Plant a Tree Today Foundation Takes Root in Thailand to Educate and Inspire
“We don’t just plant trees. We plant environmental awareness among local communities,” says Sue Sangkum, Project Executive from Plant a Tree Today (PATT) Foundation. How true that statement is.
A UK-based charity and Thai foundation with a global purview, PATT takes action against climate change and deforestation—especially in Asia, a land that PATT founder Andrew Steel considers his second home. Like any endeavour to change behaviour, the arduous task of convincing a nation to spare its trees does not begin with a seedling in the ground, but rather the heart, he says. And so the foundation creates awareness of environmental issues by promoting reforestation initiatives through education, encouraging children, in particular, to become both activists and active learners.
“Just planting trees might not help much,” adds Steel, a former English marine with over 15 years of experience working in green business and technology. “So education has to come together with other efforts to raise awareness of the issues we’re facing today.”
In Thailand, PATT plants trees at numerous sites countrywide, including a couple on the outskirts of Bangkok: Phra Pradaeng and Bang Pu. The main site is in Ban Subtai at Khao Yai National Park. Here, the nursery can produce more than 20,000 seedlings each year, and to date this site has produced 90,000 trees. All and sundry are invited to visit for nature walks, activities at the nursery, tree planting events, and even the casual perusal of local arts and crafts in the village. Other sites are found in provinces as far-flung as Petchaburi, Trat, Ratchaburi, and Chiang Mai.
“Part of our platform is helping local communities manage forests in a sustainable manner,” says Sangkum of PATT’s work above ground. “We also provide great education services to many of the international schools in Bangkok. The students seem to love day-long outings with us.”
PATT also works to regenerate soil, build up forests, and restore biodiversity while reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in marginalised communities. Outside of Thailand, PATT plants across Asia in countries including Vietnam, India, and Sri Lanka. And now PATT is expanding its project to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, where it will lead efforts to restore mangroves.
But while many people enjoy planting trees, Steel and Sangkum have found that not everyone is concerned about raising them into maturity. So to combat this problem, Steel initiated an aftercare programme at all PATT sites. Every few months in the two to three years after planting a tree, PATT workers weed, fertilize, and monitor sites, ensuring natural and accelerated forest recovery.
So far, PATT has planted almost 900,000 trees worldwide—a lofty number, for sure, but still under the foundation’s target of one million. To reach this pinnacle, PATT recently launched the “Plant It Forward” campaign. A lot like the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” the campaign asks people to plant trees in the name of friends and family, who then nominate their friends and family to plant trees, as well. This sort of chain-letter challenge has a great impact, creating positive environmental change at a grassroots level. And after all, according to Steel and Sangkum, this is where change truly begins.
PATT welcomes donations, and is always happy to take those interested to planting sites for a day full of green activities, whether on school or business outings or individual trips. Visit pattfoundation.org or e-mail [email protected] for more information or to donate.