“Imagine Scholar is a place where I become who I want to be, where I don’t have to pretend to fit in. Spending a day at Imagine Scholar means I get to explore my deep interests, which grow and enrich my life with authentic happiness.” Given Sandamela, Grade 10

Founded in 2009 and set in the rural Nkomazi region of South Africa, Imagine Scholar is an after-school mentorship program that exists to catalyse young leaders’ potential. With the belief that a student’s ability to succeed should not be determined by the situation they were born in to, Grade 9-12 Scholars sit in the driver’s seat of their own development, taking the reins for their own personal, professional, and academic achievement – all with a sense of humour.

Pioneering 21st century education

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. This quote from Howard Thurman encapsulates Imagine Scholar’s ethos.

Academic standards and averages are not enough to cultivate the robust and empathetic leaders we need to solve 21st Century challenges. Instead of celebrating conformity, we instigate quirkiness and individuality.

Instead of prescribing information for Scholars to memorise and regurgitate, we give students a toolkit to understand the reaches of their cognitive ability and let them explore. The result? Scholars evolve to be critical and tactile – taking note of issues they see in the world and designing solutions. Instead of reading a book about organic farming, a Scholar will build a farm. Instead of dreaming about a future career in tech, a Scholar will code an app that is useful to his or her peers. Scholars tinker, test, and model their way to understanding their world.

Our program challenges students to go beyond theorising and to become ripple-makers. We facilitate instead of tell, guide instead of force, and see ourselves as the scaffolding for a students’ progression. Imagine Scholar is a 21st Century tool kit to the curious learner.

Innovative Curriculum 

Being a Scholar is no easy task. Students attend Imagine Scholar for approximately 25 hours per week, on top of traditional school. Our curriculum is divided into multiple segments, each positioned to equip students with a diverse set of skills to tackle real-world problems:

  • Think Tank is a three-year journey into cognitive self-awareness. Students explore with creativity, abstraction, bias, and behaviour, examining topics like psychology, cognitive science, heuristics, and even behavioural economics.
  • Ommm (Open Minded Meaning Makers) Lab is grounded in storytelling and imbuing Scholars with confidence to create meaning. Oracy, linguistics, discourse, and communication styles provide fodder for learning in this class.
  • Learning Zone is a meta-learning workspace that allows young leaders to sharpen their academic and scientific learning skills. Learning Zone encourages Scholars to design, test, analyse, and re-create.

Imagine Scholar’s innovative curriculum pushes the boundaries of education in our community and has yielded incredible results from numerous groundbreaking acceptances to international universities, to students building award-winning electric vehicles, launching chess tournaments, and improving literacy in our community.

Inclusive Culture

Our distinctive organisational culture is the glue that holds our program together, and the secret sauce for our success. At Imagine Scholar, a sense of openness to emotional and intellectual vulnerability is the norm; our culture allows students to have a safe space to blue-sky think, try, and fail without fear of ridicule.

Our culture begins with our rigorous application process. The sheer rigor of the process means that hundreds of students wane, leaving only those who truly want to be here. From there, our mature students take the reins, choosing our final cohort of 10 based on character interviews. This not only to allow our students, who have worked hard to create a culture they love ensure its longevity, but also to give new Grade 9s an immediate sense of inclusion.

Inclusive culture, innovative curriculum, and a dedication to pioneering a new style of education are the ingredients that make up Imagine Scholar. We are constantly learning, growing, and evolving, always looking for the next best way to inspire and empower the young leaders of tomorrow.

Find out more about Imagine Scholar and connect with them via their Eco Atlas page.




I met Buyi at Dwesa Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape where she was working as an intern for her nature conservation studies and receiving a basic stipend for her time. It was a short contract though and she had no further prospects for permanent, gainful employment when it finished and this was the biggest milestone that hung round her neck as a single mother, her greatest goal being an excellent education for her daughter. We chatted about her challenges and joys, her greatest wishes and what changes she as a young woman living in rural South Africa would bring about if she were president of the country. What changes would you bring about if you were president for a day?

What are your greatest challenges? 

