Several years ago, my daughter invited me to visit the Trees for Life office, where she was volunteering for the summer. I was very impressed with Balbir and Treva Mathur and their team. I had never met people so deeply dedicated to empowering the poor around the world.
They were best known for helping people in developing countries plant fruit trees—especially the highly nutritious Moringa tree. Their efforts had sparked a worldwide movement that has so far planted tens of millions of trees.
Balbir told me that tree planting is just one manifestation of what Trees for Life is about. There have been many different projects through the years, from water wells and beehives to libraries and cookstoves, depending on the needs of different communities. But Balbir emphasized that the core of all these activities is the same. It’s all about “demonstrating that when a group of people dedicates themselves to a common purpose, miracles take place.”
That first day I visited, I had no idea that I would one day be invited to become the next president of Trees for Life. It was overwhelming and humbling, to say the least. But since then, Balbir’s statement has continued to resonate with me—because now, I have experienced it myself.
Much of my experience has been with an educational “branch” of Trees for Life called “Teach for Life.” Realizing that education is a key to empowerment, we have been exploring how people could join hands to help educate children around the world.
Education empowers children with hope for a better future. People around the world are
joining hands to spread that empowerment through the "Teach for Life" movement.
Many teachers generously shared their knowledge of how to teach young children. Together, they created hundreds of video-based lessons. With help from education experts, our team also focused on how parents can help children learn at home. More than 70 videos were created sharing simple activities that turn everyday moments into learning opportunities.
To serve people worldwide, the lessons were translated into multiple languages. And, as always, it was done by people coming together and sharing their skills and love. I will let the woman who led that effort, Soumya Bhatt, tell it in her own words:
“When a mutual friend introduced me to Simmi Dalla, I was taken with how grassroots and organic Trees for Life seemed. I also felt an immediate connection with the vision of ‘Teach for Life.’ Imagine my surprise when she asked me to lead the translation volunteers!
“Being an introvert, I was unsure at first. But my doubts were put to rest when I began reaching out to people. Just like me, most of them were pleasantly surprised to find such an opportunity, right in their backyard, to help children around the world.
“Within a few weeks, we had 77 volunteers translating the lesson videos into fourteen languages. We even had people helping in India and Thailand. Together, they made more than 700 translated lessons in about four months. I was amazed to see how it all came together.
“It is impossible to quantify the snowball effect and full impact of this movement. In working with the volunteers, I heard about translators starting their own YouTube channels to promote education, parents using the lessons to teach children their native language, and a youth volunteer inspired to study non-profit organizations in college. Seeing how the volunteers were empowered, I can only imagine what will happen as the ripples spread and touch children around the world for generations to come.
“A year ago, when I made the decision to step out of my comfort zone, I could not imagine that it would be the most enriching experience of my life. I have not only found a cause that I completely identify with; I have found my ‘tribe’ in the passionate Trees for Life family.”
What happened next was also unexpected. When we started sharing these educational videos, we had no idea they would soon be highly sought out by people whose children need to learn at home during the pandemic. The Teach for Life YouTube channel started getting hundreds of thousands of views per month—almost four million views so far! It spread much faster and is serving people in more ways than we had imagined.
Yet, this is only the beginning of Teach for Life. The full vision is for people anywhere to be able to share their knowledge and experience with one another, for the benefit of all. As we continue to explore the possibilities, I look forward to the journey. And I look forward to the many miracles that take place when people come together to serve.
Meet a few of the volunteer translators
I was born in a family of teachers and worked as an elementary and middle school teacher for five years. I feel so good to be a part of Teach for Life, doing this tremendous work to help children around the world.
To me, Teach for Life is like education, and education is the best gift that you can give to anyone, including myself. So that’s what inspired me."
I believe that when you have gifts it’s because you’re supposed to use them to help someone else. I already crossed the bridge, but now I need to help someone else cross that bridge.
I always wanted to help with primary education in India. When I found this organization, I felt so happy that my dream can be achieved.
I believe these little educational clips are helpful for all learners.
As a teacher, I strongly believe that knowledge is power and it makes me very happy to be a part of a project that so many children can benefit from.
All children deserve a quality education. I am enjoying being a volunteer translator, and I hope my work will help kids become competent, employable, and better meet their learning objectives.
Having been a teacher much of my life, I got very excited as this program aims to empower teachers and parents with simple tools for early learning. I consider myself fortunate to be able to contribute in this noble cause.
Teacher and Parent Comments
The lesson videos have almost 4 million views!
Here’s what people are saying.
I’d like to express my gratitude for these short but effective videos! My son has communication difficulties and as soon as I saw your lessons I started to apply them the same day. I was so surprised when my son interacted immediately with me and repeated his first sentence! – Lina
Fantastic learning! Thank you for the videos, always helpful for my kids. – Don Rae Academy
I have one child and I am homeschooling her. I can’t seem to make her understand the concept of one less or one more. I’ve turned purple trying to help her understand. This video certainly helps. Thank you. – Genesis
Really well done thanks. I will use with my virtual school students to review. – Dorothy
This is a wonderful way to explain rhyming words. I will definitely use it in my classroom. – Sahuna
See the lesson videos at: