Preserving our history through joining Save the San

Our Retirementor, Jeunesse Park, has shown herself, through her writings, to have diverse interests – all directed to conservation and preservation. In her article, Jeunesse explains why saving an ancient culture is saving ourselves.

I recently joined an exceptional initiative that supports the continued survival of some of the earliest humans; they have the oldest DNA and are the last integrated hunter-gatherer community with a deep knowledge of the earth, plants and environment.

Through my work in this field, and as a human who hopes for a better future for our species, I feel strongly that helping these indigenous people, whose connection to Earth is ancient and valuable, can teach us so much.

Save the San

Save the San recognises Khoisan people as the original inhabitants of Southern Africa. The Ju/’hoansi San, or Bushmen, of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in Namibia, are the final integrated San community allowed to hunt and gather for their survival. Sadly, they are extremely vulnerable, largely owing to an exceptionally low level of education: only 1% complete high school and none attend university!

This remote Nyae Nyae region has extremely inadequate school facilities that are hostile and alien to the community. Taken away from their families to attend school in another language, the Ju/’hoansi children are often confronted by wild animals as they walk long distances to school, and once there are bullied and intimidated. They have no transport and there is little access to building materials, school supplies, blankets, basic foods and support.

Over the last 11 years, Save the San has consulted and researched with this community, which realises the only way to preserve their identity and sustain their culture is through mother tongue education and skills, taught in early years, to survive in the modern world.

We are already training eight San teachers and the project will provide transport and water tank trailers, as well as support food gardens to enhance school attendance and the ability to learn. Save the San will cover salaries for matrons, janitors and other staff and the Ministry of Education will pay the teachers.

We now need support and partners. If you can contribute materially, or through helpful connections, contact jpark@progreen.co.za.

For more info, click here and here.

(You may enjoy reading Patricia Glyn’s book entitled: What Dawid knew – click here)

Two essential elements: Fire and Air

Breath is central to life.

Breathing is where our energy to live comes from and when we stop doing it … our time is over. 

Do you ever think about what we are breathing? Did you know that we are being exposed daily to dangerous levels of air pollution with significant impacts on our health and wellbeing? Yes, here in South Africa, particularly on the Highveld, air quality is often hazardous. I know because I now check an air quality App (called Plume) as often as I do the weather.

This journey of knowledge started for me in July when I visited family along the spectacular Northwest Pacific, USA. Our planned drive from Los Angeles to Seattle through national parks and conservation areas soon became an apocalyptic nightmare.

After San Francisco the skies grew grey; it was not cloud, but smoke. The atmosphere became increasingly oppressive, our eyes were stinging, and we were almost choking. By this time, I was no longer trying to see the barely visible landscape but trawling the internet for local fire updates and downloading an air quality App to find where the air might clear.

We drove through a summer inferno. Temperatures soared and the air was heavy from hundreds of fires burning from California to Canada. It was a horrifying experience.

Exhausted from the stress of the trip through so much smoke, we spent a night in a cheap motel in Oregon – no camping out, and grateful for the air conditioner. I have a newfound appreciation for quality air conditioners where the filters are regularly changed. Despite their energy usage (which I learned is greatly reduced), they can filter air pollutants.

We abandoned plans to visit Yosemite, closed due to the fires anyway, and joined thousands of holiday travelers on the busy coastal highway where most campsites were full, but where we could breathe easier.

The week at my uncle’s beautiful home on Hood Canal near Seattle was overshadowed by severe smoke from the 500 fires burning in Canada.  Citizens, especially the elderly, young and ill, were warned to stay indoors. Usually visible daily, I could not see the Olympia Mountains across the water, though the smoky sunsets were vivid.

Sadly, this is just the beginning of more searing summers to come as climate change ravages the planet and the air we breathe becomes more and more polluted. Oh, and on my return to Joburg in September, hoping to breathe freely again, the App indicated an Airpocalypse, the worst it could be, with most days since registering extremely high pollution.

Save Our Schools – Innovative Ideas to Reduce the Impact of the Cape Town Water Crisis

two jojo tanks with volunteersRetirementor, Jeunesse Park, shares her involvement with an organisation which has innovative ideas to reduce the impact of the Cape Town water crisis on the quality of education and the well-being of our children. This article serves as both warning and inspiration – work together and we can mitigate the effects of climate change.

