Environment-conscious South African girls team on podium in Volvo Adventure Word final

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Their concerns over the environment and how to protect it earned a team of five South African girls from Lavender Hill in Cape Town a place on the podium in the prestigious international Volvo Adventure competition

The South Africans were this week awarded with the 3rd prize and US$4 000 (abouth R30 000) in Gothenburg, Sweden, for their participation in this environmental competition which is endorsed by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). It is an environmental initiative for young people planned and managed by the Volvo Car Corporation and the Volvo Group.

Roxanne O’Connell (14), Mellissa Wildschutt (14) Dorotheo Marney (14),  Desleigh Wabanie (15) and Naeemah Amardien (14) travelled to Gothenburg last week with their leader, Liesl Kent, a university student also from Cape Town, to participate in the finals of the Volvo Adventure.

They entered this year’s competition with their EnergyWise campaign which included a board game devised to educate anybody from schoolgoing age to adults about environmental concerns and the necessity to conserve the environment. Their project competed with 364 other entries from 47 different countries worldwide.

The first prize went to two 15-year-old Indonesian schoolgirls, Wening Pranayadipta and Vania Santoso, alias Bright Youngsters, who were rewarded with US$10 000 (about R70 000) for their project Useful Waste for a Better Future. The “Green Teens” from New Zealand won the second prize and won US$6 000 (about R42 000) for their Plastic Not So Fantastic project.

In 2005 a South African team from Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal emerged as overall winners in the competition for their initiative to replace thousands of light bulbs in their town with energy-saving light bulbs, and calculating the huge amount of electricity that their actions saved over a period of time.

This year’s winners’ Useful Waste for a Better Future project not only removes rubbish but also recycles it into sustainable souvenirs and gifts with the additional advantage of adding value and helping overcome poverty.

Theodore Oben of the official Volvo Adventure partner, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said, “The standard goes up and up each and every year and this year, and Useful Waste for a Better Future is a project that works on many environmental levels, waste reduction, recycling and revenue-earning and as such, it was the outstanding project amongst 15 excellent finalists.”

An overjoyed Vania Santoso said on receiving the most prestigious young environmentalists’ accolade in the world, “Whilst it was a stain on Indonesia’s reputation being branded the dirtiest nation in the world by WHO, it was also a wake-up call that something had to be done and in our small way, we may have helped both change perceptions and improve our local environment and economy.”

Presenting the prizes at the Volvo Adventure Awards ceremony, Olle Axelson, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, Volvo Cars said, “The pride and the passion all these students have for their own local environment and the wider global picture is highly encouraging and in fact they are all winners.”

“But the big winner here is the environment itself, and facing so many challenges on so many fronts, the creativity and dedication of these young people convinces me that the environment is being passed into safe and responsible hands,” added Mr Axelson.

“The Volvo Adventure is immensely inspiring and within the automotive industry in general and Volvo in particular, we can draw great strength and motivation to redouble our environmental efforts.”

For the first time in the six-year history of the Volvo Adventure, all three podium places went to all-female teams and Volvo Adventure jury member Siw Persson of WWF commented, “I don’t think we can read too much into that, other than to celebrate the diversity and equality evident on the Volvo Adventure and to note that the winning projects all adopted a holistic approach to environmental sustainability.”

Projects are already underway all round the world for the seventh annual Volvo Adventure and the closing date for entries is 31st January 2008.

Said Kikki Hugestrand, Volvo Adventure Project Manager, “Such has been the response that we are changing the age range for entries to 13 – 16-years-old and introducing a fun-based environment education initiative for kids on 12 and under.

“The Volvo Adventure has become a fixture in the environmental calendar and a key component in expressing Volvo’s passion for and commitment to the environment, whilst for the students, it is an educational, environmental and cultural experience that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives,” said Hugestrand.