My greatest challenge is that I am unemployed because I’m a single parent. There is an overpopulation of the unemployed youth and yet everyone should have the chance to get a job. With no jobs for the youth they are depending on their parents to survive.

Living in a rural area there is no access to newspapers and the internet. Basic service delivery is not happening, they are taking too long to tar the road to our village even though they approved it 3 years ago. We pay the price, the bakkies in our area are badly damaged by the state of the road. The education in our area is also very poor, teachers don’t send their own children to the schools they teach at. They don’t identify the children with special needs that need to go to a special school. The clinic in our area is only open during the week, if there is an emergency on the weekend we have to hire a bake for R1 000 to get the person to hospital.

What are your greatest joys?

To be with my family. To have a chance to work and give my daughter better opportunities. Nature conservation gives me joy because I really care.


If you were president what would you make happen?

I would make sure that every child is well educated. I would create more jobs for youth who are unemployed and that will decrease the crime. I would make sure the rural areas have the same services as the urban areas – libraries, soccer fields, internet cafes. I would encourage South Africans to farm on a small scale, if you are farming you will not be suffering. I would educate people about alien invasive plants and their problems and about the importance of saving water.

What is your greatest wish?

My greatest wish is to get a permanent job.

What is stopping you from achieving your wish?

People give jobs to their family members, there is so much nepotism. it is very difficult to get a job, even if you are qualified. and then you find the person who got the job is not qualified at all.


Thank to all the places on Eco Atlas that give gainful, fair and socially just employment with upskilling, training and empowerment as part of their employment mandate. www.ecoatlas.co.za 


The idea for iKamvaYouth was born in 2003 by Makhosi Gogwana and Joy Olivier, back then two young researchers, who collectively noticed the massive problems facing matriculants in disadvantaged areas, particularly in the subjects of Mathematics and Science. Makhosi and Joy noticed how students, with the help of tutors, are able to gain an upper hand, by opening new doors allowing more opportunities to further their studies after they have matriculated.


As reported on the IkamvaYouth website, 1.3 million learners start school every year in South Africa, but less than half will ever matriculate. The difficult socio-economic inequalities reflect on a dark trend, with black learners continuously underperforming, particularly in the subjects of Maths and Sciences. This backdrop puts them at much greater risk of enlarging an already concerning unemployment rate. Access to South Africa’s universities is limited to less than 10% of youth, and very few of those come from township schools.


IkamvaYouth is addressing this legacy of inequality by enabling township youth to improve their academic performance and access post-school opportunities that set them on the path to earning a dignified living.


On a chilly morning Clotilde and I met with three of IkamvaYouth’s tutors, (iKamvanites as they are referred to) during a break form the winter school program that IkamvaYouth was hosting at the University of the Western Cape in Belville. Being on a complete volunteer basis, we were interested to find out the tutors perspective of the programme.


IkamvaYouth is primarily a tutoring organisation, where tutors volunteer their time and knowledge. Learners are taught to think for themselves, and practice reading, understanding, writing/calculating, and speaking. The model is based on learners taking responsibility for their own studies, identifying the aspects of their work with which they need help, and ensuring that they seek support to fill in the self identified gaps in their knowledge/understanding.


Lunga 's charisma and positivity is infectious. ©David Peter Harris

Lunga ‘s charisma and positivity is infectious. ©David Peter Harris

Lunga Sizani who joined as a tutor in 2014 after a friend told him about the Winter School initiative; this was his second year tutoring at the Winter School. He told us,

“Waking up early in the cold and dark every morning before coming to winter school is well worth the effort and time it takes, as I am able to help young learners who are also enduring the same every morning to be there and further themselves. It’s inspiring to provide to younger students a positive role model they can look up to”, Lunga says, smiling.

Aphiwe Sobutyu ©David Peter Harris

IkamvaYouth has shown Aphiwe, that anythingthing is possible ©David Peter Harris

Aphiwe Sobutyu became an iKamvanite in 2010 whilst he was still a learner in Grade 10; the program helped propel him to the top of his class at school, whilst showing him different vocations like camping and going to the aquarium.

