ReForest London and community volunteers celebrated London’s diversity this past weekend with a pair of multicultural and interfaith plantings at Westmount Lions Park, its first back-to-back event of this sort.
Together, the over 150 volunteers managed to plant 850 native trees and shrubs in the park.
“Environmental issues are complex and seem to get bigger every year. If we’re going to have any chance of facing them, it’s going to be by working together,” said Amber Cantell, director of programs at ReForest London. “Seeing Londoners of so many different backgrounds, some of whom have been here all their lives and some who have only just arrived, coming out to work together to help build a greener, more sustainable city is a truly inspiring and heart-warming experience.”
Multicultural plantings on Sept. 24 sprung from a vision to bring together volunteers from the area’s oldest communities (local First Nations) and its newest (recent immigrants and refugees).
These two communities came together to share stories about the importance of trees and the environment in their respective cultures and to work together to undertake the first part of the planting at Westmount Lions Park.
Sharing stories about the importance of trees in the many cultures represented by the volunteers was an important part of the event.
Early on, Heather Hammond of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation (Anishinaabe culture) spoke about a tradition among some First Nations of laying tobacco, considered to be a sacred plant, at the base of trees after they are planted, while a group of three speakers from the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre spoke about the trees in Sudan, Liberia, and Jamaica.
“The Cross Cultural Learner Centre really enjoyed the multicultural tree planting event this past Saturday in partnership with ReForest London and Nokee Kwe,” said Heather Kipp, community network and match facilitator at the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre. “We were happy to work together to better our community.”
Picking up where the Saturday planting left off, Sunday’s fourth annual interfaith tree planting brought together 14 different faith organizations representing many faiths, including Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Wiccan.
Several of the participating faith group leaders had words to share about the importance of trees and caring for the earth in their faiths.
“Our sacred writings begin in a garden and end in a city with gardens throughout,” said Rev. Paul Browning, Christian Leader at Trinity United Church Community Centre. “At a time when Mother Earth is straining under the weight of expanding cities and environmental degradation, planting trees together redeems our city and makes us partners with God, to help fulfill the Divine desire for a healthy, flourishing creation.”
The events were made possible thanks to the financial support of the Government of Canada (through the EcoAction and Inter-Action programs), Literacy Link South Central, the participating faith groups, and the City of London.
All trees planted will be counted towards London’s Million Tree Challenge (www.milliontrees.ca).