Solomon Edwin Kayiwa is an Educate! mentor working in Hoima, a  rural up-country region of Uganda.  The Educate! Scholars in Hoima recently received a donation of 20,050 tree seedlings from the  District Forestry.  Below, Solomon writes about how our scholars are using these seeds to fight climate change.  .

In Uganda, few believe villages hold the opportunities found in the city.  This term, Educate! Scholars proved this stereotype wrong.  Despite Hoima’s distance from Kampala—it is a three hour drive by bus and over 200 kilometers—  Educate!’s programs in the region found fruitful opportunities within the community.  Last month, The Hoima Forest District donated 20,050 tree seedlings to Educate!’s Social Entrepreneurship Clubs (SEC), a donation worth USD $14,000.  Moved by our Scholar’s passion for fighting climate change, the Hoima District decided to support them, and along with that support came trees, lots and lots of trees.

This project has been undertaken at the right time.   In Uganda, activities like charcoal burning, lumbering, soil erosion, and increased deforestation pose a great threat to the environment.  Neighboring countries like Kenya are struggling with drought and loss of cattle due to environmental problems and changes in weather patterns.   My Scholars recognize this, as do so many in Uganda.  This emerging problem led to the idea of a tree planting project.  

This was a brilliant idea.  I supported it with great enthusiasm.  However, my Scholars understood that their SEC clubs had limited resources to invest in trees.  Therefore, as their mentor, I looked around to find ways to bring the tree project into form.

I approached the District Officer of Hoima and introduced him to the Educate! program.  He immediately noticed its worth and became very interested in our work.  He pledged to offer any assistance in his reach.  Could his reach extend to trees?  There’s no better way to find out then ask.  I shared with him the student’s idea of planting trees and it grabbed his attention.  After my Scholars and I composed a proposal, and after persistent follow up meetings and phone calls, a donation was on its way.  To everyone’s surprise and excitement, we learned that Educate!’s SEC clubs in Hoima were to receive 20,050 tree seedlings! 

The donation itself is astounding, but I found the impact it made on the students and the community to be even more impressive.   The tree seedlings gave our students the means to carry out extensive community action.  Since receiving the tree seedlings, the Educate! Scholars have planted trees all over Hoima.  We have given seedlings to both the school communities that Educate! partners with, and the general community of Hoima.  Seedlings have gone to primary schools, secondary schools, churches, and individual households.  Some trees have been distributed to teachers.    We continue to watch as more and more people join in this movement our Educate! Scholars have started.  As a result of undertaking this project, it has helped increase the SEC relationship with the town of Hoima, and now Educate! Scholars are seen both as students and community leaders.  The project has provided fertile grounds for interaction between the students and the community. 

The visibility of the trees has also become a vehicle for showcasing our scholar’s newfound empowerment.  The tree planting project has earned Educate! recognition as an organization set out to create a “new brand of young people,” as the District Forest Officer said.  Educate! has also been recognized as an organization working towards conserving the environment: Educate! has received its first invitation from the Hoima District local government to attend an environmental meeting, which will bring together NGOs and civil society organizations working to promote the environment.

 

Through this project, the students are beginning to develop a mind of thinking deeply about community problems and holding themselves responsible by coming up with appropriate solutions. Because of this, they have used the project as a platform to sensitize Hoima residences about different social problems and have spread the idea of community leadership.  As the students go out to plant trees in the different schools and churches, they have stayed true to Educate!’s philosophy of exponential empowerment.  They use these trips as an opportunity to transfer ideas of social responsibility to other students and church groups, and pass on the leadership skills they are learning through Educate! 

Since starting this project, many students from other schools have approached me, including teachers and community leaders, requesting me to take Educate! programs to more schools and to the community members.  This reaffirms that the Educate! programs are of great value and have been successfully accepted and supported in Hoima—I am so proud of this project because it has helped create a visible impact in the community.  My Scholars are showing people that villages hold many opportunities, despite the stereotypes.  They are proving that positive change can come from the people within the village.  My scholars have seen success on a large scale, and have now realized firsthand the power they have to create change.   You don’t have to believe me, we have 20,050 trees to prove it!

- Solomon Edwin Kayiwa

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