“I became a leader amongst my peers; my friends started asking me for help with their academic problems all the time” he joyously admitted

In 2012 IkamvaYouth was able to provide Aphiwe with application fees for University. He tells us about the self-discovery that the process generated by Ikamva brought about within himself, generating self-confidence in his abilities.

“Through IkamvaYouth, I have seen abilities and traits in myself that I did not know I had.”

Aphiwe is currently studying Public Management and in the future wishes to work in the government. What makes you do what you do, we asked? “I live through the adage that if you fall, pick yourself up and shake off that dust and keep on going, and you can conquer the world.”

Thando believes positive role models ©David Peter Harris

Thando believes positive role models are the key to South Africas success. ©David Peter Harris

Thando Nomfazi joined IkamvaYouth in Grade 10, wanting to learn more and add solutions to what he had learnt at school; “within the first 6 months from joining, I saw a massive improvement both in my school work and attitude. In Grade 11 I even received a Bursary”. A charismatic role model, Thando tells us, “Being part of IkamvaYouth has taught me how to be patient and how to be comfortable with myself”. He added that

“ I think mentoring students form high schools, even if it is only a few students you can make a big difference in South Africa as a whole, because those that you have mentored will grow with the right attitude and transfer it to the next generation, and will grow and change our country.”

Thando is now studying Civil Engineering and one day hopes to be a project manager.

All three of the tutors were filled with an immense amount of pride at being able to pass on their knowledge attitude and spirit on to the younger students helping instill a sense of pride and passion in themselves and their future.

IkamvaYouth runs their Winter School program  every year during the mid year school break.

IkamvaYouth currently has branches in Ivory Park in Gauteng, the greater Cato Manor area and Molweni in KwaZulu-Natal and in Khayelitsha, Nyanga and Masiphumelele in the Western Cape. A new star is about to be added to the Western Cape, with a new branch that will soon be opening in Atlantis, in partnership with GreenCape.

Ursula Wellman. ©David Peter Harris

Ursula Wellman. ©David Peter Harris

Ursula Wellmann, Skills Practitioner at GreenCape, uncovered some of the details, in conversation with Eco Atlas. The branch will start off focusing on Grade 10 and 11 kids, who will attend tutoring sessions twice every week and on Saturdays, hosted at Proteus Technical High School in Atlantis. IkamvaYouth will also be providing mentoring and support for Grade 12 learners to help with career advice and applications to tertiary institutions. Ursula’s work is very focused on the development of Atlantis; when we asked her how the partnership came about, she tells us:

“IkamvaYouth’s 13 year proven track record speaks for itself; that this programme, ‘for youth by youth’ delivers astounding results and makes many dreams a reality.”

Atlantis is in very good hands, and the future of our youth is looking bright and strong.’

If you are interested in becoming a tutor at their new branch please contact yanga@ikamvayouth.org,

For more information and how you can support iKamva Youth visit their website.


Apish Thsethsa in Muizenberg, Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

Apish Thsethsa in Muizenberg, Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

Waves For Change, founded by Ashoka Fellow Tim Conibear in Masiphumelelo in 2011, is a project that provides surf therapy to young South Africans from violent communities. These are youths who are exposed to a myriad of problems, and who suffer from acute emotional/physical stress, which in turn fosters learning disabilities, behavioral problems and often times social exclusion, W4C aims to break this down by using surfing as a means of therapy. David met with Apish Thsethsa on a cold and stormy winter’s afternoon, before one of the sessions with the young kids to talk more about this amazing project and of course his journey to becoming one of the leaders of this award-winning programme, which started small with only 10 children in one community and now has around 250 children in three communities (Masiphumelelo, Lavender Hill and Monwabisi).   Seeing Apish interacting with the kids illustrates that they have a healthy respect for him. After taking shelter from the passing squalls and wind in my car, we spoke about the positive effects that surfing has on one’s self,

“Surfing changes your perception of life, where taking risks has consequences, when you catch a wave, you don’t just catch a wave, you have to have a vision of what you are going to do, are you going to go left or right, what are you going to do on the wave”,

this is something Apish thinks can be applied to our lives as we need to understand that all actions have consequences whether they are good or bad. “Waves for Change is a self development programme that uses surfing as its foundation”, in doing this Waves for Change is helping kids gain coping skills to deal with tragic events that are brought about through broken homes and broken backgrounds; it gives the kids a sense of belonging as well as being able to master a platform where they are trying new things and experiences, and the independence to make choices for themselves. “You are looking after yourself and surrounding yourself with a healthy environment”, adds Apish.