After years of dreaming about living in Cape Town, I finally moved there just as it became one of the first major cities in the world to be running out of water.

Frustrated that the government was slow to act, I was delighted to be contacted by a new non-profit organisation, Save our Schools (SOS), who have some innovative ideas. They were introduced to me through my work with Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project and I joined them on World Water Day in March 2018.

In response to the negative impact water shortages have on sport and hygiene at schools, SOS has grown into a multi stakeholder network providing innovative water solutions for those in need. The hard-working SOS founders have achieved remarkable results in just one year, thanks to collaborative and dynamic partnerships.

Swish Properties was a first responder, providing non-potable water from the hundreds of thousands of litres they daily pump out of the basement of one of their properties. Isuzu constructed and has equipped SOS with 10 water tankers to transport tanks and water, as well as providing vehicles to facilitate the work. JoJo Tanks provides schools with water storage tanks and pump manufacturers Grundfos installs booster pumps and sets for SOS projects. Unilever donated an additional 35 water tanks and contributed to awareness events. Insurers Munich Re provided thousands of litres of bottled drinking water for schools and communities and Mountain Falls Spring Water has created a special SOS bottled water.

SOS Water Tank with two male African volunteersThe SOS team now includes a pool of internationally influential climate leaders, government and media partners, successful multinational companies, entrepreneurs, education and development leaders, engineers, water specialists and more.

Projects start with the delivery of water and the associated infrastructure to those in need and are buoyed by awareness, education and enterprise development initiatives.

Whilst the winter rains finally arrived in Cape Town, restrictions are still in place and climate scientists, water experts, insurance companies, activists and others warn that this is only the beginning.

Climate change will continue to wreak havoc on world weather.

The dire impacts of the water restrictions on the economy, tourism, agriculture and much else that contributes to our quality of life in Cape Town and South Africa, are already being realised.

We need to work together to build water resilient communities.

To find out more and get involved see www.soscpt.org and contact jpark@progreen.co.za

Pollution clouds

Failing future – Are we out of time?

Retire Successfully Retirementor, Jeunesse Park, writes to us from Los Angeles, having spent a week in Mexico City. There, she says, the pollution is so extreme, that her eyes burned unrelentingly, and she felt like she had been a long-term smoker.  Jeunesse expresses her frustration at the seeming inaction of the powerful and influential to promote climate change, but she is heartened by the growing exposure given by such mainstream media as The New York Times, The Guardian, The Post and others. They are finally sounding climate alarms loudly and continuously.

It is 2018 and we are living in a new climate reality.

Extreme heat, drought, fires and floods ravage the planet. Access to drinking water shrinks and agricultural production falls. Hundreds die, thousands are displaced and Pollution in Mexico Citymillions of lives are shattered.

The physical effects are disastrous. The economic impacts are still to be calculated, comprehended and will play out over decades. One thing we do know … anthropogenic climate disruption is here to stay.

We have warmed the earth by only one degree centigrade since the Industrial Revolution and the results are already catastrophic. Scientists are pretty sure that if we stay on this current fossil fuel trajectory we are on a path to a two to five degree warming.  Permanent drought in parts of the world, fires, more intense weather, hurricanes, floods, heatstroke, starvation and associated disease and suffering will soon become the norm. At four to five degrees our species will falter, fall, and fail.

How have we let it come to this?

Warnings have been sounded since the 1950s (some even earlier at the turn of the century) that our rampant fossil fuel consumption and concomitant emissions were a dangerous experiment with earth’s atmosphere. Most scientific debate – on how our spewing out of excessive carbon was altering life on this planet – was settled by 1980. Further conclusive research papers have since been published, and hot air has been blown out at many global conferences.

Those of us who have realised the danger of inaction have exhorted world leaders, big business and citizens to rally. We have had every opportunity to act, but we have not. Instead, we now disgorge more noxious greenhouse gases daily than ever before.

