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

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