YOU will probably have heard that Nkanyiso Ndlela, a popular, well-respected, environmentalist died recently.On April 19 and 20, the Happy Earth Festival takes place at the Botanical Gardens in Pietermaritzburg. People are invited to honour his contribution by helping another young eco-star to shine. Each donation of R100 lights the way for a learner to attend the Happy Earth Festival. The festival offers pupils the chance to connect with nature, learn, share, laugh and shine with fellow eco-champs — Just what our planet needs now. During his career as Environmental teacher Ndlela inspired many youngsters at the Festival and throughout the KZN Midlands. Twenty-five inspiring, well-established environmental education organisations will offer creative, hands-on learning activities to hundreds of learners from schools in the KZN Midlands. These direct experiences in nature, under the guidance of positive mentorship, are cited as the single biggest contributor leading to positive environmental behaviour and future environmental leadership. Contributions to Happy Earth Environmental Education and Sustainability Forum, Standard Bank, Account Number: 045956189, Branch: Msunduzi 040727, Type: Savings Account. After finishing school, Ndlela joined Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) in Howick and began his journey to becoming a respected figure in local conservation — most recently being appointed as Education Manager at the KZN Crane Foundation (KZNCF) until his death in mid-March. With Wessa, he worked on a project focussing on rural crafters use of wetland plants, which lay the foundation for his lifelong passion for wetlands. He helped develop teaching materials, including the Windows on Our World Wetland Game. He often used this game when he became known as “Charles the Chameleon” at the Midlands Meander Education Project.Ndlela’s hope was to inspire others, especially, students living in townships and rural areas, that with dedicated effort, they too can follow their dreams. Samson Phakathi, Senior Field Officer with Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), had great respect for Ndlela. “We should all draw inspiration from his conservation journey,” Phakathi said this week, “he was an exceptional eco-hero who dedicated his life to conservation”. Ndlela will be laid to rest at his home in kwaKhetha in iMpendle where beautiful wetlands abound. Now it is up to us to build on his legacy and ensure everyone takes care of nature — especially wetlands — and stop destroying wildlife. — Supplied.