We are a shortsighted species, unable to grapple with the consequences of our actions and their threat to our future. We are obsessed with gratification in the present and seemingly have no ability to learn from our mistakes and change direction. So, business continues as usual whilst millions suffer and our very survival is threatened.

Explaining our inaction to our children and grandchildren is more than challenging. Trying to instil hope that we can defy an inevitable dystopian future is overwhelming. Yet, hope we must. I am not giving up. I will continue to communicate what I witness and understand, to draw on my knowledge and experience to facilitate change and action where I can.

This year of climate disasters has hit mainstream media worldwide and awareness is growing. Young people are collaborating and challenging the justice, or rather injustice, system. The surge of technological solutions is encouraging.

My hope is in our essential human resilience and innovation.

Roy Irvine spening time at the children at the Link Literacy project

Never too late to learn … and teach!

Chartered Wealth Solutions client, Roy Irvine, volunteers for the Link Literacy programmeImagine finding a whole new area of learning when you decide to help others learn?  This is what Chartered Wealth Solutions client, Roy Irvine, discovered when he volunteered for the Link Literacy programme.

“Two hours once a week is nothing in a retiree’s life (or semi-retiree’s, in my case). The other tutors have, like me, had an excellent education and satisfying careers, and now see this as a way to encourage learning as a way for the children to have a great future,” says Roy.

How did you get involved?

After returning from some expat work (as a geologist) in West Africa, there were few opportunities for my skill set in the local mining industry, so I decided to look at what else I enjoyed, which was teaching.

I enrolled in and completed a TEFL (Teaching English, Foreign Language course). I started looking for opportunities and came across the Link Literacy program, and instead of teaching English, I ended up being part of, and now managing, one of the Numeracy classes, at the Melville branch.

Why did you get involved?

I believe that every child has the potential to be the best that they can be, and often don’t reach their true potential because of lack of adult support.

The 45 minutes twice a week that the volunteers spend with each of the children has been shown to enable them to grasp the basics of Numeracy, as well as to show them that numbers are not only important in life but can be fun.

We work with Grade 2 and Grade 3 children, and the feedback from their regular teachers has been very encouraging.

Why should others get involved?

Donate or volunteer at the Link Literacy and numourcy projectCurrently, we have 3-4 children to work with, and would love to see more volunteers to come on board, so that we could get to the one-on-one that the Literacy classes are achieving.  South Africa can have many more successful numerate people and we all believe that this is really a worthwhile cause to give back to, and an opportunity to themselves learn.

There are various centers around Johannesburg, all following the same programme. If you would like to see us in action, please feel free to pop into a session – watching a bunch of non-teachers (mostly) and a class of 8 and 9 year olds is something to see! The Link Literacy programme currently operates at 15 schools across Johannesburg, including in Midrand, Parktown, Norwood, Orange Grove, Fairland, Bedfordview, Edenvale, Melville.

Why not embark on your own journey of learning … to help others learn?

For more information contact megan Maynard via email at – megan.maynard31@gmail.com

Pondering Poverty

I have never considered myself wealthy but feel blessed every day and grateful to have enough to eat. Yet, I live with an innate sense of the injustice and inequality of our society, which drove me to devote most of my working life to the non-profit sector, focusing on uplifting lives through greening and food.

My parents instilled this. When I was five, living in Italy, we daily passed the slums in Rome where my mother pointed to the children eating out of dustbins. A few years later we resettled in South Africa and on trips to townships where my father promoted health and fitness, the inequity was all too apparent.

The poverty trap – inescapably systemic

A sobering read of Stats SA’s findings and a new World Bank report highlight that over 30 million in this country still live in poverty. These reports show South Africa as one of the most unequal countries in the world, and worsening due to low economic growth, high unemployment and a failed education system.

Stats SA’s data indicates how lack of education traps people in poverty. In 2015 they reported 79.2% of individuals with no formal education are poor, compared to only 8.4% who have a post-matric qualification. One wonders why the nation doesn’t spend more on quality education and educators.

It should come as no surprise that children are most vulnerable to poverty. Poor children from poverty-stricken households can’t eat properly, cannot grow well and, even if they do get to school, will perform badly. It is a no-brainer that we need good nutrition to foster cognitive ability, the foundation of learning. Bearing the brunt of unemployed parents, children graduate from poverty into being unemployed youth.

