Once the rains subsided, everyone received the clear that it was safe enough to return to their waterlogged homes by the Umgeni River. Parents warned their children to stay behind as they did not yet know the full extent of the damage. “But Mama, I am old enough! I want to help you find Vusi!”. “I know you are, my child”, Mrs. Dimba sighed empathetically, “But we need you and the older children to stay behind and look after the little ones”.

Nozipho watched as her mother and the rest of the adults walked down the hill, her heart heavy but determined to do as was required of her. Back in the hall, the younger children sat in uneasy clusters, their restlessness palpable. Nozi couldn’t bear the sight, she knew how confused they must be feeling, and she felt it too. Scrambling for something to do that could keep them all entertained; she remembered a lesson from school about the threat of plastic pollution, a ticking time bomb for the environment. Inspiration struck!

She ran to tell Zinhle her plan, and together they gathered everyone. With excitement in her voice, Nozi exclaimed “I know how we can help!” “Together, we can make a difference”. She taught them about plastic and its dangers as best as she could remember it from her lesson. They listened intently, absorbing every word. “We need to go out in teams and gather as much plastic as we safely can. Afterwards, we’ll responsibly dispose of this trash and help our parents to get our home back to normal” Zinhle elaborated.

Armed with gloves and bags, the team of young champions set forth. Day after day, they returned to comb through the mud and rubble, unearthing a startling array of plastic and refuse. The first day was difficult, it was hot, they didn’t have enough drinking water or snacks and the little ones complained a lot. “I don’t want to do this anymore!” little Busi wailed. “Okay, okay. Just sit on the grass there where I can see you with Andile, and when I’m done with this bit I’ll come over to you guys”. Turns out that small children need some breaks in between all the hard work! It was good for the older kids too though, Nozi was reminded that she needed to rest and play as well. However, Nozi’s persistence never faltered. Eventually, laughter and camaraderie replaced the initial uncertainty, as the children worked side by side, their small hands carrying a burden much larger than themselves.


A few days passed, the adults noticed their efforts and cheered them on. They had managed to bring a little bit of joy to such uncertain times. “I am so proud of you Nozi, my love.” Mrs. Dimba said as they hugged. “I hope you are as proud of your hard work as I am,” she continued.

“Still no sign of Vusi?” she asked her mom.

“No my love,” Mrs Dimba responded, “but he will come, keep faith.”

Nozipho stole a moment to survey their achievements. The bags, filled to the brim, stood like silent sentinels, testament to their tireless efforts. She looked at the faces around her, once frowning and concerned, now a smile appeared every now and then. A spark of hope had ignited, and their determination paid off. She realised quietly to herself that even though this act of picking up trash felt small in comparison to what the grownups had to do, it did make a difference. The environment was transforming and so too were the hearts of those around her. Nozi’s gaze lingered on her team – the children who had turned uncertainty into action – and smiled.

Just then she saw something small running down the hill. She squinted, waiting for her eyes to adjust. “Vusi!” she screamed, running excitedly towards her dog, arms open, tears streaming down her face.

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