Our new classroom at Hillwood Primary in Lavender Hill

It was with great pride and joy that we finally launched our beautiful, peaceful classroom space at Hillwood Primary School in Lavender Hill on 4 August 2022, with guests from our incredible sponsors – Truworths and Earthchild Clothing – as well as teachers, the Hillwood Primary School Principal, Mr Alkana, and of course our little yogis who will be using the space the most. Earthchild Project has been working in Hillwood Primary School for over 10 years, with the ongoing obstacle of not having our own space from which to teach our Programmes.

Lavender Hill is a community with particular safety challenges, creating the need for a peaceful, positive space where children and teachers can feel safe. Our new classroom will provide a safe space where thousands of children will have access to daily yoga and life skills lessons, as well as extra murals, teachers workshops, and holiday programmes.

“When learners are being taken to the yoga room, it’s like taking them away from what’s happening in Lavender Hill. It’s like allowing them to be a child.” Mr Alkana

We are deeply grateful to our sponsors from Truworths and Earthchild Clothing, as well as everyone who assisted in the planning and building of the school which took many dedicated years. This classroom has already proved to be an invaluable addition to our Project at Hillwood Primary and we would love by the end of 2023 for all of our 8 schools to have classrooms. To support us in building these sanctuaries, donate here: https://www.givengain.co/cc/earthchi…

MEET KUHLE

“Yoga helps me to not feel sad. It makes me feel happy and safe. It helps me when I struggle and it helps me focus.”

Kuhle is in Grade 5 at one of our schools in Khayelitsha, and is part of the Earthchild Project Yoga Programme with our yoga facilitator, Anathi. We asked Kuhle a few questions about being a yogi and an Earthchild.

⭐What do you love to do the most in your yoga classes with Anathi? 
“I do yoga and the yoga pledge and some exercises. In yoga I felt free and I had peace, I could feel it. Doing a vision board helps me feel better and Earthchild Project helps me to know who I am.”

⭐How do you feel when you come into your yoga class?
“I feel happy because Ms Anathi does not shout at me when I do things wrong, she just explains it to me and shows me.”

⭐What else does Earthchild Project teach you, besides yoga?
“It teaches me I must eat healthy and not do wrong things to my friends and have respect and do the exercises. I learn to not drink and not smoke because it will damage my body.”

Kuhle also loves going on Earthchild Project outings with Anathi, where she learns about animals and the environment. One of her favourite things to do is practice yoga at home with her twin brother.

📸 @deborahpamelarossouw
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#ecpstories#ecp#childrenofecp#earthchildproject#earthchildstories#earthchild#nonprofitstories#beneficiary#nonprofitbeneficiary#npo#nonprofitcapetown#southafricanstories#charity#nonprofit#community#nonprofitorganization#giveback#love#education#socialgood#dogood#givingback#philanthropy#change#makeadifference#children#hope#instagood#donations#volunteering

Meet Zakhe

“Athi inspires me because he is more like a father. He always encourages me to do something. When I feel down, he asks me what I am doing about it and then we make a plan to just go and feel happy by hiking in the mountains.”

Since Grade 5, Zakhe has been one of the shining stars of the Earthchild Project Eco Explorers Club with @athikhulu. Zakhe is going to high school next year, and is certain that he wants to continue adventuring with our Eco Explorers. When asked if he has made friends in the Club, he says that since joining, he has gained so much confidence when making friends; “All of them are my friends. Especially the volunteers. I can speak to any of them, anyone in the group.”

He said he’s hiked so many mountains with Earthchild Project that he can’t remember all the names of the trails! Besides being given the opportunity to explore many of Cape Towns mountains and forests, Zakhe says that Earthchild Project has also inspred him to take care of his garden and dogs and cats at home. He even has his own operating worm farm at home!

His favourite thing about the Club? “What I like about the hiking club is that it always supports others to hike more and to inspire other people to push each other harder to climb the mountain. And what I like about ECP is that its people who keep inspiring children to do more and more and achieve their dreams.”

@deborahpamelarossouw

Earthchild Alumni – Caitlin

“Where you come from doesn’t always define where you are going to be one day. You don’t have to be where you come from.”

