N3 Hero – Jessica Dreamtime. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in the same room as a mosquito”
In 2006 there was talk of a girl from the Karkloof who would make the perfect ‘Bug’. Discovered one day at Umgeni Valley, the bells strung from the bottom of her bag tinkling merrily as she walked, it was obvious that she would weave magic wherever she went and in no time she was an integral part of the Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMAEP), whose facilitators had all become known as ‘Bugs’.
Jessica Dreamtime is a bit of a Gypsy. That the Midlands Meander Association Education Project has managed to keep her for many years is a miracle. In fact, she has attempted to leave a number of times, but has not succeeded. The magic draws her back.
Nowadays, Jessica heads up the Project. “Yes, I know I have wandered off occasionally,” she says grinning, “but the MMAEP culture of flexibility, spontaneity and organic growth is very special – irresistible really. Where else do you have the opportunity to make dreams come true?”
Jessica is ensconced in a charming cottage in the Karkloof hills surrounded by birds, bees and butterflies, with her lively son Skye, hero dog Thunder and two much loved cats – King Toby and Inca. She is quite determined that she has found home and her days of wanderlust are over. “They are going to have to dig me out of here!” she laughs, “besides, there are so many adventures to be had close by – I climb the hill or stroll through the forest every day and every time it is different and special.” She would however still like to explore a little more of Africa, preferably using public transport. “You get to meet such interesting people on buses and have incredible conversations that you wouldn’t otherwise have.”
During past adventures north of the border she has cycled past fresh lion prints in Zimbabwe; explored Ghana in very wonky buses, visiting old slavery castles and drumming with the locals; in Zambia attended a full moon harvest festival with ten African chiefs and six presidents; sneaked across the border into Angola simply to touch Angolan soil; camped on mountain tops in Lesotho during thunderstorms; was shocked on a bus trip in Botswana that left someone behind who took too long in the loo and spent 5 hours in Namibia having her hair braided and being presented with a live chicken afterwards! “Oh, and once I climbed into a big Baobab and watched the sunset – that was fantastic.” Jessica really loves sunsets, and sunrises and moonlit skies too.
In the Midlands, she spends a lot of time building community. “This is something I really value in the MMAEP. The relationships we have built are incredible – this is true nation building – small, but effective. Everyone from teachers to learners and the MMAEP team are working hard at bringing out the treasure in one another. It has been an incredible privilege to observe lives and outlooks change over the years.”
An important part of the MMAEP programme is Food Gardening, something else Jessica is passionate about. There are many flourishing gardens in the Midlands now, “Schools are starting to save and share seeds, one garden has 24 types of herbs growing and many add fresh food to the school lunches every day” she says proudly. Nathi Majola, principal of Carshalton School confirms this “Jess has been very influential in ensuring that Carshalton community start their own vegetable gardens. She encouraged them to go back and use old methods used by their forefathers. It was a great learning experience. I have found working with Jess very encouraging, she is so dedicated, committed and always willing to go an extra mile in whatever she is doing. I am honoured to work with her.”
The Midlands is very fortunate to have been able to entice Jessica to grow strong and stable roots, enabling her in turn to nurture the entire community with love, food, fun and wisdom.