How to Spread it – Lindela Mjenxane: Taking boys to the mountains (to heal)

2014-08-31 15:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Lindela Mjenxane grew up herding his grandmother’s goats and roaming the hills of the Eastern Cape. It was here, near the small town of Mount Frere between Kokstad and Mthatha, that his love for nature was born.

Mjenxane was raised by his maternal grandmother because his mother lived in Joburg. His father, a pianist who moved in the same circles as the late Brenda Fassie, didn’t feature in his life.

Today, somewhat ironically, Mjen-xane (32) has become something of a patriarch to hundreds of youngsters living in townships around Cape Town.

“I tend to be hard on them. I am a father figure who’s not easy to please. I believe I have to push these children to nurture their talent and potential,” he says from behind his laptop?(he is always working).

Mjenxane is the founder of the Beyond Expectation Environmental Project (Beep), which helps pupils in townships overcome the challenges of their physical and social surroundings by connecting with nature.

For example, Beep organises a ­two-day trek up Table Mountain, establishes food gardens at schools and provides education about water conservation and the evils of littering.

Mjenxane is unmarried and doesn’t have children of his own yet. “I want to learn from the mistakes of my parents, but I do want to have a solid family one day,” he says.

He doesn’t hold any grudges against his father who “didn’t give a damn”. He cites his grandmother as his ­mentor and inspiration, the person who instilled in him the strong family values he prizes today.

Mjenxane moved from the rural livestock-rich paradise of his formative years to the corrugated confines of Cape Town’s Philippi with his mother when he was 12.

“We moved into a shack. It was tough, very cluttered and cramped compared with what I’d been used to.”

He attended Simon’s Town High School, getting up at 4am to catch a train to Cape Town, then the Southern Line through Woodstock, Rondebosch and Muizenberg, and along the coast to Simon’s Town. It was a tough time.

“My mum could just afford my train ticket. When I called my dad, he put the phone down in my ear.”

But Mjenxane matriculated with accounting, business studies, geography, maritime studies, English and isiXhosa; and with it, the prospect of a bright future.

He visited the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in the foothills of Table Mountain for the first time in 2000. He had passed the garden so often on the train.

“I was in awe of the surroundings; it was profound. I mean, from the townships we see the mountain, but it’s hard to believe there are so many walkways up there,” he says.

SA National Parks noted his passion and offered him a job as a tour guide, which he did for four years. “I jumped for joy, it was such a great opportunity.”

But it wasn’t enough because he longed to marry his passion for the environment with a social conscience, particularly with regard to the young people of Cape Town’s shack lands.

He started Beep, a nonprofit organisation, in 2005. Among the accolades, he won the Western Cape premier’s Youth Award in 2006, was named the provincial community builder of the year (Western Cape) in 2007 and in that year, won the Inyathelo Award for youth in philanthropy.

Beep works with 10 schools, hosting two ­workshops every day. It employs five people, three of whom rose through the organisation’s ranks. The mountain treks pass through places such as ­Orange Forest, Disa Gorge and Kasteelpoort –?places of great natural beauty most of the participants have never been exposed to.

There is also “a place of healing” –?a gathering of rocks where ­Mjenxane asks the pupils to lie down, close their eyes and listen to nature. “It’s not easy. The kids come up with very serious stuff. They have single parents, were raped or molested?...?My organisation uses nature as a tool to address social issues.”

He opens his laptop to show pictures of broadly grinning children under trees and next to waterfalls. “The environment and its conservation?–?and its potential to heal?–?is something very close to my heart.”

One cannot help but think his heart is in a beautiful place.

This series is developed in partnership with the Southern Africa Trust and the African Grantmakers Network.

To support a cause, visit www.change4ever.org/donate

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.