Baphumele Youth Nature Connection Day
On Saturday January 26, 2019 Return To Origin, https://returntoorigin.org.zatrainee leaders in the Indigenous Knowledge Leadership Program, were delighted to return to the young men and women of Baphumele, Fountain of Hope. Last year we planted 10 trees there on their farm and the trees are thriving, we are pleased to say.
Baphumelele Fountain of Hope, is directed toward young people aged 18-21, who have been raised in residential care or who have recently been orphaned or who are vulnerable, with a safe and nurturing environment to transition positively towards adulthood.
Fountain of Hope provides a platform for youth that are not in formal education, employment, or training to learn the necessary skills to contribute to society economically and socially and to allow those youth still in high school to finish their education.
Earth, Home and Belonging
(Theme for the day)
Angelique Michaels trainee leader led the day. It was hot and sunny, and we moved slowly in the heat. In Return to Origin every day starts with a ritual and a calling to our ancestors for safety and help, understanding that we are not all there is, and an acknowledgment of the spirits of the land, so we before we lit our fire we lit mphepo praying for the smoke to take our prayers to the ancestors.
After welcomes and introductions and sharing one thing we felt grateful for, we divided into two groups, one to tend the fire and the other to assist in the kitchen. There was enthusiam and joy slowly brewing after what seemed like resistance to an invasion of their Saturday. Baphumele are already well versed with the idea of sustainability and these 10 young people tend to what they call the farm where they grow, carrots, spinach potatoes tomatoes and herbs. They collected spinach to add to our meal for the day and each one took a handfull and added it to the “potjie” which slowly cooked on our fire while we told our stories. A simple ritual of gathering food from their garden, adding it to a collective pot I saw was welcomed by them. It had never been done before they said as the foods they grow are usually sold.
Story, Food and Gratitude
There was a brief introduction to the element of earth as home and its connection to our sense of belonging. Each young person spoke about what home means for them. Bearing in mind they have all come from vulnerable situations, the words like safe, a place to be free, to be myself, spoke volumes. Return To Origin spoke about the Earth role as mother and how, when we feel scared or alone, we can lay on the lap of our mother and be cradled by the solidness and warmth of the earth. When we nurture and nourish ourselves not only with food but listening to each other and sharing stories we are creating a community, family. We offered a variety of possibilities for speaking to Nature as home or mother, and opened their imagintion to the healing power of Nature when things felt impossible.
The elders in the circle shared with the youth a story that connects to home and food. Stories are to our hearts what food is to the body. Our founder Mbali Marais shared her story of connecting to South Africa through the food her whole family cooked, when they lived in London. At Christmas the stories of food and their memories of South Africa would be shared with the children. Thats how the children got to know their homeland. She also shared that families are mobile, where ever she is, sharing space like to day becomes her family.
Food, the Senses and Clay Creation.
In circle, we talked about food and our relationship to it. We made the connection between the earth element and our sense of self-worth. How important it is to take care of ourselves and of one another in our communities. The significance of eating together and being present when eating, by exercising an awareness of our senses. We introduced the senses, and encouraged them to pay attention to what they hear, see, smell, taste and touch during lunch time. A tasty stew was served up which had been cooked over coals including spinach from their own garden and added to the pot by each one. We ate together and the youth shared they had not done this before and I saw how each one had compartmentalised themselves and sensed a longing in each one to connect in this way more often.
Angelique introduced the importance of teachers and guides, things, or beings we can look up to or feel inspired by. There may not always be elders around, but there are always people or things, that come into our lives to guide and inspire us; reminding them that heroes come in all different shapes and sizes. We invited them them to take a couple of minutes to reflect on who or what inspires them, after which they shaped and created a piece of clay and invite them to create something that represents who/what inspires them. What a beautiful and inspiring sharing of these young people. There was the girl who wanted to be an artist, the young man who spoke eloquenty about his love of maths and symbols and created a clay piece to reflect that. The young man who shaped a goal post and a player with a ball to share his love of football that inspired him and the man who made a heart and spoke of love and having heart, and the young person who made a face that represented the elders in his communities where he goes to listen to their guidance. Each one inspired us and we were deeply moved. The spirit of earth was present as each one presenced their voices in the circle.
Connection to Earth
In our final hour we took them through a muddy meditation. Shoes off and feet deep in the earth to imagine themselves as seeds of a tree firmly planted in the earth germinating and taking root. Reminding them once again to exercise an awareness of their senses. In circle, they spoke of the freedom of trees the importance of roots the love of nature and trees.
Connections were made for these vulnerable young men and women around Earth as mother, a sense of belonging, nature as inspiration and family, listening to each other more, to create less separation . Abundance in sharing food, nurturing ourselves through healthy food. Connecting earth with home and belonging, our senses with our bodies and being present, elders with roots and the connection to where we come from, food with stories and community, and reflecting on the creations that will serve as physical representations of what or who inspires and guides us.
Thank you Angelique Michaels for creating this incredible day for these young men and women. Many of these words were her creation. We came away inspired and I know a new family was created for them. Simple recipes for earth connections, that produced so much food for thought. Please join our community by donating in order for us to continue this work. Thank you https://returntoorigin.org.za/campaigns/donations/