Category Archives: News

Peering under the canopy of trees at the Graskop Gorge: The bold, the beautiful and the rare

Botanists’ eyes will shine with excitement and nature lovers will ooh with delight when they step out of Graskop Gorge’s famous viewing lift and into the green cocoon that lies snuggled below a canopy of trees at the bottom of the ravine.

Never before has it been possible for so many people to so easily immerse themselves in the beauty of an indigenous mist forest.

Even wheelchair-bound people are able to access a part of the forest trail that has been created. Ramps leading from the visitors’ centre to the lift – which travels down the cliff face, and a wooden walkway in the forest below allow people with mobility challenges to become one with the forest.

The developers of the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre are passionate about making the Panorama Route accessible to visitors while being sensitive to the pressure they place on the environment and they have a history of striking a good balance in this regard.

James Sheard developed the Long Tom Toboggan in 2016. It is the longest toboggan run in Africa with an impressive 1.7km track. Since then, the hundreds of people who have ridden the toboggan down the mountain between Lydenburg and Sabie have been left with a new appreciation of the beauty of the region, while minimal stress has been put on the environment.

Campbell Scott developed Skyway Trails in 2005, on land that had been returned to claimants through the Land Claims Commission. While much of the land was ideal for farming, it included a steep river valley with a forest of tall trees not suitable for agriculture. It was there that Campbell developed the 1.2km aerial cable trail that has not only allowed people to enjoy the Hazyview forest but has enhanced the forest’s sustainability through the removal of exotic invader plants, in partnership with the Working for Water programme.

“Campbell offered a way for us to benefit from land we could not harvest, while at the same time preserving and protecting it,” says Riebs Khoza of the Sandford Community Trust, from which Campbell leases the land.

Sheard, Campbell and the third Graskop Gorge Lift Co director, Oupa Pilane, have applied the same principles to the lift development – opening up the region while ensuring its important biodiversity is protected for future generations to enjoy.

The 600m circular trail through the forest reflects this value, with beautiful interpretation boards and special features that explain the forest and its inhabitants to visitors, a walkway that prevents the trampling of vegetation and a commitment to preserve the forest.

Earlier this year, a number of experts were commissioned by the Graskop Gorge Lift Co to do a survey of the gorge’s plants. One of the team members was John Burrows, a South African botanist and horticulturalist with vast experience. He has also authored several books on African plants. Since 1988, he and wife Sandy have managed the Buffelskloof Private Nature Reserve in Lydenburg, where they have established an extensive herbarium.

In 1994, Burrows formed the Plant Specialist Group, a group of amateur enthusiasts from Mpumalanga’s Lowveld and Escarpment region, which now attracts participants from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Conservationists as a rule are not in favour of ecologically important areas being developed. “However, the Graskop Gorge development has been done as sensitively as possible,” he says, “and it has opened a window to the importance of South Africa’s indigenous forests.”

Southern Africa has few true forests. Indigenous afromontane forests such as the one in the Graskop Gorge occupy a mere 0.47% of the land area. The majority of these forests occur in areas not easily accessed, such as coastal plains and mountain gorges. Forests make up the smallest biome in Mpumalanga – only 0.5% of the province’s surface area, which means visitors to the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre are able to enjoy a fairly unique experience.

A huge diversity of trees create a shady oasis for an even greater diversity of plants, which creep, climb, cling and drape from every surface. The air is rich with the smell of soil and vegetation and the tinkle and spray of the river and waterfall add another dimension to this wonderous world.

The forest has diverse ecosystems that support birds, insects, indigenous trees and flora. It is the latter that had Burrows and his team so excited when they did their survey. Although they are waiting for the official results, the forest may hold a botanical discovery or two.

While South Africa’s afromontane forests are found in patches, far away from each other, they share a similar mix of plant species which are often distinct from the surrounding lowland regions. However, each patch of forest may have plants that have adapted in some way to their specific environment and are thus unique to the area in which they grow.

“There is a degree of plant speciation at Graskop Gorge,” says Burrows. “We recorded a number of rare plants,” adds plant enthusiast Delia Oosthuizen.

Burrows says that the mist forest is alive with primitive ferns, ancient trees, medicinal plants, orchids, forest grass and cliff-hanging aloes. “Everything feeds off the mist,” he says. “Close ancestors of one primitive fern species, Ptisana fraxinea var. salicifolia, has been around for 310 million years,” adds Burrows.

