What happens to fish if you throw empty plastic bags in a river? Why is it wrong to litter? How many different types of plants exist in my community, and which ones can I plant to provide me with food?

At the beach with WESSAThese are some of the questions WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa), a nationwide NGO that pro-actively engages with the challenges and opportunities presented by South Africa's unique natural heritage, is addressing with its Environmental Education (EE) programme for primary school learners across KwaZulu-Natal(KZN).

Through its mission of 'promoting public participation in caring for the earth', WESSA utilises its four EE Centres, located across the province, to teach and encourage learners from under-resourced schools to take action for a healthy environment.

Grant Trebble, WESSA KZN regional manager, explains: "WESSA oversees and coordinates the transportation of learners to the EE Centres from rural and disadvantaged communities and schools across KZN. There we teach them about issues such as water management, recycling and how to live sustainably by reducing water and energy consumption. They also learn about alternative energy sources, our country's rich biodiversity and how to conserve it."

In addition, learners return home with course material, ensuring WESSA's vital messages are communicated with other members of the family as well as the community at large. Another component of the EE programme is an outreach initiative, which sees WESSA volunteers visiting schools and involving children in various activities including the harvesting of water, food gardens and the use of solar cookers.

Being reliant solely on public donations for much of its work, WESSA experiences difficulty in transporting as many learners as it would like to the various EE Centres. However, the MySchool MyPlanet MyVillage fundraising programme recently signed up WESSA as a MyPlanet beneficiary, enabling cardholders to easily contribute by simply swiping their cards when they go shopping.

 

MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet is a fundraising initiative, which through collaborations with leading retailers, facilitates the donations of funds to over 10 000 beneficiaries nationwide. Each time a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card is swiped at a participating retailer, up to 10% of the overall purchase total will be donated to your beneficiary of choice at no cost to you. It's the easiest way to contribute to your favourite cause.

Funds received by WESSA from MySchool are used to fund the transport of children from their communities to the EE Centres, as well as their accommodation, food, course material and the educators.

"Often people want to make a difference, but they don't know how. This is the ideal way for the public to establish and grow the awareness of environmental issues in the mind of a child who would otherwise never have access to it," says Pieter Twine, MySchool general manager.

For more information about WESSA and its Environmental Educational programmes visit http://www.wessa.org/