What kind of future do they have? And how does their desperation affect all society?

The upper and lower-bound poverty lines look at the cost of basic food and other basic living needs like shelter, clothing and transportation and are currently R758 (40% of our population live there) and R1 138 per month respectively.

The food poverty line represents the amount of money that a person needs to purchase enough food to consume around 2,100 calories per day, the minimum daily energy requirement for someone living in an emergency situation. I Googled what this look like and found an array of fad diets for weight loss showing images of muesli, fresh fruit, tuna salads, nuts, lean chicken, quinoa and even a glass of wine. How do you do that living on less than R1 000 a month?

There is much more to say on poverty but hopefully this short piece gives food for thought. How can you contribute and drive change?

At the very least you can contribute through your shopping – www.myschool.co.za and https://dischem.co.za/dischem-foundation – offer the opportunity to contribute to worthy causes seamlessly.

MySchool card- donate when you swipe Dis-Chem Foundation - Give back when you swipe at Dischem

Retirement: an opportunity to transform lives

When Coral and John Elks’ son-in-law suffered a spinal injury in an accident, little did they know that the impact of this experience would extend far beyond their family … and transform the lives of hundreds in Southern Africa.

Coral and John’s church is involved in a number of projects, most of which support healthcare:  training neo-natal resuscitation; clean water initiatives; measles campaigns; cataract surgery; the donation of wheelchairs.  It is in this last project that the Elks are actively involved.

But, the mere donation of wheelchairs is no guarantee of an improved life for a handicapped person … in fact, it may be a death sentence.  “An improperly sized wheelchair can cause further damage or injury to the user,” explains Coral.  “We have seen a child trying to manoeuvre an adult-sized wheelchair, and damaging his too-short arms and shoulders in doing so.” A persistent danger is pressure sores from ill-fitting chairs, and, once infected, the outcome could be fatal. “Generally, the lifespan of someone who suffers a spinal injury in third world countries is no longer than two years,” John clarifies – many die while waiting for a wheelchair. Also, the wheelchairs that are donated are the sturdier type more suited to the rugged conditions of rural Southern Africa.

As a result, the contract agreed on by the provincial government and the Elks’ church includes the provision of training of government physiotherapists and occupational therapists in the assessment, prescription and fitting of a wheelchair – an aspect of the treatment often not taken into account. “In all of our projects, the church’s aim is to improve the lives of people in the community in a sustainable way – and education, not only donation, is the means to achieve that,” says John. The World Health Organisation has accredited the training programme.

A business with joy as the reward

“It’s like we have opened our own business,” laughs Coral, “without the monetary remuneration.  We organise contracts, assess the need, order and have the equipment shipped, have the wheelchairs made up, arrange accommodation and the programme for the trainers and trainees. We are the people on the ground, managing the logistics, and check feedback reports that enable us to ensure the manufacture matches demand.” It is in this latter function that John’s expertise as an accountant is put to use … six years after retirement from formal employment.

This accountability sees the Elks travelling to the four projects under their care – Polokwane, Durban, Gaborone and Zimbabwe – one week out of four, for follow-up visits.  So, you can certainly say that travel is on their Bucket Wheel, and it is travel with a significant purpose.

On the couple’s visits to recipients of the wheelchairs, they are accompanied by the therapists.  This allows the therapists to check for pressure sores (often thereby preventing amputation) and to understand what home conditions are like.

“It is very humbling to see what an impact the donations are making in the lives of people,” says Coral.  “The work we do is hard but people are so grateful. We can’t believe how cheerful people are in such difficult conditions – and those with the wheelchairs are the lucky ones in these circumstances.” The impact is clear: being able to access transport and to get employment are crucial aspects of empowering those with these disabilities.

And what of the future?

“We will carry on for as long as we can,” says John.  “We have made contacts and built relationships with officials – it would make no sense for someone else to try and build trust from scratch.”

John explains, “When I retired, we had one year of ‘leisure’ before we started our first church project.  While I enjoyed the freedom of not having to go to work every day, I quickly realised that we could become sedentary and listless without something worthwhile that we enjoy … which is not to say that our work is fun, but it is a joy and a privilege to be a part of changing the lives of others.”