The forest plants have ingenious survival mechanisms. Plants cling from rock faces with seemingly nothing in which to root while others indeed do not root at all but instead draw their nutrients from the air. A rare grass, Prosphytochloa prehensilis, climbs by scabrid hairs which stick a bit like Velcro; and even old tyres, dumped down into the gorge way back when, have been claimed by the forest and now provide a nurturing habitat for plants and insects.

There is an abundance of epiphytes, those plants that have found a way to survive by snuggling up to another species. A mass of ferns, air plants and orchids can be seen on tree trunks and branches. Let your eyes adjust to the layers of green, and you will be amazed at how many different plants are juxtaposed in the same space.

Over 100 species of fern have been recorded in the Lowveld escarpment. In the Graskop Gorge, both of South Africa’s indigenous tree ferns – the rare Cyathea dregei and the Cyathea capensis – can be found. “I have never seen these species growing side by side before,” says Burrows.

“There are a number of very special orchids too,” he says.

A bulb with delicate orange flowers, the Crocosmia mathewsiana, is endemic to the forests around Graskop and is rare, with its habitat threatened by invasive species. It is pollinated by the long-tongued bee, Amegilla.

There are a huge number of plants with medicinal properties in the gorge, and a number of others designated as butterfly host plants. One interesting species is the Ochna arborea var. oconnori, a tree with bark that is cold to the touch.

The directors of the Graskop Gorge Lift Co and Burrows appeal to people not to take cuttings of plants. “Imagine if every 10th visitor removed something from the gorge,” says Burrows, “irreparable damage will be done. In any event, many of these plants will not thrive in a garden; they need specific misty conditions to grow.”

Biodiversity expert Mervyn Lötter says that the Blyde escarpment area is botanically very rich and fascinating. “It includes many plant and animal species that occur there and nowhere else in the world. The Graskop area forms part of what botanists call a ‘centre of plant endemism’ – you have a high number of plant species occurring there, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Where you get a big accumulation of these endemics, you can call it a ‘centre of endemism’. There are not many of these centres around.

“However, most of these endemics occur in the grasslands and rocky areas, rather than in the forests.”

He adds that the indigenous forest in which the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre is situated extends all the way to Mariepskop some 40km away and makes up the largest intact forest in Mpumalanga.

He echoes Burrows’ words about weighing up the awareness being created of South Africa’s vulnerable forests through the development of the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre against any possible negative impacts to the environment: “We need to unlock the benefits of nature so that all can appreciate and benefit from the experience of being at one with nature. You will only protect that which you value and respect.”

Wedge Gardens slams dagga ruling

Wedge Gardens substance abuse treatment centre outside of Johannesburg has reacted with dismay to the Constitutional Court’s ruling on September 18 that permits people to cultivate and use cannabis ‘in private’ and for their own use.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo ruled the personal use of dagga is not a criminal offence.

Sanca, to which Wedge Gardens is affiliated, said in reaction that South Africa is already crippled with the highest percentages of addiction in the world (World Health Organisation report 2017).

Wedge Garden’s Adèl Grobbelaar said it was a sad day for South Africa. She said that while dagga is now freely available, rehabilitation is not. There are in fact insufficient treatment centres and private therapy is relatively expensive.

She added that a can of worms had been opened in terms of monitoring the use of  dagga to ensure that it meets the criteria of the ruling and that children under the age of 18 are not using the drug.

“This opens the door to drug dealers to make even more money off addicts. Often, the dagga you buy is not ‘clean’ but is laced with various other drugs that cause the acceleration of the addiction process. The more the dealers sell, the more money they make.

“The fact remains that dagga is a gateway drug to other drugs; recent research within our clinics has once again made this very clear. Now, youth coming from law-abiding families who previously were less likely to access dagga will more easily be exposed to the drug.”

While there have long been arguments that dagga is medicinal, just like any medicine, there is a real threat of addiction when not taken in moderation.

“Also concerning is the reality that the younger people are when they start using dagga, the higher the possibility of developing psychiatric conditions.

“It is indeed a very sad day because a high percentage of our youth are going to bear the consequences of this ruling.”

