Princess Vlei Guardians: We are nature defending itself
Princess Vlei is a place where us as people communicate with each other; where we feel free and come alive when we reach Princess Vlei. Princess Vlei is our second nature and a place where people can come to when we feeling lonely and sad. This place connects us when we feel disconnected."
- Nuhaa Roberts, Steenberg Primary
Youth are at the heart of our project. They were at the forefront of the campaign to save Princess Vlei, and continue to be our greatest champions. They have been actively involved in efforts to conserve and rehabilitate Princess Vlei, and have been planting on and cleaning up the vlei for close to ten years.
They have shown themselves to be wiser than many civic leaders, guided by an intuitive understanding of why protecting a space like Princess Vlei is so important for the youth of today and tomorrow.
Many of the youth we work with come from troubled communities, which experience economic hardship and social problems such as gender abuse, drug use and gang violence.
Our mission is to give them a safe and healing space, where they can reconnect to nature, to each other and to themselves; where the beauty and complexity of Princess Vlei’s natural life can inspire passion, curiosity and joy. The Vlei gives them a place to build friendships, to play, to grow strong and to develop a love and understanding of living things.
In 2018, the Learners of Lotus High formed a club called the Lotus Princess Guardians. The concept of guardian was eagerly adopted by all our school groups, as it encapsulates caring for a space without taking ownership. Guardian projects include:
Planting fynbos and clean-ups
Each year, school learners come to the vlei to plant and pick up litter. This is a key aspect of our restoration plan, and gives learners the chance to be part of transforming their environment in positive way. Putting their hands in the soil connects the learners connect to the earth. We encourage them to write their names and a message on a stick to be planted with the plant, to deepen this connection.
Citizen Science and creative arts projects
Learners are invited to gather data on pollinators, leopard toads, flora and fauna and process their discoveries through age appropriate science activities. These include participating in iNaturalist challenges, and testing the water and soil. Each year, we host an overnight workshop to learn about and gather data on Leopard toads. We also use creative arts such as sculpture, painting, and dance to encourage learners to celebrate and deepen their understanding of the plants and creatures at Princess Vlei
Processions, rituals and celebrations
Each year, young guardians honour the plants and animals at Princess Vlei through a procession and celebration. The learners create puppets, t-shirts, masks and other objects inspired by Princess Vlei in interactive workshops. These form part of the colourful parades and musical/ dance or drama performances that are featured at the Vlei. We work with the Peter Clarke Art Centre, Jungle Theatre Project, eMzantsi Carnival and other organisations, as well as local artists, HipHop artists, singers, and dance practitioners. The youth engage in rituals to express their gratitude for nature, and to deepen their understanding our interdependency and kinship with other species. The celebrations carry messages of hope and commitment to building a better world.
Through the Forum, Princess Vlei guardians have been involved in championing nature beyond Princess Vlei. These activities include marching against climate change, protesting the Liesbeeck River development and attending the Greenpop reforest fest.
While all our events are designed to be enjoyable, some are more geared to outdoor recreation. We have hosted Orienteering events, Scouts events, and a regular canoe club.
Our programs are open to any interested primary and high school learners. If your school or youth club would like to get involved, please email us.
In 2019, young nature guardians created three giant biodegradable guardian figures. which were hung on high poles at Princess Vlei. They symbolically represent the youth who organise to defend the vlei from pollution and other threats, and who nurture the living things at Princess Vlei. Here, Lotus High learner Damica Fortuin introduces the guardian of the sky.
Feb 3: World Wetlands Day at Princess Vlei
To the dragonfly nymph, thank you for allow us to visit your eco-system.... These messages were written by learners to express their gratitude to the creatures of Princess Vlei, during the World Wetlands Day event on February 3. Read More
Dec 12: Seeking Toads
We know a lot more about toad activity around Princess Vlei, thanks to the members of the Lotus Princess Guardian Club who attended the overnight Western leopard Toad Camp at Princess Vlei Eco Centre. Read More
Nov 26: The Princess and the Pollinators
The children of Buck Road Primary made some wonderful discoveries about pollinators at Princess Vlei. Read More
June 11: Today we are planting wolves
This was the message from restoration consultant Alex Lansdowne at the planting event on 11 June.. Read More