Blazing new tree trail for 67 minutes

The Chrysalis Academy students marching through the labyrinth carrying trees to be planted.

Mandela Day was well spent in the far south this year, with both the Chrysalis Academy and members of the South African Navy visiting the Rotary International Youth Camps in Glencairn to spend their 67 minutes (and more) planting trees, and creating a new hiking trail.

Koos Burger, who created the longest labyrinth in South Africa in the Rotary camps, has just been awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship through Cape Town Rotary’s new president, Chris Hanson.

Mr Burger has worked with the Chrysalis Academy, through the camps, for three years, and he expressed total confidence in it.

The academy students carried 28 Kei Apple trees to the labyrinth.

Mr Burger said there was one for each of the 27 years Madiba had spent in prison, and the 28th tree symbolised freedom.

The students then went on to define a new hiking trail on the land, which Mr Burger had previously mapped out, using materials from the land – and a dash of artistic flair.

He spent a few minutes giving some inspirational and practical guidance to the group of young men (who are due to graduate from the academy on Saturday July 30) then let them get to work.

The provincial government de-signed the Chrysalis Academy as a youth development programme to counter the impact of rampant gang and drug activities in poor communities. Since the project started 15 years ago, more than 6 000 young men and women from various communities have been through the training.

The participants spoke with pride about their experiences.

Michael Xeleto finished his training as a top achiever. He is now a junior instructor with the academy.

“What we learn here, we take into our communities and share there, and that’s how we build up ourselves and our communities, together,” he said.

The SA Navy Fleet Budget Management team of the SA Navy were present and first walked the labyrinth as a team building exercise before digging in, literally, by planting the Kei Apple trees.

“We have been contributing our little bit on Mandela Day for the past three years by clearing alien vegetation. This is the first year that each one of us planted an indigenous tree for the future people of our country. It was also the first time for almost everyone to walk through a labyrinth and many were confused between a maze and a labyrinth,” said Andre Blom.

“ We enjoyed the experience tremendously, Oom Koos explaining the various plants and shrubs and their use. We all learned a lot of the natural fauna and flora that is indigenous to our area. Walking through the 28 bends and realising that you are at times so close to the end goal, but yet so far. One understands that life is very much the same and one does not always reach your own goals quickly. Even those that you might have in sight.”