Sanca added that smoking and using cannabis in one’s personal space could violate the rights of children and others. The stricter tobacco rules being proposed in the Tobacco Draft Bill are also at odds with this ruling, said Sanca.

The organisation said that one third of all patients treated by Sanca nationally used cannabis alone or in combination with other substances and an internal study at Sanca confirmed that nearly 60% of clients started with cannabis and then moved to other substances.

Any change in legislation that may have an impact on the citizens of a country necessitates that the widest possible consultation takes place to consider the impact on crime, health and welfare and education, concluded Sanca.

Contact details: 

Sanca National: 011 892 3829


Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942


It is #InternationalOverdoseDay2018 @WedgeGardens

The power of positive thinking was the central theme of all treatment sessions at Wedge Gardens in the last week of August, in the build-up to International Overdose Awareness Day being celebrated today (Friday, 31 August).

People being treated at the rehab centre were asked to write an inspirational message on a special blackboard. Messages like, ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count’ and ‘Recover, find peace, live free’ served as affirmation that addiction can be overcome with the will to start again and the support of a caring therapeutic team.

People are encouraged to wear silver today to spread awareness of International Overdose Day. This global event aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

Wedge Gardens is Sanca-affiliated, and both the Sanca National Office and the Sanca National Academy of Learning are based at Wedge Gardens, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.

Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942


#InternationalOverdoseDay2018 @WedgeGardens

Wedge Gardens’ therapeutic team centred its activities around overdose awareness in the last week of August 2018, to mark #InternationalOverdoseDay2018 on Friday, 31 August.

Activities included intervention work (like incorporating lectures on the traumas relating to an overdose) and the sharing of national statistics and stories relating to drug overdose. Also discussed were the different types of drugs associated with overdose, the high risk of mixing certain drugs, the dangers of reduced tolerance and the threats association with getting drugs from unfamiliar suppliers.

“We looked at prevention, recognition and basic response tools as well,” says addiction specialist Karen Griessel, who is a social worker at Wedge Gardens.

“On a lighter note, each patient made a mask depicting their inward and outward feelings regarding addiction and the painful reality of overdose.

“We have also implemented a chalk paint wall where we each patient can write up their pro-life quote in remembrance of those who have lost their fight against the disease of addiction. By having participants write an inspiring message on the wall, we were able to conclude that day’s activities on a positive note.”

People are encouraged to wear silver on Friday to spread awareness of International Overdose Day. This global event aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

Wedge Gardens is Sanca-affiliated, and both the Sanca National Office and the Sanca National Academy of Learning are based at Wedge Gardens, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.

Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942



Wedge Gardens social worker Karen Griessel with people undergoing rehab at the substance abuse treatment centre. They are wearing masks they made to depict their inward and outward feelings regarding addiction.


SA fiction authors snatch a spot on the USA Today Best-Selling Books Top 150 List

Achieving their dream of making it onto the USA Today Best-Selling Books Top 150 list in Women’s Month is definitely one of the career highlights of successful South African fiction authors’ Carlyle Labuschagne and Kristin Ping, especially since they are the first South African writers to do so.

Dubbed the dream team by local authors and publishers, the two authors’ books form part of a limited edition, supernatural and suspense boxset, called The Shadow Files, which hit number 123 out of 150 on 15 August 2018.

The dream of hitting the list with Labuschagne’s book (Tethered) and Ping’s book (The Curse) started when a group of authors from the USA sent out an invitation to these two well-established and renowned authors to collaborate on a boxset of fiction books.

“The Shadow Files boxset was conceived about a year ago and the group spent hours and a lot of resources bringing the concept to life,” says Labuschagne, who directed all of her energy and focus into ensuring that the project was a success.

“We had one year to write, edit and market our individual books and the boxset as a whole, so not much sleep, exercise or cooking was on our agenda,” she laughs.

Being a successful fiction author and a woman to boot, Labuschagne put every effort into tackling the task, whilst ensuring her work-family balance remained intact.

“We wanted to achieve this dream not only for ourselves, but to encourage other female writers to do the same. Unfortunately, in South Africa, female fiction writers aren’t easily taken seriously,” says Labuschagne.

“It is no secret that the book world is not as big a deal as it should be in our country. Neither is the stigma attached to independent female authors who write fiction,” adds Ping.

