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Grootbos giving back: The Grootbos Foundation

Just past Hermanus on the Whale Coast, about 2 hours from Cape Town, lies the magical Grootbos, a five star lodge build amongst ancient milkwood trees and indigenous fynbos. The food, accommodation and activities are absolutely mind bowing, with horse riding on the beach, boat based whale watching and flower safaris to name but a few of the highlights on offer.

I had the opportunity to visit Grootbos a couple of weeks ago when I joined four international bloggers for the #visitOverberg campaign. I’d stayed over at Grootbos once before, but the weather had kept us mostly indoors, eating gourmet food and sipping on hot chocolate in front of roaring wood fires while the rain bucketed down outside.

This time, Grootbos owner Michael Lutzeyer was our tour guide and Grootbos was our playground. We were treated to a walk on the untouched De Plaat beach just outside of the lodge, a flight over the Hermanus coastline (where we spotted Great White sharks and dolphins from the air!), a visit to the world-renowned Shark Alley just off Gansbaai and a flower safari over rambling hills of fynbos and proteas.

What really got me even more invested than ever in sharing the Grootbos story however, was a visit to the Grootbos Foundation’s Green Futures School. Grootbos runs a number of noble community upliftment projects and this is one of them.

The Green Futures School teaches unemployed people from the local community how to be professional gardeners, but as part of the program, teaches them so much more. Hundreds of young people between the ages of 18 and 35 years apply for the program, but only 12 are selected to attend the classes.
One hundred and ten student have been through the program, 80 of whom have permanent jobs thanks to their new skills.

At the school, students learn the Latin names for plant species (to enable them to work anywhere in the world), but also a number of vital life skills often overlooked in their local schools and community like how to write a CV, how to leave a job and how to use a bank and understand the banking system. They are taught how to drive, read a map and apply basic Maths, English and reading skills.

The school collects the 8-12 students from the nearby Gansbaai community every morning and drops them at home every evening. They are fed breakfast and lunch at the school, where two full-time teachers teach them classes in horticulture and life skills. In order to keep the students from reverting back to a life of short-term casual jobs, the school gives them pocket money so that they can buy small items like airtime while staying in school.

Students write an exam at the end of their studies and the three top students are flown to the Cornwall Project in the UK, where they further their education and experience in the field of horticulture.

Grootbos is the ideal location for this kind of program, with over 758 plant species on the 2500 hectare property. With 6200 of these species indigenous to South Africa, the fynbos region of South Africa has been identified as one of the most important regions of the world that must be protected at all costs.

Grootbos also has a nursery on the property, which helps to fund the school. The nursery promotes planting fynbos like proteas, Erica and indigenous bulb species, since these require much less water to grow. So next time you’re shopping for your garden, why not take a scenic drive out to Grootbos, where you can help support the school while shopping for greenery that will help preserve water.