Why do you do what you do? “I was once a young kid, and I would like kids to follow the same path”,

Apish has been able to travel all around South Africa, as well as the UK to take part in a SUP (stand up Paddle) event and all of this has been possible because of surfing.

One tip? “Ubuntu ungamntu ngabanye abantu [a person is a person through other people], always be generous, self aware and conscious of what is happening and what you can do”

“Surfing changes your perception of life," says Apish Thsethsa ©David Peter Harris

“Surfing changes your perception of life,” says Apish Thsethsa ©David Peter Harris

Get in touch with Waves for Change and find out more about their active projects.

“It all started 9 years ago. I began agonising over why I had so many plastic shopping bags in my house, so I decided there and then to quit using them!” explodes Hayley McLellan with enthusiasm as we ordered our coffees.


I had arranged to meet her at the Two Oceans Aquarium at the Waterfront in Cape Town, to learn about her journey with the Rethink the Bag campaign which she initiated in 2010.


When entangled seals haul out onto this platform to rest, Aquarium staff attend to the dangerous task of releasing the animal from its trappings. © David Peter Harris

When entangled seals haul out onto this platform to rest, Aquarium staff attend to the dangerous task of releasing the animal from its trappings. © David Peter Harris

From where we were sitting we had a great view of Cape Town’s harbour, and the seal platform where disentanglement procedures are conducted on wild seals that become entangled in marine debris, specifically fishing line and box band strapping. When entangled seals haul out onto this platform to rest, Aquarium staff attend to the dangerous task of releasing the animal from its trappings. Hayley begins, “I have worked with animal care and behaviour since 1989. In 2009 I joined this Aquarium to take care of the African penguins and in 2010 I decided to develop a project out of my personal no- plastic shopping bag commitment. A year later I communicated my passion to our Director. He believed in the cause so much so that he committed to adopting it as an official Two Oceans Aquarium environmental campaign and the project was officially launched in March 2011.” The Aquarium staff joined her pledge to not bring plastic shopping bags into the building, rather choosing up-cycled reusable bags, often sourced from local community upliftment projects. Almost five years later, Rethink The Bag is an established project that aims to raise consciousness regarding the waste-stream which individuals produce, and promote education about the importance of banning the use of plastic shopping bags. In 2013 Hayley was appointed to a newly created position of Environmental Campaigner.


Why say NO to plastic shopping bags?


As Hayley says in the documentary Baggage, “South Africans use approximately 8 billion plastic shopping bags annually and, if not responsibly disposed of, these can float down our rivers or travel down storm water drains on their way to the sea. The wind is another efficient transporter, even from landfill sites. In an anaerobic landfill (where there is no oxygen), plastic bags can remain for up to 1000 years. In 2004 South Africa introduced a “controversial” levy to curb plastic shopping bag consumption. Statistics show that plastic bag use has, however, not decreased and it’s unclear what has happened to the money raised by the levy. Between 2004 and 2014 over R1.2 billion was raised, but only R200 million was spent on environmental issues (Look here for an analysis on  the plastic bag levy in South Africa). Plastic which reaches the ocean is often caught up in one of the five major ocean currents, or gyres, and exists in the oceans for many, many years. Being naturally curious, animals will investigate what comes their way and very often fall prey to a variety of plastic items which are mistaken for food. As a result, many hundreds of species of sea life consume non-biodegradable plastic material.”

