Our values are what make Trees for Life unique. They are the essence of who we are.
Our main focus is not on what we do because that changes from one situation to another. Our focus is on "who we are." What we do is simply a reflection of who we are.
Here are some main elements of who we are:
- Full participation
- Cooperation, not conflict
- 1,000 year perspective
- Joining hands
- One teaches two
Spirituality, for us, is the understanding that if you see someone who has fallen into a ditch, you will not pass by but reach out a hand so he or she can get out of the ditch. We come from many diverse backgrounds and perspectives, but we all have this one thing in common: the act of expressing our spirituality through service.
Responsibility is the basis of all our work around the world—the act of taking responsibility for one's own personal growth. It is the key to the Trees for Life Culture:
The Trees for Life Culture
Trees for Life is a movement of people who are
striving to move from the Victim Mentality
to the practice of Responsibility.
If things are going wrong, or badly, or not to my liking, then someone is to blame. It is necessary to identify the person(s), circumstance(s) or source(s) of why things are not as I think they should be. Blame must be determined and accepted by the wrongdoer, and things must be made right. I am justified in being emotionally upset. Neither growth nor learning result from the bad things that happen to me.
I completely and wholly accept that everything that has ever happened to me, that is presently happening to me, and that will happen to me in the future, provides me with opportunities for learning and growth; and that no one else can be rightly blamed for ANY negativity, hurts, or abuses which my emotional nature experiences. I shall seek no exceptions to this belief, even when the apparent cause is not of my making.
—Adapted from The Totally Responsible Person, Human Service Alliance
Service, for us, goes beyond just planting trees. Tree planting and other activities are keys that open the door to serve others. Our very being and nature consists of service. We do not focus on the bottom line or achievements; we focus on dedication, sacrifice and selflessness.
Full participation is expected from everyone involved. We work only with those people who are committed to participating fully in the process of their own empowerment. This may involve doing the labor for their tree nursery, providing teachers for the school, building the library that will house donated books, helping to build a fuel-efficient stove, contributing to school fees, or other forms of participation.
We do not give handouts. To those who wish to stand on their own feet, we simply give a hand up.
Cooperation, not conflict, is our mode of operation. We provide a pro-active platform for all segments of society from around the world to serve together. We are focused on cooperation between groups. We work with any and all segments of society who wish to serve. We focus on the complementary aspects of each group and the synergism that they can produce when they act in concert.
Decentralized structure is key to the Trees for Life movement. For example, Trees for Life in each country is totally independent, with their own volunteers, decision-making, and other activities.
Organization growth for its own sake is not our goal. Trees for Life is really a movement. Our objective is to create only the amount of organization, structures, and systems that are necessary to hold a movement together. The organization exists only to help and promote the movement, not to promote the organization.
Money is not our focus. Money is like blood in our veins, needed to function but not our soul. It does not influence our vision, our values, or the decisions we make. Our decisions are based solely on the understanding of how best we can serve. Our experience has been that if we stay true to the vision and to our dedication to serve, whatever resources are needed come naturally.
We are able to accomplish a lot for a relatively small amount of money. This allows us to concentrate on our work and not spend too much time, effort, or energies in fund-raising. Our philosophy is to have only as much money as is needed to accomplish the task and not a penny more.
Autonomy is important to us so that we may serve as a conduit between different groups of people and between different cultures. We are not beholden to any group, ideology or support system. Participants in the Trees for Life movement are widely diverse, and we are not affiliated with any particular group.
Accountability is expected at all levels of Trees for Life work. Our financial information is freely available, and we ask our partners in other countries to be totally transparent also in reporting to us.
1,000 year perspective means that we are not focused on producing immediate, short-term benefits, but rather contributing toward long-range paradigm shifts that will serve people for generations to come. We start all of our work by asking "How would we like to see the world 1,000 years from now? What can we do today that would help move things in that direction? Can we dedicate 25 years of effort for this purpose?" Read more
Joining hands is a demonstration that when a small group of people come together and work toward a common purpose, miracles take place. What happens as a result goes beyond the mere sum of their individual efforts. Read more
One teaches two is a formula that even those without material wealth can use to make an impact. We have found that any community can experience exponential growth when each person takes the responsibility of teaching two others. Read more