Labuschagne explains that many indie authors, especially women, have been told by publicists, local agents and even book stores that they don’t matter as fiction writers and people will not buy their books due the genre they write.

Naturally Labuschagne, who always takes the bull by the horns, set out to prove them wrong! And she did this spectacularly by generating quite a buzz in the indie author network in the USA, where her readers line up to meet her and have their books signed.

“Whilst we are over the moon with this achievement, the fight is not over. This is just the beginning. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that we also receive the support, accolades and resources so readily given to us from other countries right here on our home turf,” says Ping.

Connect with Carlyle Labuschagne



Wedge Gardens supports #InternationalOverdoseDay2018

This Friday (31 August) is International Overdose Day and Wedge Gardens treatment centre will dedicate its lecturers and workshops to raising awareness of how easily a drug overdose can happen.

Wedge Gardens is Sanca-affiliated, and both the Sanca National Office and the Sanca National Academy of Learning are based at Wedge Gardens, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.

Sanca and its affiliates want to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, as well as acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends of those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

Members of the public are asked to wear silver on Friday to show their support of #InternationalOverdoseDay2018.

The United Nations World Drug report of 2014 reported that 7.06% of South Africans abuse narcotics of some kind. One in 14 people are regular users. This equals 3.74 million people.

Over the past 12 years, there has been a 35% increase in admissions to the 30 Sanca-affiliated treatment centres, reflecting the increasing national substance abuse levels in South Africa.

Sanca treated 24 152 clients in the two-year period from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018. The majority of the clients (75%) were treated at outpatient centres and 25% at inpatient treatment centres.

Most people who seek treatment at Sanca centres are aged between 22 and 35.  The second largest group is 14 to 17 years old. Alarmingly, there is an increase of 3% in the number of children aged between four and 13 who seek treatment.

Sanca says that the high number of youngsters abusing substances is extremely worrying because the brain only reaches maturity at 26 years of age and before that, the risks of permanent structural changes to the brain are increased.

Cannabis is the main substance being abused (between 37% and 38%); then alcohol (between 19% and 21%); heroin/opiates (14%) and ‘other mixed’ – which includes whoonga/nyaope (14%).

Many people assume that overdose is only relevant to illegal drugs but people can overdose on prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The categories of OTC medications most likely to be abused are painkillers and anti-inflammatories; heartburn and indigestion medications; cough and cold medications; weight loss laxatives, diuretics and slimming tablets; and sleep aids.

Many people don’t realise that most painkillers and cold and cough medications contains codeine, which is derived from the opioid family (like heroin and morphine). If used as instructed, it will benefit the person but if abused, it could cause dependency and have harmful consequences.


  • Long-term use can lead to adverse effects and have serious side effects.
  • OTC can interact and interfere with prescription medications. Aspirin, for example, interacts with blood thinners, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Pseudoephedrine found in cough and cold medications interfere with anti-depressants or stimulants used for ADHD.
  • OTC laxatives (sodium phosphate) can cause dehydration and abnormal levels of electrolytes in the blood, leading to kidney failure.
  • Chronic use could lead to tolerance, physical dependency or even addiction.
  • Some of the long-term effects are kidney and liver damage, seizures, heart rhythm abnormalities, stroke, ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders, gallstones, chronic constipation, depression, constant rebound headaches, neurological problems, psychiatric problems and even death in some cases.

Thousands of people die each year from drug-related causes, including suicides when intoxicated as well as motor vehicle accidents due to drunk driving.

Substance use disorders are dangerous and over time, the person develops a serious problem. The cycle of compulsive drug use can only be broken through professional assistance.

Sanca encourages members of the public to share any story of loss on the Sanca National Directorate Facebook page or on your Facebook or Twitter account. You could save a life! 

Contact details:

SANCA National: 011 892 3829

Whatsapp: 076 535 1701


Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942


Dorothy dances her way to 100 years of age

Sitting in a pool of sunlight, Dorothy Mary de Bruyn’s face lit up when she was handed a bright bunch of flowers and a special card on the afternoon of her 100th birthday.

Her family celebrated her centenary a few days earlier, to coincide with a visit from daughter Rosalie who lives in the UK, but management and staff of Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre, where Dorothy lives, made sure that her actual birthday was memorable too.

