Wildly Green in Inanda. A Wilderness Park for People to Connect to the Planet
It’s been a long tough road for many people, during the Covid-19 Lockdown levels and now as people are beginning to move more freely, community spaces are looking forward to welcoming visitors who are eager to be outdoors once more to enjoy fresh air and recreation after many months of indoor isolation.
The Inanda Wilderness Park, an initiative of Green Corridors, is one such inclusive public safe space that offers myriad appropriate activities and educational programmes to entice people to venture outside and enjoy being in nature once more.
Inspired by Kinderwildnis (“children’s parks”) in Durban’s sister city, Bremen in Germany, and under the management of Green Corridors, the Park offers an authentic natural experience for urban dwellers of all ages. Situated on Inanda Seminary’s environmentally restricted open space, which was previously home to criminal activities, and illegal dumping, it now boasts a thriving ecosystem with indigenous plants, insects, and birds. The area was cleared of alien plants, rubbish was removed, and a pond and open spaces were created; a jungle gym and an obstacle course were constructed and ablutions and a kitchen were built.
Last year, formal programmes for the elderly and learners were initiated, and slowly the team at the Park, with strict protocols in place will begin allowing small groups under supervision to start outdoor activities once more.
Green Corridors in collaboration with the Occupational Therapy Department from UKZN Westville, has established regular visits to the site by final year students, and they are now utilising occupational therapy as the intervention to promote health and well-being with the elderly and school children. Six full-time site assistants maintain the park, and three youth mentors implement the programmes.
They are involved in promoting health, wellness, and community-based rehabilitation. An enthusiastic qualified Occupational Therapist (OT), Danielle Le Brasse, is employed as the site manager for this project to manage and plan therapeutic nature-based programmes.
“I am passionate about making a difference in people’s lives,” enthuses Danielle. “I am passionate about physical and paediatric intervention and community-based rehabilitation as well as investigating how our South African history has shaped our township communities and the role I could play in improving quality of life. I love working here at the Wilderness Park as it provides me with the platform to put these passions to work and see positive results.”
Pre-lockdown, the park had on average about 400 visitors per month comprising school groups, elderly groups, and individual sessions with people with impairments: physical disabilities, stroke victims, amputees, children with learning difficulties, and developmental delays.
COVID stalled the programmes which are getting back on track: there is a designated area for the elderly at the park, with seating made from donated pallets. The students and OT trained the youth mentors on how to work with the elderly, health-related precautions, and how to implement the Zumba programme which runs every Wednesday at 10:00 with 15 elderly clients from the nearby old age home.
Together with the regular elderly folk risen wheelchair friendly garden beds were created from wooden pallets. These “clients” can join the Zumba class for some exercise, or do some gardening. They are encouraged to take care of the garden, and all harvested vegetables are gifted to the old age home where they live.
There is an ongoing early childhood development programme conducted with two creches within proximity to the Inanda Wilderness Park where the OTs and mentors work side by side with the teachers, as well as a body movement programme implemented with two near-by primary schools and one high school, run by the park’s sports coach and mentors. Coming out of this programme, teachers requested that the park form an athletics group - which was in the process of being developed before the lockdown began.
Once the schedule of park programmes is fully back on track, there are plans to expand the vegetable garden and food security learnings; mental health through nature programmes; gender-based violence support groups; art through nature; stress management, upcycling projects; environmental education; and relaxation therapy.
The park is a pilot project, and Green Corridors aims to expand this model to other areas around Durban alongside the many Green Spaces Projects already in existence.
Listen to our interview on the Wilderness Parks and the work we do below