Caitlin is 16 years old in Grade 12 at one of our schools in Lavender Hill. She is part of the Earthchild Project Alumni Programme and has been a part of ECP since she was in Grade 6. Read on for Caitlin’s personal experience of her journey with Earthchild Project.
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“This is sadly my last year since I am in matric this year. When I started I was in Ms Robertson’s class – they still have the worm farm now! Everyone was interacting with each other…it made me feel really comfortable and I wasn’t panicked and I’ve really enjoyed it from Grade 6 until now. It’s taught me how to be more confident, and also leadership skills. At school I’m a prefect, so that’s really helped. I’m more confident with my orals in class, as well as communication skills. I can communicate without being totally shy like my normal self.”
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“I live in a community where most people either do drugs or fall pregnant like a few girls in our road was pregnant a while ago. There’s always just negative things that people try and do, but for me I’ve never really felt like that’s what I should do. Like we were all friends when we were younger, but they went off to do their own thing. ECP really gave me something to do instead of falling into that bad stuff like everybody else.
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For me, if you represent ECP you have to be kind to people because it teaches you all about being kind, helping others, keeping the environment safe. Instead of adding what’s wrong to the world, why don’t you try and better it for the next generation?
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If I didn’t become one of the ECP children I wouldn’t have learned leadership skills or how to better myself. It’s given me the sense of talking out and speaking my mind and giving me the motivation to do so.”

Earthchild Eco Warrior Mikhulu

“Earthchild Project teaches us to be kind to the environment, kind to our bodies, and kind and courteous to others. Honey catches more flies than vinegar.”

Mikhulu is in Grade 5 at one of our school’s in Khayelitsha, and is part of the Earthchild Project Eco Warriors Club with our environmental facilitator, Liya.

When Mikhulu attended his first Eco Warrior Club, he felt a little shy and nervous, but he wanted to be the best student in the Club which inspired him to participate and to learn! Now, he says that he has butterflies tickling his stomach whenever he has his Eco warriors Extra Mural.

He loves that ECP is so much more than just learning about animals and saving water, but that it’s also about connecting and having fun! His inquiring mind makes him eager to boost his knowledge about science and the world, so that he can make a difference one day – and he believes that ECP will help him to achieve this.


Mikhulu’s main inspiration from his Eco Warriors Club with ECP is to teach other young boys like himself to be kinder to the planet.

How can we address the next pandemic: children’s mental health?

The restrictive nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an ongoing global epidemic in children’s mental health. Very high levels of anxiety and stress in children need to be addressed now to avoid more serious long-term impacts in our futures. Using scalable digital resources to support children’s psychological well-being is part of the solution – and to mark World Mental Health Day, we are releasing free meditation audio tracks for children across South Africa.

Deaths, economic and housing instability and disruptions  to school routines are just some of the destabilizing aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic for children. Such impacts will, experts warn,  result in society ‘grappling with the after-effects for decades to come.’ Research by child psychiatry experts has found that children – especially those in economically underprivileged contexts – are suffering very high levels of uncertainty, stress and anxiety due to lockdowns and quarantines. The research points to an urgent need for mental health services – specifically ‘tele mental health,’ provided in scalable, digital formats –  which would be particularly crucial for the ‘most vulnerable and underprivileged section of the society’. In line with this, and to mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2021, The Earthchild Project will be releasing a series of free guided audio meditations for children, called  Take Five. Through these specially-created meditations – in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa – we hope to encourage the decisive and large-scale action needed to transform the lives of our youngest generation.

The pandemic and child mental health in South Africa

Earlier this year, UNICEF stated that the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be most damaging for ‘children in the poorest countries, and in the poorest neighbourhoods.’ This is serious for a developing economy like South Africa. Indeed, research found  that 72% of young people in South Africa reported depressive symptoms during the ‘hard lockdown’ – a figure that is drastically higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

It is of critical importance that these symptoms are addressed now. Children who  experience trauma or stress are at risk of suffering lifelong mental health challenges later in life if the issues are not addressed  early on. 

Reality on the ground: Lavender Hill and Khayelitsha 

The Earthchild Project, which runs complimentary education to under-resourced schools across Cape Town,  has experienced this devastation on the ground.  Our staff have witnessed a marked increase in trauma and stress levels of the children in our programmes since the start of the pandemic. 

In Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill schools – where we have run programmes for 15 years –  the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic has heightened the vulnerability factors for children who already witness high levels of gang violence and other trauma. 

“In our current situation with the gang violence as a principal you need to think on your toes, so when there’s shooting, I breathe because I need to be the person that’s responsible for teachers. Our children know that they need to breathe and they need to stay calm and those are all the skills that we acquire from Earthchild.” Ms Charity – Principal at Levana Primary School.

