10,000 Trees, One Dayby Tuesday Phillips
In celebration of Umuganda, a day reserved every month in Rwanda for community service countrywide, we joined the locals of Kigali to help plant 10,000 trees. Alongside students, soldiers and various other residents of the community, we walked through the wetlands with one unifying mission; -- to enrich the morass soil with the new growth of native trees and to celebrate the developing fellowship of green initiative and restoration in Rwanda.
The reserved day of service was not the only reason people came out to join the planting. They wanted to be there. Carrying an average of two trees per person, the only other thing they held was a steady smile. Their eagerness was meritorious, their pride-- rich, and their enthusiasm was more than just contagious; it was infectious. In all my years of service work and environmental activism, I have never been among a more well-intended, thoughtful group of people who genuinely wanted to help the planet and knew how to approach grassroots action with ease, and care.
While walking through the wetlands, I made many friends. One of the locals I met was very eager to share with me that he had planted over 50 trees in his lifetime and 10 trees for Umuganda. When I asked him why planting trees was important to him he answered without hesitation saying,” we need to keep the environment of Rwanda alive.” Though it was obvious that all people who attended the tree planting were there because they cared about restoring the environment, his instantaneous response confirmed that what was taking place exceeded the obligatory type of participation many other observances share.
According to the Minister of Rwanda, Amb. Stanislas Kamanzi, the people of the country take pride in this day because they have been taught at a young age to care for and to protect their local wildlife. It helps, too, that they have a Minister that is so passionate about preserving the lush forests and wetlands of Rwanda. The Minister has truly transformed the image that many people have of this beautiful country and works very hard to ensure this image is maintained. He has implemented green education into the school systems and continues to be a green role model and compassionate watchtower for the eco-movement in Rwanda. Because the Minister is so respected and speaks on behalf of the needs of not just the people, but the planet, the people living in Rwanda are putting his inspiring words into action. His vision is their vision, as their vision should be the worlds’.
Tree planting is not where Rwanda’s environmental action ends either. While walking around, one thing that stood out to me was there is no trash in sight on the streets. Zero. And the people share the responsibility of keeping their surroundings clean, fully understanding the full-scope of repercussions that would ensue if they didn’t. It takes just one person to recycle one bottle, but it takes a country to recycle antiquated ideology into progressive action that creates change. What’s it going to take to recycle the world’s philosophy on the state of the planet? Perhaps, we can look to Rwanda for the answer.
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