Jean Gapelbe, currently our Africa Network Coordinator, helped us understand the “bigger picture” of Planting Together during a pilot trip to Senegal in January 2012.
After three hours of pruning “Kab*” trees we returned to the village of Soussan for lunch and rest. As we sipped our refreshing “bisap**”, served by grateful villagers, Jean remarked, “See those boys over there? The ones with no shoes, runny noses, huge smiles and donated clothes? That was me!”
Pressed for further explanation, Jean related, “Where I grew up in Northern Cameroon, the climate zone is quite similar and my village has practically the same construction of mud-brick huts with thatched roofs. My family had barely enough means for food, and shoes were a luxury for the fortunate.
Then one day, some young people came from Youth With A Mission (an affiliated organization with Planting Together) and told amazing stories about how reconnecting with their Creator could make a huge difference. I decided then and there that I would like to experience this kind of life and one day be just like these young people.”
“Today, thanks to them and many others, I am now helping to bring transformation to a whole region of Africa. Now, it’s our turn to inspire other Africans of this generation, giving them hope and a reason to rise up and take their place in transforming systemic poverty into productive and prosperous lifestyles.”To prove a point, Jean sent us photos of a recent trip to his nation, Cameroon, to visit his family. Getting to his home village from Yaounde, the capital, required a 16-hour train ride, 11-hour bush taxi, 45-minute motorcycle ride and finally a half hour walk!
Can something as simple as your going to Cameroon, or Senegal or Tanzania to plant trees and share life with people like these really make a difference? Think about Jean when you consider Planting Together as a means of going or giving to change the future of the next generation.
*valuable nitrogen-fixing trees that are generally cut off as a nuisance by farmers, but which can increase crop yields by 30% if left to grow into trees!
**drink made from boiled red hibiscus flowers