Tarryn Johnston started Hennops Revival to restore the health of the Hennops River, the largest and most polluted river in Gauteng.
It began when her then 12-year-old daughter asked her for help in organising a river clean-up in September 2019. Johnston saw that one river clean-up would not be enough. She is now at the helm of a four-people team, which expands for bigger clean-ups.
In a perfect world, the river could be used as a freshwater source or for recreational purposes. Right now, it is mostly full of raw sewage and waste materials.
Given this, Johnston had her fair share of naysayers who said her work was futile, but her tenacity has garnered the support of the community. She has a background in plants and plant activism, and has now taught herself about water conservation. “Water is a great teacher, it teaches you to trust, surrender, flow,” she says.
Hennops Revival has also set up various temporary emergency homeless shelters, done bank retention work, and has developed a working relationship with the City of Tshwane. Johnston is the global chairperson of the Moving Water Alliance, which performs river and beach clean-ups.
She wants to stop people from throwing their waste into the river by collaborating with the city to create incentive-based recycling points, to allow people to get instant rewards for handing in their recyclables.
Johnston believes it will take generations before the river is clean again. “I’m not thinking about reaping the rewards today. I might not even be alive to see the fruits of my work,” she says. Safeguarding our water and our heritage begins now. As Johnston says, the future started a long time ago.
“Water is a great teacher, it teaches you to trust, surrender, flow.”