Through the Rethink the Bag campaign, successful strategic partnerships have been formed with groups that share Hayley’s commitment to a healthy environment. As a result quite a few milestones have been reached. In July 2014, Greyton became the first town in the Western Cape – and the whole of South Africa – to commit to the process of banning single-use plastic bags in their community, setting the emblematic date of 3 July International bag-free day to activate the movement. Greyton also hosts an annual Trash to Treasure Festival, a celebration of a trash site turned into a treasure and fun site for all, adults and children alike. In October 2015 Port Elizabeth claimed the first plastic shopping bag free high school, D.F. Malherbe. As a result of engagement initiated by Hayley, Spar Western Cape launched their own unique plastic packaging reduction campaign called “It’s our plastic, it’s our problem”, which also endorses the awareness and education objectives of Rethink The Bag.


How do we reduce our plastic “addiction”?

According to Hayley, an optimal plastic reduction strategy involves a holistic approach that addresses all variables and offers positive alternatives, acknowledgement and reinforcement.

“It’s counterproductive to put people in a situation where they have no education and no choice. Educating about the consequences of living as a ‘take-make-waste’ society begins the necessary process of behavioural change. If people do not know what impact their living is having, then why would they consider changing their ways? Further to that, showing communities how to live differently to benefit both people and nature is essential as it becomes easier when we know the how. We are, essentially, also nature and nature does not waste.”

Hayley McLellan started Rethink the Bag in 2010. In March 2011, it was launched as an initiative of the Two Ocean Aquarium ©David Peter Harris

Hayley McLellan started Rethink the Bag in 2010. In March 2011, it was launched as an initiative of the Two Ocean Aquarium ©David Peter Harris

What eco-tip would you like to share?

“Of course my plea to everyone is to stop using plastic bags and sign the petition! This is my personal campaign and it fuels my passion for the environment. However, there is a long list of little actions that anyone can take and it’s important to commit to whatever fits with your lifestyle. This way you’ll set yourself up for success and feel empowered as little actions really do mount up. It’s not only about the choices you make but, importantly, your attitude. The one thing we all have absolute command over is our attitude; our attitude determines our words and our actions, so make yours count.”


Before we parted, Hayley shared a last bit with me. “The mantra to climb Kilimanjaro is two words, ‘Pole Pole’ which means ‘slowly slowly’. If you want to create a sustainable journey, you want to go ‘Pole Pole’ – each person making a difference doing what they can. Just not too slowly as the earth is crying out for our immediate care…” Banning single-use plastic shopping bags is currently a worldwide movement with a growing list of countries committing to this action. Most recent is Mauritius who joined the crusade on 1 January 2016.


I often walk on the beach, picking up plastic trash and wondering how it got there; I am sure I am not the only one coming home with lots of trash collected in public places. So, join RTB’s pledge, sign this petition and let your actions count. Follow Rethink the Bag on their Facebook page.

Vote with your wallet in true Eco Atlas style and support places that are using biodegradable packaging


 "The earth is crying out for our immediate care", we all agree with Hayley. Two Ocean Aquarium, Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

“The earth is crying out for our immediate care”, we all agree with Hayley. Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town ©David Peter Harris


(This copy has been written as a collaboration between Hayley and myself, for which I am very grateful.)


Andy Horn at his office in Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

Andy Horn at his office in Cape Town ©David Peter Harris




An architect with a profound appreciation for nature, Andy Horn established his practice in 1998, Eco Design – Architects and Consultants. Sustainable design is key to his work and the studio has led the way for the Green Building Movement in the South Africa and it has received a number of international sustainable building awards. We were lucky  to meet him at his studio in Cape Town.

“Things in nature are cyclical and we must build in holistic ways, using natural resources in harmony with nature; water should be harvested from the rain, used efficiently and recycled. Energy should come from the sun. Structures should be built with non-toxic or moon phase harvested timber or bamboo rather than steel and concrete. Walls can be made with natural and recycled materials like, earth block, cob, rammed earth, stone, urbanite, straw bale, hemp-lime, sandbag and timber. Roofing insulation can come from nature where roofs are planted and insulated with healthy natural materials like wool, cork or recycled paper. Finishes should be non-toxic; like healthy breathing natural plasters, and zero V.O.C paints. “

Different shades

There are different shades of green and you can do your bit, starting at home with energy efficient appliances and LED lights moving on to more renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and biogas, we need to look at energy saving as an investment over time rather than simply the up-front cost. Conscious design means being aware of where resources come from so that we can shift our building industry towards more post-carbon based types of construction.