We have measured the impact of routine meditation practises for children in these schools. It has proved to be a very simple and effective tool to help them to deal with anxiety, fear and trauma.

Every little helps: three meditations

Because these are economically underprivileged communities with limited infrastructure and access to the internet, there is a great need for low-cost resources that are able to close the digital divide, allowing equity of access for all children.

Schools and other NGOs in the education sector have expressed a desperate need for resources to support their learners with trauma, anxiety and fear.  In response to this, the Take5 Meditations are a series of three simple, guided audio meditations in three of South Africa’s local languages – Afrikaans, English and Xhosa. Each meditation can work in a group setting – meaning that teachers can conduct them in a classroom – or in an individual setting. Any child can practice them at home, at any time. They are free, and can easily be sent by WhatsApp or listened to on Youtube. 

Our hope is that the Take5 meditations will be used nationally and globally as a meaningful resource to counter the mental health challenges brought about by COVID-19. These tracks must form part of a wider spectrum of resources to support the mental health of our youngest generations – for the prospects of today’s youth, as well our collective global development. 

To access the Take5 Meditation, and the instruction audio track, see details. The audio tracks can be accessed through the Earthchild Project website www.earthchildproject.org , YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/earthchildproject, and through a direct request via Whatsapp on +27 79 865 0002. The audio meditations are downloaded along with an instruction video on how to facilitate the Take 5 meditations.

andreamuehleck.com

Jadene – A world of endless possibilities with Earthchild Project

Everyone who has met her will recognise her infectious smile. Jadene started Yoga and Worm Farming with Earthchild Project when she was 10 years old and in Grade 4 in Lavender Hill. After completing the Alumni and Internship Programmes, she is now a full time yoga facilitator with ECP.

Jadene recalls how she was so excited with the opportunity to join the Alumni Programme when she finished Grade 7 and was inspired to then become an ECP intern because she felt that by continuing with ECP, she could find direction with where she was going in life.

Jadene is passionate about how ECP can help young women to discover their dreams. “In Lavender Hill we don’t have a good reputation. We don’t have the freedom of feeling safe. And so I really do  think it’s important for young females to have good, positive, healthy role models to encourage us and to show us that we have more potential and that we can do more…I think we can make the change in the world…”

As a young facilitator, Jadene wants to encourage other young women to stay strong, to believe in themselves and to know that they have unlimited potential. ECP has opened a new world for Jadene where she can be herself and where she can feel safe…a world of endless possibilities. 

Kuhle – Finding joy through yoga, nature, and surfing

Today we share the story of Kuhle, one of the determined youth whom we are proud to work with. Kuhle is 14 years old and lives in Capricorn Square in Cape Town. He had a tough start to life as a young boy, and grew up with foster parents who neglected him and kept him out of school. Social workers eventually put Kuhle in a new foster home where he is now loved and cared for.

Kuhle finds peace and security through the Earthchild Project Gardening and Yoga Programmes, and he also plays rugby and surfs with @wavesforchange – a brilliant NGO using surfing to create community-owned safe spaces in Africa and beyond. We love how his face lights up when he talks about gardening, yoga and surfing. “Yoga helps me with surfing because it stretches my body and (helps me) balance on my board. Yoga keeps me calm in the water”. “Any opportunity after school, even during school, programmes like planting, yoga, surfing, I will be grateful to do it”.

Kuhle sometimes has flashbacks to sad times in his life, but yoga and surfing have helped him to deal with these emotions. He doesn’t get angry in class anymore and respects his friends and teachers. He still likes to be alone sometimes and enjoys being on his own in the garden, which our Gardening Programme has inspired him to care for and protect. Kuhle wants to finish school and go to college one day, and maybe join the army or the navy, with the dream of buying his mother a house one day. We give hope, safety – and a reason to keep dreaming – to young boys and girls like Kuhle. 📸 @dreamcatcherproductionsza #youthday #youthatrisk #southafrica

ECP Climate Girls – Education is the key to change

Meet the Earthchild Project Climate Girls from Khayelitsha. This group of girls is pure power when it comes to sustainable living, and teaching their peers, families and community members how to live more sustainably, too. Even though these girls are only between the age of 12 and 13 years old, they know that they are responsible to make a positive difference for our planet!

Sadly, the lack of awareness among communities, especially those that reside in rural areas like Khayelitsha, allows people to engage in activities that cause exacerbated environmental problems. We believe that education is crucial in cultivating a desire to protect the planet, which is what our Climate Girls are trying to do in their communities. It is through education, which is the key social strategy for conservation, that people will gain an understanding of the importance to think and act in a conscious, sustainable manner.

