Mountain in Cape Town is just what the doctor ordered for township learners who have to come to grips with the social ills they face in their daily lives. In 2005 Mjenxane launched the Beyond Expectations environmental project through which, using his own funds, he takes small groups of Cape Town’s township learners on a two-day trip up the mountain.

Fast forward to 2007 and Beyond Expectations has been recognised with a merit award for environmental best practice in community-based organisations by the Mail & Guardian’s Greening the Future Awards. The judges singled out the project’s reach into the community and its enthusiasm as being most impressive. “This project needs to be encouraged and the personalities involved in it rewarded,” said the judges. Mjenxane said he uses the beautiful natural surroundings to spark conversations about the importance of water, conservation and looking after the township environments in which the learners live.

“They learn important lessons from nature,” he said.

The reaction to the project has been great, with many learners taking the opportunity to discuss issues in their lives and learning to resolve the problems they face, while at the same time learning a bit about the natural world that surrounds them, he said. “The learners always want to stay a bit longer on the mountain,” said Mjenxane. “The beautiful surroundings allow them some quiet time to think about the issues they face in their lives and the importance of conservation.”

The enthusiastic project leader said a recent participant, Angie, who was about to complete her schooling when she lost her mother, was so grief-stricken that she could not imagine her future. The trip gave her time to think about her future and to deal with her mother’s death, which Mjenxane said was very positive. The project doesn’t stop with the trip up the mountain. Once back at school, learners are encouraged to get involved in environmental and social projects with their classmates.

Mjenxane said the learners embrace these opportunities, often roping in classmates who were not privileged enough to go up the mountain. “Things have got a lot better now that we have received funding from the Rainbow Dream Trust, which assists the project with the R6, 000 required to make two mountain visits a month,” he said.

In Mail & Guardian Online

Helping children and the environment

Lesley Byram. Cape Times.

Khanyiswa Zangqa is a surprising young woman.  At an age when her peers are out partying or shopping, this 20-year-old from Philppi is channelling her energy into educating her peers on a variety of environmental and social issues — using Table Mountain as a tool….

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We honour our Woman of Worth

Winners ‘worthy successors to early firhters for human rights.’ Cape Times.

…These women are worthy successors to the women who marched 51 years ago, to the Union Building in Pretoria to protest against the pass laws and whose courage and determination we honour  on National Woman’s Day….

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Real People doing Unreal Things: Natural benefactor

Financial Mail.

Though Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most famous landmark, a large percentage of the city’s population, living in the shanty towns and townships around the city, have never been up it. Lindela Mjenxane is trying to change that. He’s the founder of the Beyond Expectation Environmental Project (Beep), an organisation he established to improve environmental awareness among township youth. “It’s difficult to expect disadvantaged children to be concerned about their environment, conserve water and pick up litter if they’ve never experienced nature,” says Mjenxane.

Having grown up herding goats in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape, Mjenxane moved to Cape Town where he trained as a tour guide, taking mostly foreign visitors up Table Mountain. This gave him the idea of taking needy children to the world heritage site. He resigned as a tour guide, borrowed R50 000 and used his savings to set up Beep in 2005. Since then, he has taken 1 400 children on overnight camps on the mountain. “This year we hope to take another 1 100 schoolchildren,” he says. “We’re now running camps every weekend.”

Beep provides school groups with transport, water bottles, ponchos, food and accommodation at the top of Table Mountain.

“We generally take children aged 10-15 as this is when they are forming their social identities and we can play a role in helping them choose a positive path in life,” he says.

“While the camps teach children about the environment, they also provide a space for self-reflection – something they often don’t have at home.” A growing body of research suggests that natural settings can provide tangible health benefits and play an important role in deterring crime. “Children are less overwhelmed by their problems when they have access to green spaces,” he says. “Scenic surrounds also have a positive influence by reducing aggression and violence in teens.” By encouraging children to conserve natural resources and take pride in their environment, they’re less likely commit crimes later on.

“It’s a valuable tool in teaching children to respect public property,” he says.

Mjenxane also recently launched a bursary scheme with the R140 000 he won in the environmental category of the Johnnie Walker Celebrating Strides awards. The fund will assist township learners to study for environmental degrees. “We want to make environmental careers an option for all youngsters,” says Mjenxane, whose main financial backer to date has been a Cape-based law firm. He is hoping to attract corporate funding to reach more children. Mjenxane has also started to set up food gardens at the schools he works with in an effort to encourage more green spaces in informal settlements – an extension of his environmental awareness project.

By Jacqui Pile

Community builders rewarded

City Vision.

Once again, the organisations that do their best to make the lives of other people better in their communities, were recognized for their effort. The fifth Jet Community Regional Awards event was held in Langa, on Thursday where five stunning communit based organisations from the Western and Eastern Cape got away with R15 000 in prize money and qualified for the final event where six overall winners receive R75 000 each and also R1 000 in Jet shopping vouchers….

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300 Young South Africans: Environment

Lindela Mjenxane, environmental educator. Mail & Guardian Online, 12 June 2009.

Lindela Mjenxane is the founder of the Beyond Expectations Environmental Project, a grassroots undertaking to help township youths connect with the environment. Mjenxane, who left his childhood home near Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape for Phillipi in Cape Town, understands the “disconnectedness” young people growing up in townships can feel.
On a two-day mountain trip, Mjenxane points out plants and animals, coaxes learners into speaking about the difficulties they face back home and encourages them to “look beyond the challenges” they face. “Many of them are trapped in an environment dominated by poverty. We afford them an opportunity to reflect on their lives,” he says.
When the children return to their communities, they take with them lessons on water and environmental conservation, and are encouraged to start food gardens and environmental clubs.
Mjenxane has won a number of awards for his philanthropic and environmental work, including a Premier’s Award for Service Excellence. — Faranaaz Parker

View entire article in the Mail & Guardian Online

200 Young South Africans: Environment

Khanyiswa Zangqa featured in Mail & Guardian June, 2011

“At 24 Zangqa is chairperson and communication manager of Beyond Expectation Environmental Project, an NGO that encourages a healthy respect for nature through exposure to it. It is her job, and her passion, to take primary-school children out of their township environment and into nature, using a two-day camp on Table Mountain to teach them about the natural world.”

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