“What makes me do what I do? I couldn’t do it any other way; once your eyes are open they’re open, and I can’t stand by and not act on one’s convictions. Also, it’s a great field to be in, you meet interesting people, get to work on amazing projects and you have to be extra creative.”


 Get in touch with Andy Horn by visiting his website and find out more about past and current projects and the principles inspiring his work.


Paul Talliard, founder of Hands of Honour, in his office in Ottery, Cape Town ©David Peter Harris

Paul Talliard, founder of Hands of Honour, in his office in Ottery, Cape Town ©David Peter Harris


“I was one of the first black firemen in South Africa; I had a great wage, a stunning life. Then, I got introduced to crack cocaine; within a year, I lost everything”. This is how Paul Talliard, founder of Hands of Honour, commenced his story. We were sitting in his temporary office in Ottery, a house offered as a work space; and in a business-like fashion, he closed his Twitter page (not without first retweeting some breaking news). I couldn’t believe what that bright smile and drive could hide; yet, I was ready to listen. I sat on the couch as he turned off his computer; we had each other’s undivided attention.

“I ended up on the street. Then one day I was walking on Muizenberg beach, looking for food; I saw myself hunting in a bin and I decided that I had reached the tipping point; I would turn my life around. The same afternoon I went to chat to the Soup Kitchen management about my intention, and they decided to help me. In two months I was clean. One day, the lady who ran the Kitchen came to me and asked me to address the other guys and inspire them with my story. In a Soup kitchen, men and women are separated; I looked up and there were 150 men in that room, right there, and I found myself standing in front of who I used to be. I told them “Everybody who wants to change their lives stay behind today and we’ll have a little chat.” Only eight men stayed, but it was a great chance to connect. We started meeting every week, and in a short time the number grew to 50 men, who were committed to getting off the street. We worked on a little project together – fixing a widow’s home, and then I decided to register us as an NPO, Hands of Honour.

I had hands, but I needed to find some work to keep those hands busy, to avoid them getting back on the street.” Paul looked around the room, and then back at me, smiling, and  said

“It’s like getting dressed for a party, with no party to go to”.

I will remember this analogy forever, as sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we don’t know whether we’re getting up for success, or disaster.

Hands of Honour’s Constitution states that the “Hands” need to give back to the community for every paid project accomplished. “I was introduced to the concept of social enterprise. I started attending courses and applying for grants and, believe it or not, things started happening.”

One day, Paul received a phone call from a corporate, which donated 500 Christmas trees that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. “We sold those Christmas trees at markets, and we made a profit of R8000. One Saturday morning, I took half of our profit, got t-shirts and brushes for my guys with the plan to paint a school in Steenberg which had not been painted in years. When my 60 guys pitched up, I couldn’t believe my eyes.” This is how Hands of Honour’s up-cycling formula took off. The NPO establishes relationships with the corporate sector, which donates its obsolete stock. Hands of Honour up-cycles the stock into value; 50% sale provide salaries for the “Hands”, while the other half is used for projects to turn negative spaces into positive ones that benefit the community.  To this day, Paul and his Hands have handled many big projects, from turning a Drug Den into a Community factory that makes school uniforms, upgrading an early literacy centre for rural children to regular community clean-ups and the latest Book Nook. These community-driven projects lead to a drastic drop in crime rates in the area “This happens when communities take ownership of the projects in the area”, Paul says.

Hands of Honour turns waste into value. Its up-cycling formula guarantees salaries as well as funding community projects ©David Peter Harris

Hands of Honour turns waste into value. Its up-cycling formula guarantees salaries as well as funding community projects ©David Peter Harris

Hands of Honour also addresses a social problem found in Soup Kitchens; unemployment and social grants create a generational issue, ingrained in the social texture with heavy reliance on handouts. “I see whole generations coming through the Kitchen, when nobody should grow up in one”, Paul tells me, in a concerned tone.