The project has changed the Elks themselves. “We’ve become a little more empathetic,” acknowledges John. “You can see suffering wherever you go, and it is easy to say ‘shame’ and carry on with your life. You can also say that it is the government’s job – it is, of course, and, yes, poverty and corruption are a source of frustration; but, if we waited until our donations were always handled perfectly, we would not do anything.  We don’t live in a perfect world, and we need to make a contribution.”

And the Elks are certainly doing that, helping hundreds of people live better lives.

Low-impact living: your gift to your planet

At this time in my life, I live alone in a small but comfortable space. I try to keep my life footprint as small as possible, understanding our disastrous impact on the planet and the dire future our descendants face as a result of humanity’s excesses. 

The water crisis in Cape Town is predicted for the whole country in the near future.  Acute awareness of this means the following is the norm for me:

  • two minute showers
  • only flushing the toilet when necessary
  • saving washing up to do all at once
  • only doing a laundry load once a week
  • everything unnecessary unplugged and all plugs not in use switched off
  • lights only switched on when needed
  • no heaters, nor aircon (though in winter an electric blanket is essential and I have been known to use it on the couch or under a rug on the floor when it’s icy)
  • reusing as much as possible
  • cleaning up, putting away, wiping and dusting as I go
  • only driving when it’s too far to walk, too heavy to carry or transporting a grandchild.

My children think I am weird, but all this gives me deep satisfaction and even a great sense of achievement.

The one area that has confounded me in my quest for low impact living of late is the necessity to eat a few times every day. In winter, I often cook up a big pot of a favorite soup or stew to eat over several days and freeze when it gets tedious.  Plant pots on windowsills offer a few herbs and vegetables but after a lifetime of providing daily meals for many, I now have little desire to cook.

Saving on grazing

On a lighter note, I have found that I can forage successfully from my daughter’s fridge. They do not always eat their leftovers nor keep a close watch on what is about to be past its use-by date. This can expediently give me several meals a week.

In the interests of health and diversity though, I have been wondering lately about the impacts of cooking for one, ordering in or eating out.  None of the sites I have found factor in the true costs of these options.  Most are sure that preparing meals at home is cheaper, but they do not include the drive to and from the shops, disposing of the packaging and other waste, the gas or electric energy required to cook a meal, the water to clean and wash up, as well as the time that could be spent on other things.

What I have started to do since I live within a short walk of shops is to buy only enough for a day or two at most. In this way, there is no waste and I am doing my bit in reducing the one-third of food produced globally that is wasted.

More research on this is obviously required and will be shared in future posts.  Meantime, I would be glad to hear from you.

Water thoughts

Being able to say, “I told you so” is not gratifying. In fact, it is profoundly disturbing.

For the past few years I have been warning all who would listen that we are heading for the day when you switch on your tap and nothing comes out. Sometime towards the end of last year “Day Zero” for Cape Town was announced. Now I feel like I am living in the dystopian future I spent most of my life trying to avoid through my work and activism. Living in a city drying up has added a pervasive level of stress to daily life.

It is immensely frustrating that Government still refuses to learn from or take offers of help from cities like Singapore and Perth, or Israel (a country of water expertise) that have successfully solved similar water supply and demand issues.

Aside from the criminal lack of response from the Department of Water Affairs and others purportedly in charge of caring for our water and wellbeing, no one can deny that the climate has changed. Wild weather is the new norm. Disasters related to droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events now occur globally. A UN study indicates an average of 335 weather-related disasters occurred annually between 2005 and 2014, nearly double those recorded from 1985 to 1995. Yet here, as the water tumult grows, there is a nervous avoidance of references to climate change.

It is a fact that as air warms it expands, which allows it to hold more moisture. This, in turn, increases evaporation and precipitation, which generally makes dry areas drier and wet areas wetter. We live in a water-scarce country here at the southern tip of Africa, and, sadly, as predicted by climate science for decades, this intense drought is just the beginning.

Threats of ill health, anarchy and army-controlled queues of millions attempting to get their daily 25 litre allowance and lug it back home have resulted in a sea of social media offering response strategies.  Unfortunately, emotions run high and there is much disinformation.

