The Masoyi Special Care Centre, a flagship project of the Rotary Club of White River, is a hive of spring activity at the moment. Blessed with ample grounds and a strong borehole, Lucy Ngobeni and her team of helpers are planting up the vegetable garden. In between the mango and pawpaw trees, neat rows of spinach, beetroot, onions, lettuce, cabbages, peppers, chillis and butternut promise an abundant return in the months to come.
We are bombarded with warnings about the need to reduce our carbon emissions and to avoid the extreme impacts of runaway climate change, and reminders about the positive effects of renewable energy and the importance of planting trees, especially now in September, Arbor month. Internationally, Rotary clubs are being exhorted by the new president, who has a personal philosophy of sustainable and organic living, to green our communities. Our White River club is rising to the challenge that he has set us.
But a metric of quoted numbers of trees and vegetables planted is meaningless without the stories that accompany it. The stories of growing pools of shade, harvests of fruit and vegetables, the planting and the watering and the nurturing that happens daily at the Masoyi Special Care Centre; teamwork and farming know-how learnt through care for the environment; the sale of the surplus, with the proceeds reinvested in the garden. Take Thulani, rendered by cerebral palsy unable to do more than silently watch the world go by from his mattress on the floor. As the recipient of a disability grant he is his family’s sole provider, so consider their relief that they can regularly enjoy the bounty of the vegetable garden. The fact that the gogo who lives down the road can rest assured that fresh, nutritious garden produce will provide a meal or two a week for her and her five beautiful granddaughters, who were rescued from a child trafficking syndicate and put in her care. The fact that on their favourite day, Wednesday, the children at the Centre get their weekly visit from local samaritans, and, to boot, it’s their day for chicken accompanied by marogo from the garden! Oupa, a deaf mute who, at the age of 18, according to government regulations, should have moved beyond the protective care of the Centre, but is able to stay by the grace of the work generated by the garden and earn a stipend that gives him self-esteem and a measure of independence.
That’s a pretty impressive return on a small investment in the environment.