Dorothy was born in Johannesburg on August 21, 1918. Her parents were Evelyn May and Robert Johnston. The families were originally from North Yorkshire and the Loch Lomond area of Scotland respectively.

She spent her early life in Johannesburg and was educated by nuns at the Belgravia convent. Her father drove the first steam engine to Swaziland and the family spent many years living in Carolina.

Dorothy’s childhood was dedicated to ballet and at the age of 16 she passed the Royal Academy of Ballet Elementary exam and started teaching.

The family had by this time moved back to the East Rand where her father was the engineer at the Far East Rand hospital. She met and married Christian Mauritz de Bruyn. As a couple, they were keen ballroom dancers and gave exhibitions at local dances.

They settled in Brakpan and Dorothy’s first ballet studio was in Kitzinger Avenue. She was a well-known ballet teacher on the East Rand at a time when June Meyer, the Gardener sisters, Rosemary Wilson and Thelma Isaacs were all active and teaching. A highlight of the dancing calendar was the Springs Eisteddfod where everyone competed.

She has had a lifelong love and enthusiasm for ballet and even took her studio to see Nadia Nerina and the Royal ballet when they toured South Africa in the 50s.

Their son Chris was born in 1944 and worked as an engineer for South African airways. Rosalie was born in 1950 and worked as a paediatric radiologist at Great Ormand Street children’s hospital after immigrating to the UK. Dorothy has five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

In the 60s and 70s she travelled weekly from Brakpan into the Platteland and had large ballet studios in Bethal and Ermelo. She was very highly regarded and became an examiner for the Royal Academy of Dancing. At the age of 50, she learned and took all the examinations in Classical Greek dancing and became very knowledgeable about Greek mythology.

This led to her choreographing a dance of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, coming back from the Underworld carrying a pomegranate. In later years, she helped former pupils like Jacqui Chalom teach before finally retiring in her late 70s.

Dorothy has always lived her life with enormous energy and enthusiasm. She particularly loved travelling and exploring new places. She was a regular visitor to the UK but particularly like the buzz of the markets in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

“She loves food and going to good restaurants and she never forgot a good meal or how much it cost! She has a lovely sense of humour and her granddaughter has abiding memories of her saying she ‘was as full as a tick’ after a particularly filling meal,” shares Rosalie.


SAMAC joins forces with AGFO Expo 2018

The Southern African Macadamia Growers Association (SAMAC) has joined forces with the third annual Agriculture and Forestry Expo (AGFO Expo), which will take place at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River, Mpumalanga, from 8 to 10 November 2018.

“Over the past two years the AGFO Expo has become renowned as a successful trade platform for the agriculture and forestry industries,” says Joey Lascelles, AGFO Expo Chairperson.

“This year we are proud to join forces with SAMAC, which will host its annual Macadamia Industry Day at the expo on Friday 9 November,” she adds. World renowned plant pathologist from Australia, Dr André Drenth, will be the keynote speaker at the event.

The VIP networking event – for SAMAC Industry Day attendees and AGFO Expo exhibitors and sponsors only – will take place on Friday evening.

Another highlight of AGFO 2018 is the Fire-Tech day, on Thursday 8 November, which will include demonstrations of and discussions around various fire equipment and products and their uses.

This year’s expo will also include equipment demonstrations and a chainsaw competition, and members of the public can enjoy various competitions, including tug of war, axe chopping, pit saw and boeresport.

Bring the family and relax in our ‘Chill Zone’ beer tent and enjoy a traditional South African braai and entertainment from local bands on Saturday.

“The main objective of the expo is to provide a reliable and proven trade platform for the agriculture and forestry sectors to reach their target audiences, but the event will be fun for the whole family,” says Lascelles.

There are a variety of open air and indoor stands available to suit each exhibitor’s needs and they are encouraged to secure their space early to unlock maximum exposure leading up to the expo.

A comprehensive range of sponsorship opportunities, geared to driving sales and showcasing products and brands before and during the event, are also available.

Sponsors already onboard for AGFO 2018 include Agricolleges International (prestige sponsor); Ezigro Seedlings (diamond sponsor); Novon Retail Company (gold sponsor) and Adama, Silvix Forestry, United Forest Products and Agrimotion (silver sponsors).

For more information about AGFO 2018 and bookings for the SAMAC Industry Day and Fire-Tech Day, visit or Facebook: @AgfoExpo; email or contact 082 854 6155.


