Its 3.30 pm on Friday afternoon. As most people prepare to wind up the day and week, and head for home, Kathrin Baer, a volunteer at Nature Seychelles is at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman getting ready for an evening of work. In an area of the Sanctuary she lays down logs, ropes, discs and other natural materials on the grass. Kathrin is preparing for a green exercise class with children from the President's Village at Port Launay. "We use materials from nature like tree trunks and discs for balancing and jumping. We have also built a big track in the sand. We run, do high and long jumps, gymnastics, team exercises, and little competitions," she says.
A few minutes later the children arrive and the air is soon filled with laughter and screaming. This is the last day of a six week, once a week class for the children and they are making the most of it. By their own accounts they have enjoyed it. In fact most want to stay longer, but unfortunately they have to make room for other groups.
The green exercise is part of a European Union-funded programme being carried out by Nature Seychelles called Greening Livelihoods. It uses the therapeutic power of nature to benefit the vulnerable people in Society by building their skills, confidence and self esteem. The programme is offering training in nature conservation, organic gardening and green exercise, which Kathrin, a trained sports therapist, is helping to deliver.
"I started off by planning sessions for a group of 18 kids aged 9-13. That included figuring out the length of each session, what kind of materials were available and what would be achieved with the different exercises," She says.
Then during the school holidays she started to work with groups from the scouts and the community in Les Mamelles. Soon after, the regular class with the children from the President's Village began. The experience has been an eye opener for her. "I found the idea of using the power of nature in combination with work and exercise to help vulnerable groups improve their way of living amazing," She says. "It can be as helpful as therapy, improving amongst other things self esteem, team work and satisfaction. The project has just started, but I think it has big potential," she adds. And so it was with great satisfaction that Kathrin handed out certificates to the children and prepared for the next group.
The benefits of green exercise have been backed by a number of research. A recent study conducted in the USA by the University of Tennessee shows that children who play on playgrounds that incorporate natural elements like logs and flowers tend to be more active than those who play on traditional playgrounds with metal and brightly coloured equipment. They also appear to use their imagination more.