The hiker clearing a path to provide refuge

 
 
 

Hiking got Etienne Basson back on his feet. Every step took him further away from the troubles on his mind. “Nature really helped me connect to myself and saved me from depression,” Basson says. It isn’t a cure, but Basson saw how being in a different environment had the power to alleviate symptoms of stress. This realisation led him to choose a route that’s guiding kids in need.

Over the past year, Basson has been leading children from Lavender Hill in the Cape Flats on hikes. “Lavender Hill is known as gangland and there’s daily gang shootings,” he says. Members of the club have experienced hardship and heartache at every turn. “One of the kids in the hiking club, his father was shot in front of him,” Basson explains. It’s not something a person this young should ever have to encounter, but for many it’s a reality. “The hiking club allows kids to just be kids for four to five hours,” Basson says. “The look on the faces of the kids when they see what lies outside of their neighbourhood is priceless.”

As a facilitator for Earthchild, a project that works to promote environmental practices among children, Basson also teaches worm farming and gardening to schoolchildren. But when he’s hiking with the group he’s in his element. “It warms my heart to bring such joy to a child’s life with something as simple as a hike,” Basson says. The impact of his guidance spreads further than creating happiness, by changing how people see themselves and the world. Nature isn’t just around us, but in us, and it can bring refuge when we need it most.