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Roots Interns – Extraordinary Experience 2019

Oct 22, 2019

Roots Interns creates meaningful internships with nonprofit organisations in Africa, allowing interns to gain valuable work experience and contribute to the important work that is happening at a grass-roots level in Southern Africa. Roots Interns offers internships in a wide range of academic focus areas, providing something for everyone.

Dutch Masters student Roy van den Berg accomplished something remarkable during his internship with Roots Interns in Cape Town; he designed and built an innovative water infiltration system for the urban greening project of which he was a part. The system solves a problem the project was facing, and it now allows the organisation to continue to create green spaces and spread environmental education at schools in township areas.

During the past few years, a severe drought has affected Cape Town, including the work done by Greenpop, a nonprofit organisation that runs urban greening, reforestation, and eco-education projects. One of Greenpop’s core programs is their Urban Greening Program in Cape Town, an initiative that sees trees planted at schools in townships, which provides educational, nutritional, and environmental benefits in areas that desperately need it.

Roy explains; “My Masters pursues answers to the following question: how can we use nature’s principles for sustainability purposes? The central thought is that nature has been conducting Research and Development for over 3.8 billion years, and we as humans can only learn from that. Thus, the filtration system I had to come up with had to be fully nature-based, meaning inspired by nature, or bio inspired. And since the plan was to build the system together with school children, it couldn’t be too complex. Furthermore, it had to be cost effective, since sponsors should be able to fund the system. Lastly, I had to be able to design, develop and build it in 5 months time, without any prior specific knowledge on the subject.”

Roy not only designed the tower itself and showed the Greenpop team also how to build it, but also designed the workshop around the building of the towers at our schools. The Grey Water Filtration Tower is going to be built at every school as part of one of the Fynbos for the Future workshops. During this workshop, the children will be doing the building themselves, thereby gaining intimate knowledge not only of bio-filters, but also of how important healthy soils is and how best to care for their fynbos garden, which in turn is then going to help ensure the longevity of the gardens.