Clean-up at the Colbyn Valley Nature Area a humbling experience
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Embassy cultural affairs officer Maureen Mimnaugh said the clean-up was an opportunity to underline the leading role that US government-funded exchange alumni played in conservation and environmental protection.
“We had wonderful partners in the Friends of Colbyn Valley Nature Area, who identified a space that would benefit from the effort in association with the city administration.”
The clean-up was followed by a mentorship picnic which offered residents an opportunity to ask questions about the US and allowed alumni to share their experiences in America with the 18 girls from Lerato House, a transitional residential facility for young girls at risk.
“The mentorship picnic was an opportunity for exchange alumni and US Embassy staff to meet the young women from Lerato House, to inspire, share and motivate them to continue chasing their dreams and to highlight the important role they will play in shaping the environment for generations to come,” Mimnaugh said.
Representatives from Friends of Colbyn Valley, a community group which raises awareness of wetlands and wetland conservation in the metro, explained the role that wetlands play in protecting water quality and the ecosystem.
“Putting garbage in designated bins is one small step everyone can take to prevent litter and protect local ecosystems. Natural spaces are beautiful and hold tremendous economic and health benefits.”
Friends of Colbyn Valley representatives also enthused about the critical role played by insects and other animals in agriculture through preying on crop pests; and plants providing ecosystem services such as removal, transfer, stabilisation as well as destruction of contaminants in soil and sediment.
Waste often encroaches on the habitat of many species. Therefore, reducing, reusing and recycling are paramount to decrease the mountains of waste and litter that end up in waterways.
MJ, a resident of Lerato House, said the day reminded her of nature and biology class. “I hope we get to do this again. This area acts like a filter and now we understand why clean-ups like this are important for the environment and this area."
For Ogaufi Mampane, an alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative Mandela Washington Fellowship, the opportunity to mentor youth was a humbling experience.
“It was a reminder that we all have something to give, no matter how minuscule it might appear to us,” Mampane said.
Mimnaugh also emphasised the need for regular clean-ups as they help in protecting the habitat for various species.
“We believe that encouraging alumni of US government-funded programmes and the next generation of youth leaders to become environmental ambassadors can have a ripple effect, inspiring the country’s youth to actively reduce, reuse, and recycle. All in an effort to protect nature areas and indigenous species.”