Living in the forest at Wild Spirit Backpackers in Nature’s Valley changed all of these facts for me. I cannot express enough gratitude to Greenpop for providing the platform for learning and making connections while doing good for our planet.
We are finding ourselves unraveling from the web of inspiration, connection, and passion provided by the Eden Festival of Action. Given this, it is easy to focus on the impressive parameters of measurement that the festival has achieved.
To reiterate and give the Greenpop team and participants extra kudos, the Festival of Action accomplished:
5,000 indigenous trees planted of over 30 species
3,000 square metres of alien vegetation cleared
9,000 plant-based meals consumed
3 collaborative murals, covering 104 square meters of surface area
12 open planting days with 80+ community volunteers
420 eco-bricks filled with non-recyclable waste to make 2 giant game board sets and 1 eco-brick earth bench
41 scholarship students from local communities and a 200+ participant total
These numbers summarize the positive change that the event created, but there are also many positive changes that numbers can’t capture.
We can regurgitate the numbers that represent the impact of the Festival of Action. Still, it is difficult to keep track of the small moments and exchanges that nourish our spirits. For example, when a friend notices that your energy levels have changed, you feel considered. When another friend brings you a fresh coffee without you having to ask, you feel cared for. At night sitting by the fire, your leg touches the leg of someone next to you, a silent exchange of consent occurs. Maybe it’s because it is too cold to care about touching a stranger. Or maybe the discomfort dissipates because of a silent agreement that you are both here for the same goals.
These are examples of the brief encounters that often get labeled as insignificant. These small encounters accumulate over the course of four weeks. We must all acknowledge the significance of this foundation of caring, trust, and love. Arguably, these moments occur more often because of the nature of the space and it matters little whether these interactions occurred between team members or participants. These are moments of humanized connection with a unified mission; to help our planet.
After the festival, most of us re-enter the world that bombards us with culture promoting consumerist ideals and capitalist values. But, we will return to these small moments and how they made us feel, reminding us that we are appreciated for the impactful work that we are doing. Our What’s App notifications will ping. Our Instagram direct messages will fill. But we won’t forget the peace we felt when we were off the grid.
Re-entering the grid makes us sometimes wish we never re-entered in the first place. Even now, over two weeks after the conclusion of the festival, the Greenpop staff is still in a place of processing and reflecting. This is how deep the effects of events like this are. We have now had enough time to process the immediate emotions connected to a monumental event. Our emotions have romanticized us into a place of nostalgia. Still, the reality is that as a movement, we must continue progressing forward.
I conducted a focus group made up of five students from the second week with my fellow intern Alexandra Gunn. All five of the students expressed a profound change-making sentiment. Students spoke excitedly about implementing better waste-management programs at their schools. They have plans to speak to the principals and school administrators. The students were also touched by the eco-brick building sessions with Waste-Ed by Candice Mostert and Matt Baker. Zoe Maralack revealed her new confidence to pursue a career in music, thanks to the workshop sessions with Paolo Costa. The focus group proved that the impact of the festival transcends the Garden Route.
By involving the community in the change-making processes, Greenpop creates effective change. When speaking about the mural design and painting process, Chris Auret, resident muralist, stated that “All of the mural spaces were activated in a positive way.” Yes, we appreciate the final product and the beauty of the three murals. But upon further reflection, we are also appreciating the significance of the process. The engagement with the children and community members in the process of painting the murals is essential to the beauty of the product. Now, community members feel a sense of pride and ownership over the murals. This pride and ownership cannot occur without their direct involvement. The process of creating the murals is enriching and essential. The final product represents the ultimate reward of this process.
The Eden Festival of Action serves a significant purpose that does not end at the conclusion of the event. The event seeks to plant the seeds of inspiration and sow these seeds with active citizenship and meaningful connections. Over time, care of these seeds will yield saplings that serve as catalysts for future projects and goals. These saplings will transform into forests with meaningful networks and success stories. This all began with these numbers, which we achieved in a matter of three short weeks. We cannot summarize this festival with just numbers. We must see past these numbers and acknowledge a greater context that goes beyond the individual, the team and Greenpop.
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Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.