Park is place to play – and protect

2017-04-04 06:02
Around 30 children take part in a youth programme to teach them about biodiversity in Muizenberg Park.

Around 30 children take part in a youth programme to teach them about biodiversity in Muizenberg Park.

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A project is teaching Muizenberg children to love the biodiversity of their local park.

The Muizenberg youth project, which was established last year, teaches children about indigenous plants in Muizenberg Park.

The park is currently being restored by the Friends of Muizenberg Park, a community-based organisation established in 2014 to promote the public enjoyment, conservation and sound management of the park.

The Friends aim to create a safe green space for the enjoyment of all, encourage more people to use the park in a positive way and conserve critically endangered fynbos in the park.

The youth project was created as a way to give children a chance to be part of something constructive, says project director Barbara Meyer.

“There are a lot of children living in flats in the area who often play unsupervised in the streets because their parents are at work during the day. These children are more susceptible to negative influences in the area like drugs and truancy. Also, Muizenberg is a mixed economic area, with some very affluent and some very poor children living close to each other but not knowing each other. This is a chance for all children to play together and to be part of constructive activities without the obstacles of expensive holiday programmes.

“There are other youth programmes but they focus on children in surrounding townships, so often local children don’t get the chance to join in on the benefits of these ­programmes.”

Around 30 children, from five to 14 years old, attend the sessions on Friday ­afternoons.

“The Friday sessions are facilitated by environmentalists Karel Lewy-Phillips and Victoria Burnett, who are committee members of the Friends of Muizenberg Park’s biodiversity team. Ann Gill, a local resident, teaches the kids about poisonous, useful, edible and medicinal plants that grow in the park,” says Meyer.

The children learn about biodiversity, to identify alien and indigenous plants and that alien plants can be bad for the environment because they take too much water and indigenous plants suffer.

They are also taught fire safety and that fynbos must be burnt down every 15 to 20 years to grow better.

“Children know that there is an affordable and safe place to come to on Fridays, where they can go out and have fun in a constructive and supervised way. They also get to know different children in the area they would not have usually played with,” explains Meyer.

“Children get to learn about the park, instead of just playing in it. A lot of the work is covered at school, but in a classroom environment. Here, children get to work with the plants they usually just see in a book.”

V The Muizenberg youth project will be organising an outing during the April school holidays for all children who would like to join. For more information contact Barbara Meyer on 061 043 1298 or muizenberg­youth­project@gmail.com.

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