Trees for Life is a journey—a journey of service.
While this service may take different forms, the heart of it is always the same. It’s about giving people “a hand up, not a handout.” It’s about people being empowered to do for themselves and each other—in a growing movement that touches more and more lives.
Had I not witnessed the planting of the tiny seed that grew into a mighty tree, I would not have believed what happened. Yet all of us who witnessed it are awed by what took place.
"Hello, sir! How are you, sir?" A sea of smiling faces with bright eyes greeted me as I walked through the front gate of the school. It was like deja-vu. They looked just like the kids who had changed my life ten years ago.
But this story actually started many years earlier-even before I was born.
As our jeep bounced along the dusty, washboard road to Madantusi (mud-un-TOO-see) village, I wondered why I had agreed to come on this arduous four-hour trip. To Madantusi, of all places!
The pride of learning shines from the face of astudent at Madantusi village school. Once there was no school here,until villagers joined together, determined to provide education fortheir children.
My wife Rozzie and I are trustees of a small British charity, The Berkeley Reafforestation Trust (BRT). We raise money here in the UK to promote tree planting initiatives in the developing world, in particular in Africa and India. We support local "social forestry" activities - community efforts to get trees back into degraded environments where they are so essential as a source of wood fuel, fodder, leaf litter and other forest products. Trees also contribute to soil stabilization and water retention.
"When you hold a child, it touches you deeply," volunteer Ken Holmessays. "There are immediate needs, but you also must consider thefuture. At Trees for Life projects we saw people learning to helpthemselves. That's important for the long run."
At Trees for Life we experience miracles every day. Yet each time I am still amazed.
Three years ago Balbir and I were in a small village in Orissa, India. The villagers welcomed us with songs and flower garlands.
After introductions, the village leaders sat down with us. "Our land is very degraded and we are very poor," they said. "If our children were educated they could get jobs, but there is not enough money for their school. It's like a trap, and we can't break free. What can we do?"
Fruits of Love
With handfuls of hope children in Orissa, India distribute tree seedlings to families in their village. They are joining with people in nearby villages to combat the suffering they have endured for many years due to vitamin A deficiency.
The small group of people welcoming us to their colony in Orissa, India carried drums and small hand cymbals. They began to play, singing at the top of their lungs and dancing rhythmically. One did not have to know their language to realize that they were praising God. It was a dance of thanksgiving.