While the social welfare policy in South Africa is formulated on the principles and needs of empowering individuals and closing the poverty gap, there is an active discussion to determine the extent to which these measures reap sustainable effects or just perpetuate what is called welfare dependency’.

Addressing social and economic marginalization is not an easy task. With the unemployment rate swinging between 25% and 36,1% (with the latter including people who have stopped looking for work) (Reuters, July 2015), and one quarter of the population currently receiving grants, Paul’s words brought home a special kind of awareness. I am not against grants, but social assistance alone cannot be intended to work miracles – what is desperately needed are measures to bring down the marginalization of the “unemployable” while triggering economic inclusion, skill development and training; only then we can look at poverty reduction and empowerment as measurable, real goals. Otherwise we’re setting ourselves up for disaster.

Hands of Honour sets out to solve the issue with a Job Training Programme that provides skills and confidence to those members of society who have ‘checked out’, that have stopped trying. “I tell my guys that they can’t depend on anybody, nobody owes them anything; they have to work to make a living; by doing that they build confidence and function like positive role models for their families”.

Our time together was almost up, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the ripple effect Paul himself had created, in his life, in the lives of men considered unemployable, his guys, and their communities. It seemed like a rhetoric question, but I had to ask him what drives him.

“My passion is to see what I see now; one of my guys pulling into the Soup Kitchen, not to eat a meal, but to be inspirational to other people. I was 46 when I walked into a Soup Kitchen, and I had a second chance; I want everybody to have one too. “

Before leaving, he added

“When you reach out to others, you find yourself healing and your success growing. As you bring hope to other people, something inside you changes too. Give to receive and you will see that what you reap is magical indeed.”

The special kind of awareness Paul made me picture over our long chat belongs to all those people who, like me, have been lucky enough to never worry about their next meal, a bed to sleep on, what clothes to wear, or even a hug. However, I have committed to be aware of my daily actions, and the little or big impact I can make, even when shopping for a wooden bench, or a reading nook. While we are waiting for the social assistance framework and policy to up their game in the far away Government rooms, there is so much we can do, as a groundswell movement. I left Paul’s office with a great “awareness-in-action” mindset.



 ©David Peter Harris

If you have donations that these Honourable Hands can turn into value, please get in touch with Paul. Check out their Eco Atlas page and look at their growing range of products, before going on your online shopping portal.


Spoiler alert, this copy contains quite a few hyperlinks, for ease of reference :)


Over the weekend, Eco Atlas shared the beautiful space facilitated by Greenpop in collaboration with Rocking the Daisies – we activated in the Green Village, alongside some vibrant organizations, businesses and individuals that are committed to steering consumer choices towards a sustainable future.

The Green Village, Hemp Stage and TEDx Cape Town tent were fully solar powered by MLT (that provided a solar charger for phones), in collaboration with Sunshine Cinema.

Being one of the most anticipated music events of the year, and being on its tenth edition (#decadeofdaisies), RTD 2016 attracted roughly 22000 eager festival goers; in this context, the Green Village provided a really cosy, relaxed and carbon-neutral platform for people to get together in creative ways and to foster interesting discussions; from early morning yoga, ecobrick making and fun recycling activities with Sustainable Brothers and Sisters (one of RTD Environmental Partners, together with Hemporium and Greenpop), hula hoop workshops with Hoop Flow Love, green shopping with Printed Truth, Hemporium and the Green Co-Op, board games with 100 in 1 day Cape Town, to  #makeyouown toothpaste sessions and video recording moments with us- all with a terrific music line-up! Up-cycled Reliance Compost bags made comfy cushions for the pallet couches scattered around the village.

“Everybody is so nice and relaxed around here, smiling at each other” was a comment I overheard between conversations. A young girl came to ask me where she could throw some organic matter. Wow!

