Who is Xoli, the Eco-Warrior?

Xoli started her eco-activism by volunteering in her home town, Gugulethu, and later, the larger Cape area. Educating the youth grew into one of her top priorities, alongside her participation in NGO programs. In one project, Pride of Table Mountain, Xoli lead a youth excursion to increase their knowledge and interest in the natural world.

She worked with WESSA as the coordinator for their Eco-Schools project as well as their Adopt-a-Beach programme. During these initiatives, students learned about the unique coastal environment and the importance of conservation.

Her fervor for the environment came from her Mission Antarctica journey in 2002. During this 16,000km trip, her team raised environmental awareness leading up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. “My passion for the environment and awareness of environmental issues grew to such an extent during that period, I decided to build my career in environmental education.”

Today, Xoli manages and implements the Environmental Education Program. This initiative “teaches learners and teachers about Waste Management with a focus on Vermiculture.” She also runs “Eco-Warriors’ extramural activities and hiking clubs, and [inspires] Eartchildren to care and take personal action to protect the environment.” But, that’s not all. This eco-role model also “mentors and supports [her] Green Team to excel and be the change in their field.”

One of her fondest memories is when two young eco-warriors from Earthchild became the “voice for climate justice” as they lead marches and raised awareness on climate change.

To build a harmonious South Africa, we need to overcome specific challenges. We find out how Xoli and Earthchild face these difficulties. First off, what do you think the challenges are?

Segregation and uprooting lead to a disconnection of the self and nature. People live in survival mode, which is caused by income inequalities that ranks high among the countries with the worst inequality levels. In my daily life, I see children born into inequality who don’t get to experience the natural beauty in their city. I also know crime very well, and no one is safe from its pervasive grip.

How do you and Earthchild overcome these challenges?

We create spaces to help children and increase their knowledge of issues that affects them and their communities. When I started the hiking clubs, my pure intention was to expose children in the township to our natural world. Today, the program is a bridge where children get to explore and deeply cultivate their connection with nature. It is also a space where these kids can dream as they see a bigger perspective of what life could be.

How do you think one moves from a place of disharmony to harmony?

Personally and professionally, I feel that building meaningful relationships and learning from each other, rather than assuming who we are and how we live our lives, can help the change. The first step is when we connect with ourselves, allowing everything to come together and breaking down the walls we have built. When we found the initial connection to self, it becomes easier to expand that connection to others. Opening up to learning and understanding and willingness to change is essential. Politically, the goal is to move forward together, and not to move backwards. We need to allow things to evolve and grow and not stagnate.

By engaging in the process of change, South Africa can move forward. How do you and Earthchild engage this process of change?  

I purely believe change starts by addressing the core issues. That’s why Earthchild Project Philosophy deals with root causes of issues in the world as we feel because these problems are not adequately addressed in communities. When problems aren’t dealt with in communities, young people are unable to make positive and sustainable choices. We start by dealing with the gaps in primary education while children are very young.

Our programs are designed so that when a child leaves primary education, they can join our Young Leaders Program for grade six to eight. After grade eight, students can continue with our Alumni Program until grade twelve.  We also have a GAP year program for high school graduates, who, after completion, stand a chance to be employed as Junior Facilitators in our organisation. We take our children the whole way through, from primary to past high school.

How do you see the way forward?

By investing and inspiring conscious and positive young people, who are not afraid to stand up for good causes and make sustainable choices, we can move forward.

Xoli gives us valuable advice for when we’ve lost hope.

Hope happens when you desire a certain outcome. But service is a key to cultivate hope! Reach out and start giving your time and service to those in need. Your action can be a random act of kindness too, something small like helping out a neighbour or volunteering at a home for children. Start by looking at the world to see what it needs from you. Then you’ll find how you can make a difference and be the change that you wish to see.