Plastic water bottles bring smiles to children's faces

Plastic water bottles bring smiles to children's faces

Posted on August 06, 2016

Ever wondered what happens to all those plastic water bottles that are offered on tour?? While Active Africa has always diligently recycled all of the bottles left behind in vehicles and after hikes and bike rides, mountain guide, Michael Willemse and his family are taking that several steps further. What started out as a project that older daughter Gabriella undertook for her graduation from Cubs to Girl Scouts has become an ongoing family affair. The Willemses have been collecting high density plastic on behalf of Operation Smile South Africa, a non-government organisation that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the world. 

Michael, Judy and their two girls, Gabriella and Olivia have since recruited family, friends and the girls’ school and Cubs to collect plastic for them. They have thus far accumulated 1040kg (2290 lbs) of plastic, raising R2083. Since an amount of R5500 is required to repair one cleft lip, the Willemse family are half-way to changing one child’s life.

We will be adding all of our plastic water bottles to the Willemses’ recycling heap. Active Africa travellers can now rest assured that the plastic water bottles they use on tour will be disposed of responsibly and that someone’s life will be changed in a significant way, thanks to Michael and his family.



  • Every 3 minutes, a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, and are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile.
  • One in 10 of children born with a cleft will die before their first birthday.
  • Approximately one in every 1000 babies in Africa is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.
  • Children with facial deformities who do not receive reconstructive surgery often have difficulty breathing, drinking, eating and speaking. As a result, many suffer from malnutrition, medical and psychological problems.
  • Many children with untreated cleft lips and cleft palates develop permanent and significant hearing loss.
  • A cleft lip or cleft palate operation and follow up care costs approximately R5500.
  • In as little as 45 minutes, one cleft lip surgery can change a child's life forever.


Watch as two surgeries are performed in each half of a soccer match



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