A few months ago, inspired by a very good book on botany, I decided that there would be no better way to leave a mark on this world than to plant a tree. Because, I reasoned, trees live for centuries, absorbing carbon dioxide and giving it back to the environment in the form of oxygen, shade, and food.
So when I was given the chance to join a tree planting session at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), I eagerly accepted! And that’s how my boyfriend and I found ourselves at the fringe of the forest at 8:45am on a Saturday morning – a very far cry from our usual lazy mornings.
These tree planting sessions are held nearly every week as part of FRIM’s CSR outreach program. This time, we joined an energetic group of teachers from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara 3. We were glad for their bubbly company, and especially so for the Physical Education teacher who led us in a round of (very much needed, as we were soon to find out) warm-ups and stretches.
FRIM’s Corporate Communication Head, Norhayati Nordin, explained during our briefing that constantly planting trees is crucial to ensure the forest animals have enough food and living space for the years to come. Also, increasing the growth of trees in tropical regions like ours is said to keep the climate cooler (which is good for discouraging global warming!), as the water that evaporates from them creates cloudiness.
With that in mind, our goal for the day was to plant 30 hardwood and fruit tree saplings.
To do that, we first had to hike two kilometres to the plant site. As we made our way through the forest on comfortable dirt trails, our charismatic and knowledgeable ranger pointed out different trees and fascinating botanical facts. We even had the time to take a few group photos together. This hike was probably my favourite part of the day- I learned so much and it really helped to clear my mind!
When we reached the plant site, we were shown how to plant our saplings. The rangers told us to clear the soil, dig a suitable hole, and “plant saplings with our hearts full of hope and good intentions” – as cheesy as it may sound, this was exactly what I did!
After all, it’s not easy for a tree to grow up. For a delicate soft-stemmed sapling to become a tree, it has to fight off insects and infection, survive unpredictable and unforgiving storms, gather a staggering amount of resources every single day. But if it can, it will put down roots deep into the earth, grow a trunk of strong and sturdy wood, and better the environment in so many ways.
We walked the two kilometres back out of the forest when we finished, pleasantly tired and full of warmth for the friends we made that day, for the selfless people of FRIM who work tirelessly to conserve and upkeep this natural, untouched part of the Klang Valley.
Want to give it a try? Here are the details:
WHERE: Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Jalan Frim, Kepong, 52109 Selangor
VOLUNTEER HOURS: Weekly, depending on the conservation project. Office opening hours 8:00am-5:00pm
Adapted from the print edition. Text by Yi-Di Ng. Photos by the author and Mohd Nazri of FRIM.