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A vision of a sustainable South Africa
12 January 2010
by Halima Chande, UNV Programme Officer, Johannesburg

Limpopo Province, South Africa:
"We worked hard," said Halima Chande, one of the organizers. "But with work, songs, drama, local dances and a good lunch with drinks, it was not viewed as a social function by the young generation. I was so moved that after establishing almost one acre of orchard, these young people did not feel tired. One of them came to me and gave me her hand and said 'thank you for the party', promising to always be a volunteer and to keep the environment clean."

A coalition of Volunteer Serving Agencies (VSA) was formed for the purpose of organizing IVD and networking on volunteerism for peace and development in the future. The coalition is comprised of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), Japanese International Cooperation Organisation (JICA-JOVC), German Development Agency (DED), United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and a local NGO known as National Youth Development Outreach.

'Volunteering for our planet to preserve sustainable environment and a positive healthy life style' was the selected theme for the 2009 IVD. For us in South Africa and Africa in general, we must work together to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases whilst not compromising the need to fast-track the much-needed economic growth and human development.

We also have to work together in dealing with disasters related with climate change and sharing experiences on how to deal with them. South Africa is already developing a national policy and building capacity in various spheres of government in order to address the challenges of climate change.

The VSA chose an activity that complemented the efforts of the global movement initiated to campaign on climate change.  The activity was aimed at promoting climate change mitigation through establishment of carbon sinks and creation of awareness for the young generation and communities on factors leading to climate change and how to address them.

The Department of Basic Education and the Primary School Food and Nutrition project in Limpopo Province collaborated with VSA as the host of the celebrations.  Rakgoadi Primary School, in the Ga-Matlala community, Sekhukhune District, Marble Hall municipality was chosen as a venue for the event. The chief of Ga-Matlala gave his blessings.

The school and the community volunteered to prepare holes for planting trees. Project officers supervised and facilitated the procurement of seedlings, tools and furnishing of the venue. The VSA supported the process of procurement of seedlings and other items as well as working with all stakeholders to ensure the smooth running of the IVD.

Everyone was free to participate in the IVD celebration. The event was honoured by the participation of the Acting Mayor of the Marble Hall municipality, representative of the Head of Department (HoD) of Education, the Councillors of the Marble Hall municipality, Director of Education at the Marble Hall municipality and Project officers for the Nutrition Project.
Other participants included: the residents of Ga-Matlala community; all the teachers and pupils of Rakgoadi Primary School; teachers and students from 12 other schools in Sekhukhune District; local and international volunteers serving in South Africa from all the VSA; and youths from the National Youth Development Outreach in Pretoria, Alexandra in Johannesburg Drama. Local school dance groups entertained the guests and advocated on climate change and HIV/AIDS.

The VSA agreed to carry out two main activities for commemoration of IVD. These encompassed planting of fruit trees in the school compound to establish an orchard and to raise more awareness on HIV/AIDS through drama. The main activities were superseded by presentations from the VSA, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Marble Hall Municipality and the Limpopo Department of Education.

The Director of Education in Sekhukhune District, Marble Hall municipality, was the master of ceremonies.  She showed her appreciation of the event being held in the district. It was an eye opener and a day for learning about the power of volunteerism.  She welcomed Ms Caroline Opinde, a volunteer to enlighten the audience on IVD celebration and the mandate of volunteers.

The audience was informed that volunteering is about providing services to others in the spirit of 'botho' and helping each other in good and difficult situations, as always done in the community. It is also about participating in networks of social activism around a cause. It values free will, commitment, engagement and solidarity.

The audience was further cautioned that though 'volunteerism” as a concept had existed amongst the communities over several decades; there is still a need to take new action to address global challenges, which affect human lives negatively.  

The main challenges are climate change and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Climate change results into manifestations such as drought, floods and diseases.  These culminate into hunger and extreme poverty as well as loss of lives. All these cannot be ignored.

VSA thanked the Ga-Matlala community by leading the way to achieving sustainable development by volunteering for our planet.

Ms. Halima Chande, the UNV Programme Officer in South Africa, represented UNDP to enlighten the audience on effect of climate change on environment and welfare of the people.

Ms. Regina Mothata was pleased to be associated with the activities marking the annual commemoration of IVD. She said that people should embrace the spirit of volunteerism as it is done by VSA.  She pointed out that recently at schools with feeding programmes, ladies from the surrounding communities volunteer to cook for the learners. These ladies work under the spirit of volunteerism just like the VSA.  She elaborated on the role played by Home Base Care workers who are also working as volunteers.

This commemoration reminded South Africans of the responsibility that they have towards, not only to one another but also to the environment.

She wanted the audience to think of volunteering as giving up their time for the benefit of other people with the sole motive of uplifting their lives.  She then thanked International Volunteers serving in South Africa and declared to be a volunteer and urged the audience to do the same

Councillor Seoka introduced the Acting Mayor Hon. Mohlamonyane. The Acting Mayor remarked on the challenges the communities are experiencing and urged the people to take part in volunteerism to tackle the challenges they experience in the communities.

Prior to planting of tree garden equipment were donated to the school by VSA/UNDP. Six thousand seedlings for various vegetables were also donated.  All the participants including the guest of honour Hon. Mohlamonyane moved to the area where the tree planting activity was to take place within the school compound.

Here the community had prepared 100 stakes for planting fruit trees. The consensus from the committee was to plant 10 indigenous trees and 250 fruit trees.   The participating school were to be provided with five seedlings to plant in their schools surrounding after this activity.

The Acting Mayor, Mr. Mohlamonyane and the representative of the Head of the Department of Education Ms. R.M Mothata planted the first tree and then all the other leaders, Volunteers and the Community followed suit. The tree planting activity was carried out by all the participants joyously and efficiently.  Watering of the trees was also done.  

The participants were entertained by theatre arts and traditional dancing groups. The drama groups were from NYDO and Alexandra while the traditional dance was displayed by the school pupils from Rakgoadi Primary school. One educator recited a poem to inspire youths on achieving a better life. The main theme was on tree planting for a better environment and on HIV/AIDS prevention.

The Alexander group demonstrated that there is a need to voluntarily test for HIV/AIDS and stay clear from the factors that could cause infection. Youths were inspired to have confidence in themselves and aspire to build their carriers. This entailed reading hard to pass matriculation exams and going to college.
The audience were moved by the presentations.

The pupils stressed the need to work and safeguard the environment while performing the local dance. Also the danger of AIDS killing the whole generation was a point brought forward for great attention.

At the end a representative for Kgosi thanked all the people that were present for their support and participation in this memorable function.

In general we the VSA were happy with the event and we have a task ahead of us to monitor the progress of the initiative and promote further community volunteerism for development.  Our vision is to see a South Africa with sustainable environment. It will also be important to engage with stakeholders that were involved in the IVD to take forward the positive spin-offs of the event.