“A tree is an amazing symbol because it sucks in carbon dioxide which we know is causing so many problems in our world and it breathes out oxygen. So it becomes a symbol for what we desire for this community, that all that violence and sexual abuse and gangsterism drugs and alcoholism will be sucked in and we can breathe out joy and happiness and a beautiful recreational space where our children can grow in safety. These trees are a symbol of our dreams for these communities”
This was the message given by Reverend Rachel Mash when she blessed the 27 trees that were planted at Princess Vlei on Sunday, 18 August. People from all over, young and old, arrived to plant the trees in honour of children who had died, and as a pledge for children of the future.
Lorna Houston, Grassy Park resident and civic member, spoke of the importance of being good role models for children. “As mothers and fathers we need to show our children how to treat each other with respect, how to resolve problems without violence. If we value children, they will value themselves, they will have the courage to speak out if someone abuses them, to shout and to say no.”
Philip Bam, Chairperson of the Princess Vlei Forum and member of the local Community Policing Forum, spoke about how important it is for children to have safe recreational spaces to play and grow in. He spoke of the trauma of witnessing the bodies of child victims of violence in the area
He called on those present to “remember that when you are planting these trees your are planting for our future and our children’s futures”
Iona Buekes, Founder of Rise and Shine Youth Development Project was there with young members of the project. "I understand the importance of child safety and safe places for children to play. The young ones I mentor come from the informal settlement Freedom Park (Ottery), where hardship, substance abuse and violence are part of life. Having them come along to Princess Vlei to plant a tree was very symbolic of one of the life lessons I am trying to teach them; an appreciation for their environment and nature; promoting growth and development. I want them to know that life can be beautiful if they believe in themselves and respect our Planet. It's all about wellness..."
Princess Vlei Forum once again urges the authorities to help us to conserve Princess Vlei, and to transform it into a beautiful urban park to uplift the local communities and give our children a safe natural space to play in.