'I never knew dreams do come true, but today is proof that this could happen,' said Helen Mmethe, head of the people and conservation department in the Kruger National Park.
Helen was referring to the two buses donated by Shell South Africa that were handed to Dr Bandile Mkhize, executive director of the Park, at a special ceremony in Skukuza on Friday, February 4. As William Mabasa, programme director on the day, remarked, Helen spoke from the heart seeing the fruition of a vision she had about four years ago.
The word 'Kasie' is township slang that sprung from the Afrikaans word 'lokasie', which means location and epitomises what Helen had in mind when she dreamt of 'taking the park to the people.'
At that time she shared her ideas with the honorary rangers of the Johannesburg region who took on the challenge of facilitating the realisation of this dream with Shell SA. 'Shell SA is very pleased to be such an integral part of this project,' says Linda Nthombela of the external affairs department, 'because we consider this kind of outreach essential for developing a culture of caring for the environment.'
Shell Retail's Vernon Johnson, who was instrumental in arranging the donation, said that the buses have been specifically refurbished for the project. The people and conservation department will use the buses in a focused environmental and conservation education programme that targets the communities living along the boundaries of the Park.
Both buses are fitted with screens, television sets and other audio visual aids that will facilitate educational projects and awareness creation but also promote tourism. Helen announced that a competition has been launched in the neighbouring schools asking pupils to draw their definition of conservation.
The best entries will be painted on the buses, also in that way bringing Kruger to Kasies. The 'Take Kruger to Kasie Project' will be aimed at the communities adjacent to the Park in both the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces for the first two years, after which the effort will be extended into other provinces.
By Lynette Strauss