An Unlikely Environment – Afrika Tikkun


An Unlikely Environment – Afrika Tikkun

Richard Field


1 October 2013

Where does the environment that we ‘should’ care about begin or end? Which environments are okay not to care about?

People who look to protect the wilderness areas of Africa might attend a march to try and protect rhinos from being poached, but they often wouldn’t think anything of a poor child in a township that is literally wall to wall people. The townships are viewed as an environment which is of little or no consequence to the protection of Africa’s wilderness areas. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

In many ways, these townships are akin to the slums of India and the people are the poorest of the poor – so why should we or anyone care about them or the environment they live in?

I recently visited a charity project in a township outside of Johannesburg and was granted photographic permission to capture these accompanying portraits of the children. Such projects aim to support those in the community who need it the most – the poorest children and, in particular orphans as young as eight years of age who are looking after a household of younger siblings. Amongst many other things, the charity educates underprivileged kids up to primary level, provides them with a solid daily meal and sends food parcels into specific shanty houses in the township. They also offer HIV support, have sports and education/computer literacy programs and outreach programs with trained social workers.

For many years, the children in these areas have been left to fend for themselves. Now, however, these projects are creating opportunities for thousands of kids who would otherwise have nothing. Instead of resorting to crime and destruction they now have the potential to grow up with pride in themselves and hope for the future. This is the solid foundation Africa needs to see more of if it is going to conserve its remarkable wildlife and wilderness areas. It is humanitarian work, but it is also grass roots conservation.

If our effort to conserve our ‘environment’ doesn’t start at the grass roots, then any other attempts to protect it will ultimately be futile – we often need to start in the unlikeliest of places!

When planning safaris for people to southern Africa, I encourage them to visit the townships and these projects in particular, as it provides the necessary context for people wanting to gain a full understanding of Africa and the long term issues that it faces. It is also inspiring and moving to see so much good taking place, and so many happy faces!

The charity - Afrika Tikkun is one of only a handful of charities that Nelson Mandela has chosen to retain his connection with - a worthy cause!

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