After 3 days of great talks, chats and music, it was an obvious choice to dedicate this chapter to all the Everyday Change Makers whose paths we were lucky enough to cross. The present challenges make an interesting background for innovative solutions and creative collaborations. It is you guys who make sure the future is decorated with sincere respect for each other, our environment and its beings.

I would like to extend my gratitude to all the people who have been working behind the scenes, from all the sponsors, production teams to the cleaning and security staff that looked after us, made sure everybody was safe, had clean toilets, and that Cloof Wine Estate was clean after everybody left, KUDOS to all of you!

I certainly have a few suggestions for the RTDs to come, like a more sustainable number of visitors as well as a music line up that calls and favours the integration that is so needed.

When I walked back to my car on Sunday, most people had already left. The landscape had changed from makeshift camps to an apocalyptic scene; a desolated valley filled with  trash and unwanted goods scattered everywhere. I was particularly saddened at the number of 5lt water bottles left behind, lying in the sun.

It dawned on me that I had spent three days in a green bubble, with resourceful people who organized daily clean ups showing respect for natural resources and each other while listening to good music. I am not demonizing all the other festival goers;  I believe that the challenge ahead is to spread this caring vibe over the different music stages, age groups and (green or not) villages.

Challenge accepted :)

our video is coming soon


Everyday Change Makers/Rocking the Daisies 2015 ©David Peter Harris


Everyday Change Makers/Rocking the Daisies 2015 ©David Peter Harris

Everyday Change Makers/Rocking the Daisies 2015 ©David Peter Harris


p.s we’re editing our video, it will be available soon :)



Dumisile Mqadi and I sat on the rooftop terrace of Happy Hippo, the funky eco-friendly backpackers in downtown Durban.   Dumi has been working for Happy Hippo and its sister lodge, Hippo Hide, for more than 6 years. She started off as a cleaning lady, but that was only the beginning.   “One day, I walked past Michelle Brooks’ office while I was carrying the laundry. Michelle came to me and asked me if I wanted to try and work downstairs at reception. I thought she was joking, so I said “No”, giggling. She told me I should try it out for a month and see how it was; I didn’t believe her, but I saw my name on the schedule for the next month and I saw that I had been put down as a receptionist for some days, and others as a cleaner. I just wanted to quit; I was scared and shy, I wanted to stay at home; I didn’t know what to say. I felt I was not educated enough, I was just a cleaning lady.”

Dumi's contagious smile breaks through her shyness ©David Peter Harris

Dumi’s contagious smile breaks through her shyness ©David Peter Harris

“I did eventually go, and my first shift as a receptionist was at Hippo Hide – I had a night shift, and as all first days I wasn’t too sure about how things worked, and there was nobody to tell me how I was doing. In the morning, Mike (Brooks) came and welcomed me to my new job. He told me he trusted me and he didn’t want to hang around because he knew I would be shy to help people in front of him. After two months, Michelle asked me if she could put me reception full time, but I said I wanted to go back to work as a cleaning lady. I was still very scared and I thought I belonged to that job only. My colleagues in the office were amazing because they treated me as equal and wanted to assist me and help me with any requests, so I chose to stay instead. I owe it to them where I am now; they helped me stick to it and grow confidence.”

“I am not going to lie; I am still very shy and scared. I still feel like I am new here and not educated to do this; our teamwork helps me overcome my insecurities.”   “Any tips to empowerment I would like to share? We all come from different families, but respect is universal. When you’re unsure, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, I can’t stress that enough. Be humble and accept being lead and not leading sometime. If you want to do something, you have to fight for it, you can’t sit around but work for a better future.”

“I am so proud of what I have done; I wish I could do more now”. Dumi is planning to further her education, and she is pondering whether to study Tourism or Education. “I always thank Michelle and Mike for seeing the potential in me.”   “Deep rivers run quiet”, says Haruki Murakami, and Dumi is a reminder that the humble choices we make every day build up to a better self and a better community.

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe - rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris

Catch a lovely sunset from The Globe – rooftop bar at Happy Hippo accommodation, ©David Peter Harris