Janna Kretzmar of EarthChild Project named Santam Social Entrepreneur 2022
I ’ve always felt like it’s my purpose in life to help make the world a better place in some way,’ Janna says. After obtaining a degree in social anthropology at the University of Cape Town, she was left with a deep conviction that she wanted to make a difference in the world. While working in an eco-village in Brazil, she read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, which described schools in India where children had instruction outside under trees, and in addition to academic subjects they practised yoga and meditation. Inspired, she booked a flight home with her heart set on finding a way to introduce this more holistic approach to education into mainstream schools in South Africa.
Mainstream schools in South Africa. Launched in 2007, the EarthChild Project is dedicated to making a difference in disadvantaged schools in the Western Cape through education programmes that are integrated with the curriculum, focusing on the environment, health and life skills.
‘I believe that the current exclusive focus on theoretical knowledge and behind-the-desk learning is too narrow and lacks an experiential element,’ she says. ‘It’s important that we support and educate our children holistically in a way that also considers the physical, emotional and spiritual.’
and spiritual.’ Today, the NGO teaches yoga, mindfulness and organic gardening to more than 4 000 children at eight schools in Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill.
‘Over the years, we have seen first-hand the difference our programmes have made, and the positive impact they’ve had on the children’s lives and the communities in which they live.’
At the centre of EarthChild Project is a belief in sustainable change and a dedication to building long-lasting relationships. They’ve followed their EarthChildren’s journeys and have supported them from Grade 1 (and more recently Grade R) through to post-matric and in some cases into the workplace. ‘Children growing up in these communities are faced with a deluge of daily challenges,’ Janna says. She hopes that by nurturing and developing a new generation of conscious, confident and responsible young people, the project is able to bring about meaningful change – for the communities of Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill, and beyond.
Running the project has been Janna’s sole passion and purpose. Her winning the Women of the Future Social Entrepreneur Award will allow it to continue to grow and expand its reach. ‘I have never received this kind of external recognition before, and to now have my hard work recognised means so much to me and to my team who so diligently support me.’
For more information, visit www.earthchild.org