SACKVILLE, N.B. – A unique Canada-wide fundraiser has brought in more than $22,000 for Community Forests International (CFI), helping to support the local organization’s ongoing projects on the other side of the globe.
“It’s amazing,” said Zach Melanson, a CFI co-founder who recently returned from the annual Pound for Pemba fundraiser, in which he traveled to remote bush camps and ‘pounded’ trees alongside hundreds of tree planters from across the country. “I feel my job is to go there and inspire people but I end up feeling the reverse. I’m the one at the end of the day that’s standing there awestruck that these young people with very little money are making this happen in a very big way.”
Started in 2009 by the founders of Community Forests International, who had themselves worked summers planting trees as teenagers, the Pounding for Pemba fundraiser sees Canadian tree planters forgo a portion of their earnings (some even donating their entire wage for the day) to support village-led tree planting projects on Pemba Island, one of Tanzania’s poorest regions.
Since its inception, the fundraiser has brought in more than $130,000 to help the Pemban communities build nurseries, grow trees and grow forests on community-owned land for fruit, timber, shelter and fuel.
Melanson said each year, as he travels from camp to camp, mostly in northern Ontario and western Canada, he gets to bear witness to tree planters pushing aside thoughts of school loans, debts and travel plans, and instead donating the trees they plant that day to support CFI’s work.
This year, Melanson’s travels began on June 5; and for three weeks, he traveled to the isolated camps, making presentations on CFI’s work, updating the planters on their projects and raising awareness of the importance of this work. He said he’s always overwhelmed by how generous people are once they hear about CFI’s activities.
“They’re just passionate about it and that’s really inspiring.”
He said he’s pretty proud of this particular fundraiser, which is not only a great way to promote CFI’s activities but also tells the story of how their small non-governmental got its start – pushing through those first few years when grants and government funds were scarce.
“Pounding” is a part of the tree planter vernacular and refers to giving it your all when you plant trees. Through battling blackflies, extreme weather and exhaustion, tree planters become a community as they work alongside each other through adversity, learning together how to work hard and not give up, similar to how CFI has become the success it is today said Melanson.
“It really unites people. It creates a community,” he said of tree planting. “So when I talk about Pemba and about how they’re struggling, I think they get it.”
The CFI fundraiser was also supported by Brinkman & Associates Reforestation, which paid for Melanson’s expenses during the three-week trip. Melanson said this partnership helps to ensure that all the funds donated by tree planters are “being used on the ground in Pemba.”
This year, 151,286 trees were planted in support of Pemban communities – that’s $22,312.68 worth of wages.
“Tree planters helped us stay afloat during our fledgling years as an NGO, and they continue to contribute significantly to the projects in Pemba,” said Melanson.