The Day We Planted Trees: A Volunteer’s Experience

By Bunga (Hirai 2022 Volunteer)

June 12, 2024 marked as tree planting day for Hirai. All crew members came together with the local community, hands in hands, to create a greener world as we planted +1000 trees at Tumbang Nusa, Kalimantan Tengah, Indonesia. What a wondrous experience!

Before D-Day, we were told that we going to plant trees, and what came to my mind was, “how hard could it be?” Little did I know, oh boy, none of it were easy. It is not quite like; I went to the site, planted the tree, and then called it a day. Not that simple. I have had my fight with the mosquitoes, I accepted my share of the sun beam which contains UV that most likely burned me, I had my head bumped to the branches—due to my height, and if I were not watch my step I would probably sink into the mud and that is not a thing I could handle. Lucky for us, we got all the help from KHDTK—who did all the nursery. They already made the lane for us to follow, so the path is already clear enough as of where to be exact to plant the trees. But still, it is indeed a hard work.

Opportunity like this do not comes around as I wish, surely I cannot plant trees whenever I want. Because apparently, in order to be able to plant trees, there are few lists that had to be ticked: do our research on which tree that qualified to be planted on peatland, look for the resources like the nursery, then we need to buy the tree or adopt them if necessary. Also, the most important part is knowing where to plant them, so we ask for permission. And it does not end there; after we plant the trees, we ought to monitoring each of the trees to make sure they are alive and well. As hard as it sounds, I did not experience how the pre-planting were going nor have the post-planting on my agenda, which I am sure it was equally hectic.

To have the thoughts that the trees will grow into something big, an entity that turn into homes for so many species and microorganisms. Maybe in the next ten years, it will take a part in supplying my kids’ oxygen, and own its portions as Kalimantan Tengah’s ecosystems. Just to think about it makes me thrilled and my heart beat faster. Before Hirai, thoughts about some slight of contributions never slipped into my mind. Now it is turn into a story that I can retell as a fragments of my life that formed me as myself today or later in the future. I love to think that when I pass by the area, I will definitely tell people that “I planted tress in there.” The excitement in my voice when I tell them is the pride I implicitly shows. I will make sure everyone who crosses paths with me knows I have planted trees.

Being in nature actually gave me an intellectual stimulation. There are a lot of textures and visuals I have just discovered, such as the moss that seems like a miniature of forest. Trees skin that surprisingly mesmerizing because of its patterns. The roots that were submerged in peat water, when I touched it, do not feel like it; rather, they were soft, and from the look of it, they looked like a wool string. The gorgeous butterflies that perched on his shoulder were not even budged when his arm moved. The spider web is all over the tree branches, making a living out of trees. Even the water is different because it contains carbon from the peat that dissolves in the water, staining it brown, and leaving its cold to the skin. To top it all, we casually found kantong semar, which is very rare to see owing to the fact that the kantong semar is an endemic flora. The whole biodiversity is beyond my expectations; being able to witnessed it with both of my eyes is a blessings. However, I doubted we deserved the beauty of nature considering how we treated the earth. Quoted from my favorite book, “We accept the love we think we deserve” by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 1999). It is making so much sense that we facing a climate crisis right now. We took the beauty of the earth for granted. The earth probably wanted to give us its mighty, but instead, we gave is threats. So I guess the feeling does not reciprocate.

We should factor trees and environment in our life-decision-making, because our lives are on the edge and natural disaster happen like it is a new normal. News about deforestation and climate crisis are in our timeline, probably almost every day. Acknowledging this fact and pretending like we care, but the truth is we kept our silence, is actually harming. Just akin to the old saying “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Stop the performative activism by saying we should start small or do the smallest part to help the earth. No, climate change happening in real-time. This is an urgent situation. It is no longer taking a small part, but the biggest we could do. We need the government and corporations to be held accountable. We need to tell the older generations to their faces what they have done to our planet. As the saying goes, “what you sow is what you reap.” But in this scenario, the younger generations will reap what they did not sow.

Last, I would like to thank Himba Raya Indonesia Foundation, especially Kak Yun and Kak Ika, for having me. The experience you gave me will be engraved in my mind and heart and will leave a new nostalgic feeling. I also would like to thank my fellow volunteers and Hirai’s team who went through this tree planting journey with me who carried a noble vision and mission to our earth. The small banter we exchanged and the brief bonding we had are precious. I wish the earth would receive our love and keep blooming. Thank you, team!

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