Ron Smith Care Centre celebrates its new Woodlands Garden

Rand Aid Association’s Ron Smith Care Centre celebrated the opening of its Woodlands Garden and its facilities on 20 April.

Board members, employees, residents and village committees celebrated the opening of the lovely landscaped area – which was designed by Anthony Schaffler from Schaffler Nurseries – and includes a beautiful new lapa, with braai facilities; a pavilion overlooking the new Astroturf croquet lawn; mini golf (putt-putt); and a jungle gym for children who visit their loved ones.

“The opening of Woodlands Gardens is another great occasion in the ongoing redevelopment, renovation and expansion of the Ron Smith Care Centre,” said John Robinson, Rand Aid’s chairman of the board.

Over the past five years the care centre has been transformed to offer even better care for elders and its redesign ensures that it is able to care for their special needs.

Robinson acknowledged that the introduction of the Eden Alternative has ensured this transformation.

“The enthusiasm, training and dedication of management and staff has contributed to making this one of the best care establishments of its type in Africa. The Ron Smith Care Centre has been recognised for its exemplary provision of care, facilities and services for the aged by the United Nations World Health Organisation,” he confirmed.

Part of the opening celebration involved the unveiling of a plaque, which acknowledges a heartfelt donation from Barry and Theresa Dubb, in honour of Barry’s mother Joyce Dubb, a resident at Ron Smith. When the Dubbs got married, they requested that donations be made to the care centre in lieu of wedding gifts and it is this funding which kick-started the garden project.

The croquet lawn and putt-putt course were officially opened when residents Sylvia Laserow hit a croquet ball through a wicket and Christine Kincaid-Smith attempted a putt-putt hole-in-one! A champagne toast, in honour of the new garden and facilities, followed.

The care centre’s employees concluded the event in traditional dress, singing a beautiful blessing for the garden.

Robinson is sure that Woodlands Garden is a welcome addition to the care centre and will bring much enjoyment and to residents and their families and friends.

Ron Smith Care Centre’s complex manager Helen Petrie invited guests to view the new widened bridge over the Jukskei River (the old one was destroyed by severe storms and flooding in November 2016) and said that it can now accommodate golf carts and wheelchairs. This increased accessibility will hopefully encourage more interaction between all of Rand Aid’s retirement villages.

Wedge Garden’s kings and their queen beat boredom

Things are a lot more black and white at Wedge Gardens treatment centre these days.

The long-anticipated giant outdoor chessboard has been completed and is being enjoyed by the gentlemen at Wedge Gardens.

“A special mention needs to be made of those individuals who made yet another occupational therapy department (OT) project possible,” says Kendra Neethling, who heads up the OT department and played a big role in the project. “Our thanks go to Rand Aid CEO Rae Brown and the Rand Aid Association, groundsman George Vermeulen and his team, as well as the patients at Wedge Gardens.”

Leisure boredom – or unproductive free time – is considered a precipitating factor in addiction and substance use. The OT department at Wedge Garden strives to instil balance within the lives of the patients at the rehabilitation facility by stressing that through meaningful occupational engagement, an individual is better able to cope with life stressors, feel a sense of worth and meaning within society and find enjoyment in healthy and constructive activity participation.

“Not only is the chessboard a space for the gentlemen to learn to use their time in a productive manner, but it is an area at Wedge Gardens where they can learn social and cognitive skills,” says Kendra.

It is a known fact that substance abuse negatively impacts cognitive health. “A chessboard is a fantastic mechanism to promote cognitive skills such as concentration and attention, memory, problem solving, judgement and executive tasks. Furthermore, as the game requires at least two players, the patients at Wedge are exposed to social interaction, which aids communication and conflict management skills,” says Kendra.

The OT department believes that through the creation and completion of projects such as the chessboard, the patients at Wedge Gardens learn numerous skills on an ongoing basis.

As such, they were involved in the planning and construction of the project and the procurement of donations. “A sense of altruism is instilled in the patients because when they end their treatment programme, they leave having been a part of a project that can be used by future patients.

“I am exceptionally proud of my patients and the work they have done to complete another OT project. Through encouraging proactive use of the facilities at Wedge Gardens, we are equipping our patients with skills for the re-integration into society, which is fundamental to any recovery programme.”