“What I love about being in the garden is connect to nature because we live in the township and there’s a lot of noise. But when I’m in the garden I relax myself. I get time to connect with myself and also to connect with nature.”  

If we love nature, we will protect it. Our Climate Girls have a goal of educating their communities on the effects of climate change, and how they can live more sustainably in order to combat their own carbon footprint. They also want to encourage their peers to fall in love with nature, so that they too can act in ways to protect our planet and precious resources. 

Earthchild Project is committed to cultivating a generation of environmentally conscious young leaders, like our Climate Girls, who will in turn encourage their peers and communities to protect the future of our planet for generations to come. 

Beautiful video by @join_thedance and  @justincoomber

#education#climatechange#gretathunberg#climate#climatejustice#savetheplanet#climatecrisis#globalwarming#extinctionrebellion#climateaction#nature#schoolstrike#future#futureleaders#youngleaders#sustainability#environment#climateemergency#klimastreik#climatechangeisreal#zerowaste#fff#klimawandel#actnow

Ms Henricks – A teachers perspective on the benefits of Earthchild Project

Meet Ms Hendricks – one of the dedicated teachers with whom we work. Ms Hendricks teaches Grade 1 at Levana Primary School in Lavender Hill, which is one of the 8 schools in which Earthchild Project operates our programmes. She has welcomed the Earthchild Project facilitators into her class for the past four years, and is inspired by the difference that our programmes make in the lives of her young learners.

“The children that live here and come to school here – they are, you can say, constantly traumatised.” She say’s that due to the challenging environment of Lavender Hill, many children come to school distracted and hungry, often only coming to school for the plate of food provided by the school’s feeding scheme. And so the benefits of opening her class to the ECP facilitators are perfectly clear to her.

Ms Hendricks’ class participates in the ECP Yoga and Worm Farming Programmes. She says that over the years, she has noticed how the yoga lessons help to calm down the children who display behavioural issues, as well as teach them good values such as kindness. She notes how after a yoga class, the children are so much more confident, with a well developed self concept. The ECP facilitators inspire her by reminding the children that they are always beautiful and are always loved, and how we create a safe space for our children to express themselves. An additional positive is how our holistic approach to education improves her children’s academics.

We love working with teachers like Ms Hendricks, who are so warm and welcoming and who truly care about the impact that educators have on the minds and lives of young children, especially youth at risk.

📸@dreamcatcherproductionsza

#lavenderhill#youth#youthatrisk#education#teachers#ecp#earthchildproject#yoga#yogainschools#npo#sponsorachild

Building a bright future in a challenging environment

Faqeer, who lives in Lavender Hill, is 17 years old – the age at which young men are the target of gang recruitment on the Cape Flats, and are at high risk of getting involved in crime and drugs. But not Faqeer, who has bigger dreams.

Faqeer says that a lot of boys his age try to do things to impress their peers, which often leads to joining gangs. “To grow up in Lavender Hill is like a task that you’re going through because there’s a lot of things you get distracted by like gangsterism, drug abuse”. Which is why Faqeer believes that ECP saved his life.

Through participation with Eco Warriors from Grade 4 to Grade 7 and then joining the Alumni Programme, ECP has highlighted for Faqeer his capabilities, and shown him how to overcome his weaknesses while building on his strengths. He says that ECP has always been by his side. He has particularly enjoyed the hikes and camps, as well as building the Levana Primary School Food Garden which was built in 2019 with the help of students participating in Semester at Sea – a transformative #studyabroad programme recruiting students to volunteer around the world.  Faqeer still enjoys spending time in the Levana garden with his friends and believes that ECP has provided him with a safe place, away from violence. A place that can nurture his dreams of becoming a firefighter one day. A place where he can be happy.

Beautiful footage by Dreamcatcher Productions ZA

ECP Eco Explorers – Sharing our love for the earth in honour of Earth Day.

In honour of Earth Day tomorrow (Thursday 22 April 2021) we wanted to show our followers how we encourage a deep love for, and connection to the earth by sharing a little more about the Earthchild Project Eco Explorer and Hiking Clubs.

What’s special about taking our Earthchildren into nature and into the mountains, forests and beaches of Cape Town, is that we are able to provide a space for them to leave their communities, explore their own natural environment, connect with nature, and connect with themselves. Our facilitators teach them about local fauna and flora, as well as environmental challenges such as alien vegetation and pollution and the role that they can play in combating these growing issues. The eco-adventures are also used as a platform to empower the youth with life skills such as  team work, leadership and communication. At the same time, we combine our explorations with meditation and mindfulness activities that allow our Earthchildren to connect more deeply.

