Project Playground (PPG), in collaboration with Abalimi Bezekhaya and ACTIVATE! Leadership held a fun and informative vegetable planting volunteer day for young members of the PPG organization, as well as the community members. The event took place at the PPG Gugulethu branch, NY5 in Gugulethu on Saturday, July 18, 2015, nationally recognized as Nelson Mandela Day.
This green event was organized and spearheaded by Activator Phila Nkuzo, who is a center manager at the PPG Gugulethu branch. The project, besides serving the purpose of fulfilling Tata Madiba’s dream of a charitable society, was also part of Phila’s volunteer day home task as per the ACTIVATE! Module 1 training requirements. Phila worked with other Activators who are part of her intake, which include Linda Mbuthini, Marguerite van Nierek, Nathan Laubscher as well as the ACTIVATE! Operations Manager, Althea Farmer and 2014 Activator Connar Louw.
Phila incorporated the gardening skill into the purpose of project playground holistically, which is to create a fun and vibrant space for kids to play. When asked why gardening specifically, Phila explained that it was to share her passion for nature with the kids. “I realized there is apathy and stigma attached to gardening. People think it is an activity for old people who have nothing else to do. I wanted to change that by working with the group of kids that I work with here, and teach them at this tender age how to take care of something fragile and vulnerable. That way they will grow in it and understand the value of taking good care of life. They will also look after the vegetables they are planting, so they will get to experience the birth of something they started. It will be fulfilling and encouraging to them”. She further stated that the vegetables that were being planted will be used to serve members of the PPG organization, which are mainly children and youth between the ages of four to 18 years of age.
The programme for the day included a fun and colourful session of spray-painting the bags in which the planting was to take place. “We are renting this space from the church, so we do not have land, so Abalimi Basekhaya assisted us with setting up for gardening, such as getting bags, tires and soil to still be able to do our gardening. They then held a workshop for us to learn more about gardening”, said Nkuzo. The spray painting session was facilitate by Mpumi, who is an art director at the PPG center, and the planting session was facilitated by both Phila and Sis’Zoleka, who is the under-eight facilitator. Phila also gave a presentation enlightening the audience about PPG and the vegetable planting project they were working on. The children were excited and keen to gain the experience. The vegetables that were planted are: cabbages, lettuce, broccoli, spring onion and cauliflower.
Over 35 community members, children and adults, took part in this event and had amazing things to say about the experience. Viwe Mashalaba, who is a Peer Educator at the HIV/AIDS Unit, said “If honouring Tata means planting a seed for the future, then I would do it for the rest of my life. This is what he would have wanted. To see something that has a future being planted by people with a future. It’s amazing!” Eleven-year-old Sibahle said that she will take whatever she learnt at the event and apply it at home because she wants to eat her own food.
Phila Nkuzo is a passionate Activator who feels strongly about early childhood development and is a die-hard nature lover. “I love to be and to see people interacting with nature in whatever way,” she said. She also supports causes such as mental health and arts therapy, as she believes in fun activities as “spiritual” healing factors.
Phila said her message of encouragement goes to children at a very early age and their parents. She encourages them to be passionate and love the environment, and not feel like they are being forced to love their planet. PPG shows them a video on environmental awareness and the long-term goal of the organization is to start a swap shop, where community members will trade recyclable items such as can, plastics, etc. for money. “That way they will realize the value of recycling”, said Nkuzo.
Phila also encourages youth around Gugulethu to volunteer and be part of Project Playground. They will assist with facilitating the various activities for children at the center.