Congratulations to the 2015 Environmental Award winners: Caleena de Carvalho (Individual), WildREACH (Student society/residence) and Elisma Hallier (Makana community).
Dr Peter Clayton presented the winners with the unique and beautiful floating trophies and framed certificates at a celebratory function on 29 September 2015.
Professor Martin Hill - head of RU Biological Control Research Group and a leading authority on aquatic invasive weeds and their biological control - gave an inspirational speech.
Winners' efforts to promote sustainability are acknowledged in the Rhodes University graduation booklet and on the Environmental Awards Honours Roll.
More about the winners:
Caleena de Carvalho: This individual has shown a deep commitment for sustainability and environmental issues, through practices that promote human and ecological health, through cohesive and collaborative efforts, leading by example, and planning for continuity of her environmental activities.
She has invested her time in promoting and ensuring practices in her residence that maintain a safe and healthy environment. With the Rhodes Environmental Policy incorporating sustainability education, sustainable waste management, water and energy use, responsible purchasing and community engagement, she introduced these guidelines to her fellow residents as a res environmental policy. She then invited them to sign this policy and thus pledge to using resources in a sustainable manner, and to promote human and ecological health through community engagement activities.
She participated in creating environmental awareness not only through the policies, but also numerous informational posters around the res about electricity consumption and water usage, and informing the student body about environmental events. In addition, she set up recycling stations with bins for paper/card, glass and plastic and encouraged fellow residents to get involved in recycling initiatives. In 2014, she won an environmental award in her Hall for being an active participant in the Hall vegetable garden.
This year she was appointed as the Environmental Representative on her House Committee, and organised vegetable garden outings and involved all the reses in weeding the garden and taking the veggie produce to underprivileged members of the community. She participated in her Hall community engagement project, painting a Raglan Road school and helping them set up their own vegetable garden. She planted and gave fellow students Spekboom, to help them learn how to care for it and understand the importance of this indigenous plant in environmental rehabilitation. She also contributed to building and strengthening the relationship between the reses in her Hall through a recycling competition in which they had to create art pieces from recyclable materials - a creative way to unify the Hall while raising awareness about the importance of re-using and recycling, instead of just disposing of waste.
This young award winner has taken care to document all that has been done this year, and saved all the policies, posters and information to ensure that her res can maintain these environmental projects in the years to come.
It is clear that she leads by example, participating in every event that is organised, as well as serving as an active member of two student environmental societies. This year she was appointed as secretary on RU Green’s committee, and involved the society in the Amazing Race in her Hall using the idea of species categorisation.
There is no doubt that she will continue her environmental activities, as this young woman stood for President of RU Green – and has now been elected to the position! She plans to work closely with the SRC environmental councillor in 2016 to further implement her environmental projects at Rhodes University.
WildREACH: This non-profit student group, established in 2011, is leading by example and making a significant contribution to environmental learning and promoting human and ecological health. Their passion for the environment – reflected in their superb educational trips to game reserves, sea shores and other places of educational interest – has touched the lives of many learners from disadvantaged communities.
Since their establishment, the group has established a solid track record, organising close to 50 trips which have benefitted hundreds of disadvantaged secondary schools learners who are hungry for knowledge. These fun and educational trips provide opportunities to appreciate the wider environment, beyond the confines of our town, and to engage meaningfully in learning about biodiversity and conservation. The students who run these trips are passionate about environmental concerns, and have demonstrated great maturity and organizational capability, and run the programmes very professionally. Not only do they prepare educational programmes, they also spend time listening and hearing what children need, think and wish to learn. They have shown compassion, understanding and generosity in giving of their time to ensure that every activity, including several days away with children, is successful, enjoyable and filled with meaningful outdoor and wildlife experiences and educational content.
In 2013 the group started collaborating with Professor Hill's Biological Control Research Group. On a weekly basis, they spend time with a secondary school wildlife club, teaching learners how research is carried out, raising awareness about environmental and sustainability issues, and highlighting the value of critical thinking skills. They also contribute to environmental activities at Rhodes University, for example, setting up and demonstrating how certain insects can play a valuable role in controlling invasive plants species, thus promoting biodiversity and ensuring ecological health.
Collaboration is a strong point of this student driven programme. Their activities foster relationships between student volunteers, local township schools, a variety of wildlife parks and reserves, biodiversity research organisations and other environmental groups. The student organisation maintains a good relationship with two well-established organisations that provide guidance and support – Sustainable Seas Trust and Wildlands Conservation Trust.
The student group receives some funding from these backers, thus helping ensure continuity of their activities. They have used the funds responsibly, delivering on their promises and submitting well-branded, professional progress reports to their backers on a quarterly basis. The group also does its own fundraising, and has a strategy to develop an Endowment Trust that will see them through dips in funding cycles. Furthermore, they have developed a strategy to continue their activities even when funding is minimal – by undertaking low-cost environmental activities and educational programmes closer to home. There is no doubt that this group is going to continue for many years to come, promoting ecological health and a deeper understanding of what it really means to be a ‘living community’.
Elisma Hallier: This individual has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to promoting environmental sustainability for many years. She initiated her school’s involvement in the EcoSchools programme and has coordinated their EcoSchool committee since 2008. The EcoSchools programme - active in 51 countries around the world - is aimed at supporting environmental learning within the school curriculum, and taking action to promote environmental sustainability in the school and wider community.
Our award winner works in a special needs school (Kuyasa Special School), and has a strong belief in her learners and their ability to develop important life skills through meaningful environmental projects. She works with the senior learners and has integrated her environmental learning work into all her teaching practices. She herself is amazed at how her learners have developed basic literacy and numeracy skills through, for example, being involved in constructing worm farms, harvesting worm juice and selling this on entrepreneurial days at her school. Each year she develops new innovative projects that speak to learners’ development needs while demonstrating sustainability best practices within everyday contexts.
The project guided by our award winner is clearly a shining example of sustainability. She has lead her school through a series of successive EcoSchool awards, namely bronze, silver, green, gold and in their fifth year (2012), her school was awarded an “International EcoSchool Award”. Once they achieve international status, they become known as “platinum schools” and continue as leaders in the EcoSchool community. Her school achieved platinum status in 2013 and 2014, and is working towards its third platinum award this year.
As part of this programme, our award winner has been expected to show evidence of the sustainability of her school’s projects – picking up a new theme in their work and showing growth in the previous year’s work, each successive year. This has been a particular strength in this individual’s work and she has clearly shown this sustainability and growth through the outstanding portfolios that she submits each year.
Her work at the school is clearly dedicated to the promotion of human and ecological health and ‘living communities’ in ways that stimulate collaborative and cohesive community relationships. This is evident in the numerous projects our award winner has developed and sustained over 7 years: Indigenous gardening, growing medicinal plants, spekboom planting, tyre gardens, worm farms, trench gardens, composting, tee-pee gardening, grey water recycling, removal of alien invasive species and more.
Our winner is a true leader having been a stalwart member of the Makana EcoSchools group since joining the programme. She attends meetings regularly, gives solid input at these meetings and also has hosted the group at her own school a number of times where she shares special projects that the school has developed. She demonstrates a generosity of spirit in the way that she engages other schools in their project challenges and in the way she shares great detail of her own work.
This individual is consistently applauded for how she follows the EcoSchools framework of integrating environmental projects and lesson planning, while at the same time taking the expectations far beyond the minimum requirements. National coordinators have showcased her work as an example of innovative practice in the country.