A community garden at the Hout Bay police station is doing much more than just providing nutritious vegetables for the community.
During last year, Sergeant Pholelwa Njara, spokesperson at Hout Bay police, was made aware of the increasing number of fights between school children in Imizamo Yethu.
“The impact of this problem spread through the community and I made arrangements to conduct a search and investigation at a school, where we found that many of the youth were carrying weapons,” she said.
She quickly involved the parents and brought together many of the pupils accused of fighting, in an effort to resolve the situation.
“We needed to do something that would keep the boys active and break the cycle,” Sergeant Njara said.
Sergeant Njara then got into contact with Silikamva High School, various organisations and community initiatives, and planning got under way to start a community garden. In October, they identified the land and starting preparing the ground. In December, planting started.
“I wanted to show these youngsters what the real dangers are of participating in a gang, but at the same time, get them involved with more positive projects to keep them busy,” she said.
Community projects such as Love in a Bowl, Courage, Community Cook up and Community Cohesion joined forces with Hout Bay police to bring the new garden to life.
From cabbage to spinach, parsley, beetroot, chillies and more, the garden at the police station has it all and helps to feed the organisations involved with running feeding kitchens.
The boys previously involved with fights at the school also have a hand to play in the success of the garden.
Head of Department at Silikamva High School, Hene Zanele, said they had noticed a change in the boys since the start of the garden projects.
“The boys are behaving and the garden has united them,” she said.
Before they started working in the garden, said Ms Zanele, many of the boys had been sworn rivals.
“Ever since they started working together, they are one. Parents were frustrated with the ongoing fights, but there was no solution up until the garden was created,” Ms Zanele said.
“The involvement of Sergeant Njara at our school has worked out perfectly. We do not have fights anymore, unlike before when learners were constantly disturbing learning and there were many disruptions,” she said.
Apart from gardening, the boys have also been involved in other activities such as hiking and sports and also receive counselling, through the Hout Bay-based Community Cohesion.
The organisation co-ordinates programmes for victims of domestic and gender-based violence, as well as those who struggle with anger and aggression.
Heading up these programme is Rian Perry, who explained that there were a number of merits to a programme such as the garden initiative, including the exposing the boys to “pro-social and constructive” activities.
“Being kept busy and out of trouble, educational opportunities such as the hiking, conversation and nature, gardening, cooking, positive behaviour change, etc. Their involvement also enhances their own understanding of a community’s needs and taking from community members and taking from community members in taking responsibility for these needs,” Mr Perry said.
He also assisted with some of the behavioural aspects, where he ran four-week conflict management and life-skills groups with the boys.
“The aim of this was to assist them in their own understanding, beliefs and behaviours regarding conflict and violence, and to motivate positive change,” he said.
“Projects such as this is important as the participants themselves get to play an active role in improving their environment.”
Hout Bay Station Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Khutala Masakhala appreciated the partnership the school, organisations, parents, community members and youth of Imizamo Yethu had formed with them.
“The focus is not only the garden, there are other activities that are conducted to keep the youth busy to prevent them from committing any criminal activities.”
Love in a Bowl is an organisation helping to grow organic vegetables for the needy.
They recently posted on their page: “It is widely known that most successful social projects are those that get community buy-in. This is evident in the latest collaboration between Hout Bay SAPS, Courage, Love in a Bowl, Community Cohesion and Community Cook Up. What strength and resilience has been displayed through this incredible partnership of action, love, community and kindness.”
To get involved with the project, contact Sergeant Njara on 082 302 8370.