On Tuesday, September 19, Flavin Auditorium came alive with the inspirational words of Sarah Bergs, founder of the Nourish Foundation. The presentation, titled "Fostering Conservation and Developing Sustainable Communities in South Africa," provided a captivating insight into the foundation's journey and its mission to connect conservation with community well-being.
Nourish, a non-profit organization based in South Africa, was initiated by Bergs in 2011 with a vision to integrate sustainable solutions into the complex issues plaguing conservation. These challenges include poverty, low levels of education, food insecurity, and unemployment.
Bergs’s passion for wildlife began in her early years growing up in a protected area in South Africa, involving encounters with elephants on her walk to school and catching crocodiles. However, she also witnessed stark disparities in living conditions. While her protected area had excellent schools and luxury resorts, others lived in villages, walked miles to school without shoes, and faced inadequate access to basic resources due to the historical legacy of apartheid, which affected more than 3 million people.
Bergs emphasized how survival often takes precedence over environmental concerns for these communities, saying, "Often, you can't think about floating plastic in the ocean if you're fighting for your survival. If your goal is to put food on the table for your family.” Recognizing this integral aspect of life for some in South Africa, Bergs decided to create Nourish. Her core purpose was to combat poaching and bridge the gap between conservation and community well-being.
Nourish has since initiated several projects to improve the quality of life for those in poverty-stricken communities, including providing warm meals to over 120 children daily, establishing a computer lab to equip students with essential computer skills, conducting educational visits to neighboring villages, launching a thrift shop, and implementing recycling programs. Nourish also developed water-wise agricultural projects to promote sustainable farming techniques.
Bergs concluded her talk by extending an invitation to Isenberg students to visit Nourish in May 2024 as part of the Service Learning in South Africa trip. During this visit, students will receive training in various business aspects, and gain experience in marketing, finances, and more. Students will also be able to immerse themselves in the local South African culture, meet the residents of the villages being assisted by Nourish, and even plant their own trees as part of Nourish’s efforts to create a sustainable future for all.