Marloes Dijkema

Deputy Chairperson, Green Beings

Teaching children how to improve their environment is the aim of Green Beings, the organisation that Marloes Dijkema champions.

Dijkema and her two colleagues are working in eight schools in Cosmo City, north of Johannesburg, getting children hooked on projects such as waste recycling, water conservation and cultivating gardens. If their quest for funding is successful, they will expand their reach to cover many more schools.

Since Green Beings can’t take any time out of the official curriculum, it works by helping the teachers to include environmental lessons in social science and life skills classes.

Or even in maths classes, Dijkema says. “If a tap is dripping in the school, you can bring water conservation into the maths lesson and calculate how much water is being wasted.”

Since Green Beings doesn’t yet have the money to pay its workers, Dijkema supports herself by working as a freelance photographer. She marries her love of photography with her passion for the environment by showing children how to take photographs of their projects during extra-mural sessions.

“I have always wanted to do something with my photography that would make a difference, so I have incorporated it into Green Beings so the kids can document environmental problems and send their photographs to local newspapers to create further awareness.”

The projects are part of the international Eco-Schools Programme, where schools are encouraged to audit their environment and then implement projects to tackle specific problems.

As a spin-off, the children take their knowledge home and into the wider community, which compounds the impact.

“We can definitely see it’s having an effect on the children and their attitudes. When we first went into the community and planted new trees, the kids would swing on them and break them and they’d throw their tuck shop rubbish on the floor, and that doesn’t happen any more.”

Green Beings also runs environmental day action projects and in June it organised a 20km river clean-up from Melville to Rivonia in Johannesburg. — Lesley Stones