April 22nd is Earth Day – a day to take practical action to help to heal the Earth.

Peter Hyslop, member at St Thomas Anglican Church and teacher at Bishop’s school in Cape Town decided to make a difference. Several schools are linked by being close to the banks of the Liesbeek River and so an event was organized to clean the river and learn more about water systems in Capetown.

The day dawned dry and chilly, and an enthusiastic group of over 100 young people (with a few recycled youth) gathered at St Thomas Church. There were members from the Church Inspire Youth Group, Bishops school, Rondebosch Boys, Rustenberg Girls, San Souci, and SACS.

Kyron Wright from the Friends of the Liesbeek told of how the canalized river is slowly being turned back into a river, as the reeds and vegetation are being allowed to return. Play parks have been established on the banks of the river and a cycling lane. A ‘veggies for free’ garden supplies the needy.

Rev Rachel Mash from Green Anglicans shared how to make eco-bricks (2 litre coke bottles filled with non-recyclable plastic which are used to build classrooms). She also shared about the “bring your own bag” campaign – first you pledge to stop using plastic shopping bags, then you campaign to your local shop to change to paper bags and then we go for a national ban the plastic bag campaign.

The young people jumped with enthusiasm into the river , muddy as it was and hauled out over 50 bags of rubbish.

Back at the church and following snacks , a talk was given by Prof Kevin Winter of UCT Futures water. He explained that we should not only think of dams as being our catchment , but the entire city should be thought of as a catchment area. Enough rain falls on the city to meet our needs three times over, yet the majority ends up rushing down the canals as storm water out to sea. He also reminded us that the rubbish that we picked up today – most of it was not thrown into the river. It was thrown on the side of the highways and washed into storm water and then made its way down the canals into the sea.

Following the talk, the young people divided into groups to discuss actions plans. Some of the ideas included eating less meat to save water, changing from taps to hand sanitizers in the school toilets, and forming a schools “friends of the Liesbeek” . Each school could take a section of the river to look after , planting indigenous vegetation, and then joint clean ups could take place from time to time.

The day ended with a braai, sponsored by Rotary Club.

A big thankyou to all the members of St Thomas who helped with catering and to “Letsdoitafrica” who sponsored bags and gloves.

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