Hear from the mouths of our Eco Explorers what it is that they love the most about being out in nature and exploring with the ECP Eco Explorers Club;
“It makes me happy and it makes me peaceful.”
“It makes me close to nature.”
“We get to know other people and love each other.”
“I have always seen the mountain from my back yard and always wished I could climb it one day. Today was my first time walking on Table Mountain and it was a dream come true.

Through our Eco Explorations and our hikes, we aim to inspire and grow future environmental leaders who become changemakers and advocates for protecting mother earth!  

This video was filmed in Cape Town in 2017 in partnership with @earthdancect.

Claumi – Youth on the rise with our Alumni Programme

Claumi is 19 years old and lives in Retreat, Cape Town,  with her parents and her siblings. She has been with ECP for 9 years and is one of the proud graduates of our Alumni Programme which focuses on nurturing the leadership potential of a select group of our primary school graduates throughout their high school years.

When she was just ten years old, Claumi joined the ECP Programmes starting with yoga, worm farming, hiking and holiday programmes before moving into the Alumni Programme, where one of her highlights was the eight day Alumni Camp. 

“My experience in the first Earthchild camp was so amazing. It was one of, actually, the best experiences I have ever experienced.” It was a place where she was taught to start conversations and interact with people from other sectors which really helped her to overcome her shyness and build confidence. She says how the activities from the camp helped her to grow her self-esteem, and she still uses the practices of journaling and positive affirmations like “I am beautiful. I am amazing” at home, daily. 

Through the Alumni Programme she experienced deep personal transformation through practical opportunities that allowed her to build her leadership skills. One such skill that she is proud of is that she has learnt how to voice her opinion, while her most valuable skill that she has learned through ECP is the ability to be positive. She says that nurturing a positive mindset is what helped her through high school when friends were sometimes struggling.

Through the Alumni Programme, Claumi made friends who were experiencing similar life challenges to her. They were able to speak about their problems and help one another to problem solve. The ECP facilitators have been meaningful positive role models in her life – offering support, advice, and someone to turn to when it is tough to speak about problems at home. It is through our Alumni Programme that we are nurturing young leaders like Claumi, and are working together to grow future leaders who spread a vision for holistic living.

📸@dreamcatcherproductionsza

#youngleader#youth#youthpower#youthmovement#culturemover#youthontherise#youthchampion

‘My story during Lockdown’ by Jadene van Neel

The 1st January 2020 was a day of excitement, happiness and full of new year's resolutions...and now we are in the middle of a world-wide pandemic. I never imagined that I would be living in a time that would bring the world to a complete lockdown. This is part of our history, it is part of what will not just influence my world experiences, but will shape the world experiences of so many children, youth and grown ups. We are going through this now not knowing what the new world will be like when this pandemic passes. While most of South Africa is in lockdown, people in my street and in my community are going about their daily lives. Everything is normal over here. Nothing has changed. 

The 1st January 2020 was a day of excitement, happiness and full of new year’s resolutions…and now we are in the middle of a world-wide pandemic. I never imagined that I would be living in a time that would bring the world to a complete lockdown. This is part of our history, it is part of what will not just influence my world experiences, but will shape the world experiences of so many children, youth and grown ups. We are going through this now not knowing what the new world will be like when this pandemic passes. While most of South Africa is in lockdown, people in my street and in my community are going about their daily lives. Everything is normal over here. Nothing has changed. 

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EARTHCHILD PROJECT AMBASSADOR – JOELLE SLEEBOS

22 June 2019 was the fourth annual International Day of Yoga event held in Cape Town, and it was a wonderful success! And so it is a good time for us to honour our fifth Earthchild Project Yoga Ambassador - Joëlle Sleebos.

Joëlle’s passion for health and well-being started 17 years as a group fitness instructor and now calls herself Yogi, Traveler, Personal Trainer, Entrepreneur and Project Manager.

22 June 2019 was the fourth annual International Day of Yoga event held in Cape Town, and it was a wonderful success! And so it is a good time for us to honour our fifth Earthchild Project Yoga Ambassador – Joëlle Sleebos.

Joëlle’s passion for health and well-being started 17 years as a group fitness instructor and now calls herself Yogi, Traveler, Personal Trainer, Entrepreneur and Project Manager.

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