Tucked away in the busy suburb of Claremont is a small oasis called Living Roots.

This indigenous plant nursery is run by formerly homeless individuals who are part of U-Turn Homeless Ministries, a non-profit organisation that focuses on rehabilitating and reintegrating the homeless back into society.

Despite its urban surroundings, the nursery provides a peaceful respite for both plants and people. The nursery educates the public about preserving the environment while creating employment opportunities for U-Turn’s ‘champions’, individuals in the final stages of their rehabilitation programme.

Living Roots is more than just a plant nursery. It is a social enterprise that aims to restore destroyed pieces of land while helping the champions in their recovery journey.

Living Roots

Image credit: Living Roots / Facebook

Conservation horticulturalist Julia September pitched the concept to U-Turn, believing that nature has a healing quality. September hopes that the restored pieces of land will help the champions in their journey towards recovery.

Working with plants has helped some of the champions, such as Zonke Baninzi, find peace. Baninzi struggled with addiction for 10 years before seeking help from U-Turn.

She says that she loves all that plants give humans and that working with them has helped her find inner peace.

Living Roots offers training opportunities to the champions, such as first-aid courses, health and safety training, and a course on fynbos.

Champion Carlton van Wyk, who has struggled to find employment, says that he hopes the skills he learns at Living Roots will help him in the job market.

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They are also raising funds to build a learning centre to teach the public about habitat conservation. The enterprise runs the Greening Kits initiative, which helps local improvement districts green their urban spaces with endemic plants.

They have been working closely with the Observatory Improvement District (Obsid) on this project. The profits from Living Roots help fund U-Turn’s programmes, which include 12 charity thrift shops in Cape Town.

U-Turn media liaison Siwaphiwe Myataza-Mzantsi says that Living Roots broadens the scope of the skills training that U-Turn’s social enterprises can offer its champions.

‘Not everyone wants to work in retail or work on a construction site,’ she says.

Living Roots is a project that combines environmental conservation with social impact. By preserving indigenous plants and providing sheltered employment opportunities, they are helping to build a more sustainable future for both the community and the environment.



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Feature image: Living Roots / Facebook

Originally published by Cape {town} ETC.