Meet Wendy Carstens, turning Melville Koppies into a Sanctuary of Learning

Wendy & David at the Melville koppies

I took the early retirement package from teaching and moved from Benoni to Melville, Joburg to be close to our three daughters and our first grandchild. Four more grandkids arrived soon after and I enjoyed a close interaction with them, and still do. Shortly after moving to Melville, I went on a guided tour of Melville Koppies. I decided that this is what I wanted to get involved in. Nineteen years later, this is a full-time volunteer commitment. It involves working closely with the three full-time workers that the volunteer committee employs, doing public relations to put the Koppies on the map (there is no budget for this so free media avenues are explored), keeping up the melvillekoppies FB page, leading guided tours/hikes every Sunday, guiding school and university groups, administration, fund raising and chairing the committee. My engineer husband, David, after 27 years in industry, ten years teaching and eight years MBA lecturing, now joins me in leading on all the tours and hikes. Our green environment has given us a very special, extremely satisfying  focus in life. We are also giving something back to our country.

  • What are you most passionate about?

Caring for Melville Koppies nature reserve; introducing people to its natural and cultural aspects and sustainable activities in the reserve like walking and hiking.

  • What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

I guess getting married at 18, but I didn’t realise then that  it could have been a risk. However, I’m still married 52 years later – to the same prince Charming – so it was a good risk.

  • What makes you angry?

When people say ‘they’ must do something. Become a ‘they’ and do something and stop whining.

  • If you inherited an acre of land what would you do with it?

Depends where the land is and what state it is in. Depends on financial  considerations. An inner city acre could become a park, provided there is funding to develop and maintain it. If no such funds are available, sell it and use the funds for green internships or maintaining another green area that needs care. This would apply to any acre that seems economically/naturally unviable.

  • Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer? 

I gather food at supermarkets and the occasional food crop from my garden. I don’t enjoy hunting for clothes.

  • How many pairs of shoes  do you own?

1 hiking boots, 2 walking shoes, 2 smart boots, 1 heels, 2 sandals, slippers, gumboots

  • If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Try and find out food preferences, allergies etc., first. Something simple and well-prepared such as a green salad, roast chicken, rice/potatoes, rolls. Fruit salad and yoghurt pudding. Wine, beer available.

  • How would people communicate in a perfect world?

Face to face. Openly. Discussion. Acceptance of people’s oddities/differences/beliefs but not keeping quiet when outrageous insulting statements are made.

  • What do you work toward in your free time?

Continually promoting and caring for Melville Koppies 24/7. Loving my family.

  • If you woke up and had 300 unread emails and could only answer 30 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?

Delete spam. Answer the most crucial ones relating to current issues first. Be concise in answers.

  • Name 3 things in nature you find most beautiful.

Grasses, trees, flowers, rocks, clouds, clean rivers, mountains / koppies

  • Have you used plastic bags for your shopping in the last two weeks?

Not for years

  • What would you say are some small steps that people can take to improve their relationship to the environment?

Put on walking shoes and explore. Join a walking group if you don’t want to walk alone. Join a guided tour in a nature reserve to learn more about the environment!

Click here for more information on the Melville Koppies!


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