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Just Keep Swimming – a Story by Logan Benjamin

By Logan Benjamin, 3rd November 2022

Just Keep Swimming.

A Story by Logan Benjamin

Logan in action, leading the staff from the Dalebrook Cafe on a rocky shores tour. Image by Danel Wentzel

My story begins here.

My name is Logan Benjamin. I’m an Intern at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre,  and I come from a place which is known as the Cape Flats. Growing up was difficult. I couldn’t play outside like other children because of the gang violence. Some days when I couldn’t go outside, you would find me watching cartoons or the National Geographic Channel in front of the TV. I would spend hours learning everything there is to know about our natural environment. I was fascinated by it. In my opinion, humans are not all that interesting, so naturally, my attention got drawn elsewhere.

At the age of 6, I could tell you anything there is to know about animals. My family would always call me “Nature Girl”. On the days when the community was quiet, and there was no gang violence, I would spend my time walking down to the library, that was my escape. I could only take out three books, and most books in that age range mostly had pictures, so I was extremely excited when I turned ten and could take out more books with factual information about animals. I read about different trees, types of biomes, climates, and the Big Five. I was obsessed! But what captured my interest was the marine life. By 13, I already knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to become a marine biologist. I wanted to be one of the scientists that explored and discovered the remaining 80% of the ocean.

After winter, the canals would be full of rain. All the kids in the area would go down to catch frogs for fun, and sometimes there would even be large catfish. The older boys often catch and braai the catfish (Gross!). I would watch this process and be amazed at how big those fish could grow in such a small canal. I always left feeling a little nauseous about the fact that they were eating fish from a channel, often fearing for the lives of the fish. This made me realise how amazing animals are and their ability to survive in such extreme conditions.

Sometimes in the waves of change, we find our true direction.

There wasn’t much to do. I could either play at the park (which was just one big jungle) or play by the canal, risking having to run home whenever the gunfire started. I was in Grade 5 when one of the teachers approached me, and she told me about a non-profit organisation called CTEET (Cape Town Environmental Education Trust), now known as Nature Connect. They have a CLP (Conservation Leadership Programme) program that fosters a relationship between kids and nature. I was super excited and extremely grateful for this opportunity. I would finally get the chance to experience nature, not just from my TV. I was ten years old, and I took this opportunity as a way of escaping everything that was happening in my community. I saw what happened to the adults and kids in my community. They became trapped in an endless cycle. It’s sad, but it’s the reality. At my age, I had seen so many things that an average ten year would only ever hear about or see on the TV after hours. I saw the effect drugs and alcohol had on families and didn’t want to become another number in the rising gang violence statistics. I wanted to make something of myself, bring change to my community, and show them that there is more to life than violence.

The birth of Nature girl.

There were about 40 children in total that went through a bunch of selection camps. We had to show that we were determined to be there. It wasn’t easy, but I was over the moon when I finally got selected! During the camp, we all had to work as a team and learned how to solve problems that were becoming more real by the day. Here, I learned how to look after our environment and care for it properly. I also met my mentor at this camp, Justine Swartz. This lady has guided me and watched me grow into the young woman I am today.

I felt proud to be a part of something important. I could make a difference. When watching animals on NatGeo, they showed natural behaviour. How they hunt, live, and communicate, but never how to protect and preserve our wildlife and wild spaces.

The Conservation Leadership Programme taught us that despite our age, we still had a voice that needed to be heard. I was always this nature-loving person, but after graduating from the program, I realised I started to embody those values taught to me. I’m still struggling today to sway my family and the people around me to think about the bigger picture and how all the small conscious decisions they make in their daily lives have a considerable impact.

One step closer to saving our seas.

Sitting in my room one sunny summer afternoon, I remember everything around me was quiet. I received a message from Justine. Reading the news, I thought to myself, and this could be a fantastic opportunity for me. Justine contacted me to ask if I was interested in volunteering at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre. The response? An obvious yes!

I started in January 2022, and through this venture, I met marine biologists, divers, environmentalists, and passionate educators. My tasks involved hosting tours and co-teaching along with the education staff. I was learning one day and putting it to practice the next. I didn’t only gain knowledge from my various mentors but also found much-needed advice on how to move forward in life.

At the end of my high school journey, I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how I would get there. After volunteering at the Shark Education Centre, I had more doors open. It is here where I re-sparked my passion.

I want to educate the people around me and teach them how they can help our wildlife. I want to show others with similar backgrounds to mine that nature is out there – and NOT just on your tv screen. These animals are real, and they are in trouble. It is up to us to learn how to protect them.

 

I firmly believe that people are not oblivious – they just need the proper education to learn how to better care for our environment and our oceans. This can be done through attending beach clean-ups, using fewer single-use plastics daily, and supporting local entrepreneurs instead of buying something imported and buying in bulk. All these small changes can make a massive difference in the future!