Written by Emily Mullins
Through the hard work and generosity of Mission 4/1 Earth participants, nearly 9,000 trees will be planted in the Kenyan village of Kaiguchu by October. The Rev. Lise Sparrow, pastor of Guilford Community United Church of Christ in Guilford, Vt., who initiated the global partnership between the Mission 4/1 Earth campaign and Kenya, couldn't believe the church was able to reach the lofty goal she imagined before the UCC's 50-day earth care campaign began April 1.
"It was just wonderful," said Sparrow of the donations. "It was a question of dreaming the impossible dream – this will make a huge difference."
Sparrow and the Rev. Carter Via, co-pastor of Talmadge Hill Community Church UCC in Darien, Conn., whose congregation also has ties to Kaiguchu, traveled there in June to discuss with the villagers how to best use the funds. A council that formed to represent the villagers decided to purchase 400 macadamia nut tree seedlings, which will provide a future source of income. Those trees will be planted by 12 volunteers from four UCC churches during the October trip.
"I felt we were responsible for the fact that the UCC was so generous and felt I needed to go there to see what the villagers were thinking and talk though how we would use these funds most responsibly," Sparrow said. "We wanted to give the villagers the most possible say in how these funds should be used to benefit their community."
During their June visit, Sparrow and Via helped plant indigenous, fast-growing trees around the school to act as a type of fencing for protection and also aesthetic appeal. The villagers have been busy planting the remaining 8,000 trees provided by Mission 4/1 Earth funds on a deforested hillside once used for coffee and tea production. The trees will help prevent erosion, keep water levels high, and also create a source of wood for cooking and fuel. The villagers hope to have the trees planted by the time the UCC volunteers arrive in October.
The macadamia nut trees will be planted on the grounds of a secondary school being constructed through a partnership between Talmadge Hill UCC and Cross Cultural Thresholds, a nonprofit that works with grassroots community leaders to build schools and create opportunities for underprivileged children. A stipend has been set aside to compensate the villagers who are willing to help care for the trees once they are planted. Sparrow says this is an important part of the equation, as the trees are only beneficial if they thrive and grow.
"You can plant the seedlings, but the real cost is in encouraging people to water the trees and keep them growing and weeded," she said. "Those willing to do this will get a little income over the next few years."
"I feel very strongly that we were born to care and we were born to take care of," Via adds. "And that means ourselves, it means other people, it means the next generation, it means the earth. So this project is really kind of a beautiful extension of that. It’s just about caring and taking care of."
Learn more about the partnership between Guilford Community UCC and the village of Kaiguchu.