Bottled water, water saving devices, containers and tanks have disappeared from shelves as a result of panic buying. Aggressive behaviour in queues for spring water and supermarket aisles is already common.

A positive consequence of an impending Day Zero is that most citizens have woken up to the fact that water is a precious and necessary resource. On the promenade, in bus queues, coffee shops, dinner table conversations, in shebeens, in countless informal discussions and in global media, water talk dominates.  Morbid jokes like the proposed new tourism ad, “Come to Cape Town for a dirty weekend” also abound.

As a nation we have survived apartheid and seriously awful governance in recent years. We are a resilient people and this existential water crisis could bring out the best in us. Cape Town could lead the way for the other eleven global cities on the brink of running out of water. Let us rise to the challenge.

Facebook links: Anthony Turton, Water Shedding Western Cape, Cape Town Water Crisis, Cape Town

Greyhound Rescue South Africa – Dean’s Pet Subject

Dean Bush is passionate about dogs.  “I’ve been a dog-person my whole life.  When I was a kid, I volunteered at dog-rescue centres.  In the army I was a dog handler.  Now I run an NGO that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes greyhounds.”

Dean’s late father had a living annuity which is now managed by Chartered Wealth.   “Right now I work in a business that imports and distributes a range of watch brands, but when I retire I plan to devote as much time as possible to rehabilitating greyhounds,” says Dean.

Extending a compassionate hand

Rescuing mistreated dogs is massive in South Africa. “There are thousands of dogs out there that are abused, sick, hungry and homeless.  Some NGOs, like ours, are breed-specific, where the focus is on greyhounds, border collies or huskies, for example.  Other organisations rescue any dogs they can, irrespective of the breed.  Most NGOs are pro-life and do not euthanize the dogs.  Organizations like the SPCA run pounds but are not able to rehome all the dogs they get and often have to put them down.”

Why greyhounds? “They are a wonderful, pure breed, friendly, calm and loving.  Internationally, greyhound racing has become a massive problem, associated with gambling, vice and criminal activities.  Inevitably, the dogs suffer on a massive scale. Fortunately, such racing is banned in South Africa.”

But there is an underlying reason why greyhounds race.  “They are extremely swift and what we call sight-hunters,” explains Dean.  “By their nature, they will chase things that they see running away.  In racing, there is a hare that they chase round and round the racecourse.  They are literally ‘hunting’ something they see running away from them.  In South Africa, this has evolved into an entirely different, and equally evil, practice – hunting.”

Illegal hunting using greyhounds is rife in this country.  Owners take their dogs out of the city and illegally go onto farms and other open areas, where dogs will hunt rabbits, duiker, steenbok and even porcupines.  “It’s a terrible activity.  Usually gambling is involved and once the dogs get old, slow or injured, they are of no use to their owners.  That’s where Greyhound Welfare South Africa comes in.  We rescue these dogs from their various circumstances and through other welfare organisations.  We house them, neuter them, vaccinate and heal their wounds and illnesses.  Then we rehome them to suitable families.  Over the five years of our existence I guess we have saved as many as 250 dogs.”

Greyhound Welfare South Africa has several key partners.  “Saints Animal Charity is a charity shop in North Riding.  They sell donated items to the public and support ten beneficiaries, including us.  Then there is a wonderful organization called CLAW – Community Led Animal Welfare – that works in the impoverished Durban Deep area close to Johannesburg (http://clawsa.wixsite.com/claw or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clawsouthafrica).  Cora Bailey of CLAW is famous in that area and she helps the people and the dogs.”

For Dean, saving animals is a calling.  “It’s time-consuming and we usually don’t have enough money for the vets’ bills.  Right now I have a number of dogs at my house waiting for new homes.  I can’t wait until I am able to do this full time.  That’s where Chartered Wealth plays a role.  Oh, and apart from the dogs at home, I have a number of parrots.  I rescue them as well.”

Several dozen greyhounds and umpteen parrots….must be a busy (and noisy) house.

http://greyhound.rescueme.org/za

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=greyhound%20rescue%20south%20africa