The Word Forest Organisation - Planting trees and building classrooms in Kenya

By Carmen James

10 Jan 19

The Word Forest Organisation is a Dorset based charity that plants trees, builds classrooms and facilitates environmental education, in impoverished communities in Kenya.

Husband and wife, Simon and Tracey have been philanthropists there, reforesting and building schools since 2012. Over the years, they’ve seen so many positive changes occurring within their communities, for example, the commodities from the trees are now enabling people to lift themselves out of abject poverty and as a result, fewer youngsters are heading into child prostitution. These folks really are living on the front line of climate change.

The Word Forest Organisation became a charity in April 2017 to scale everything up, getting urgently needed trees in the ground and supporting the educational and human needs of the people who nurture the forests. Their projects are extremely well managed – they take the GPS coordinates of their trees and guarantee that if they die for any reason, they are replaced. This gives valued benefactors security in the knowledge that environmental investments with The Word Forest Organisation are safe and they’ll have created a legacy forest.

If you’re curious about why they chose Kenya, one of their Trustees, Ru Hartwell, is a global forestry expert who has planted hundreds of thousands of trees all over the planet. He knows all trees are amazing but he had a scientific epiphany a decade ago, realising that forests planted in the tropics grow at an exponential rate and are therefore incredibly efficient at removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The deforested zones of Coast Province, Kenya, became Ru’s primary focus and as the country has far less than 10% canopy cover, there is an awful lot of ground to cover.

The charity primarily plants around the schools they build. Their solid stone classrooms enable young guardians of the forest to learn about the environmental impacts their efforts are having across the globe. Biodiversity is beginning to flourish, students are learning about creatures who are returning to the area for the first time in years and there are safe habitats for wildlife and humans too.

The Word Forest Organisation have a target to re-build 100 primary schools here, replacing rickety, mud huts with at least three large, stone constructed classrooms. With people’s gracious promises of help via Wonderful donations, they’ll be able to make their long term plans, a reality. The classrooms are approximately £10,000 to build and for each one, they plant 4,000 trees around the school compound, bringing welcome shade and protection from the harsh elements.

It’s an ambitious project, but they are geared up and ready and where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Here is a funky little white board animation that encapsulates The Word Forest Organisation’s foundation and reason-for-being, rather nicely!

At the moment, they are working hard getting as many trees in the ground as they possibly can. It chimes perfectly with some of the top tips that have come out of COP24 in Poland. Reforestation and planting of new trees, is paramount right now. They also have a fantastic campaign listed with us by Steve Pooley who is working hard teaching the people of Boré how to make personal water purification systems from locally sourced, natural materials.

We put a couple of questions to the founders of The Word Forest Organisation:

1. How did you discover Wonderful?

My MD Simon found you via a Google search, when we were looking for a sponsorship platform for a young lad who did an amazing job raising funds and awareness for us! Jai Hayden

2. Did you have any initial reservations about the platform? If so, what are they and have they since been overcome?

None at all! You made everything nice and clear... in fact, the only issue was, it sounded too good to be true.

3. What made you decide to become a Wonderful charity?

You sit in amongst a tiny handful of truly philanthropic organisations, clearly dedicated to helping little charities like ours. Your ethical stance chimes perfectly with ours too - we 'get' you and we're incredibly grateful that you exist.

4. How has Wonderful helped your charity in particular?

Jai's contribution to our coffers was gratefully received. We're only 21 months old, a very young charity (although my husband and I have been planting trees and building classrooms over there as philanthropists since 2012). Our Trustees have decided Wonderful should be our fundraising platform of choice when anyone wants to run an online campaign. It's easy to use, dead easy to share and we like your clean, simple layout too - it all helps get the message across in a swift and fuss-less fashion. You don't have much time when you're trying to catch people's eye and all those details matter to small charities.

5. Tell us about a particular appeal or fundraising page that is worthy of mention.

A fabulous supporter of our charity, Steve Pooley, has recently set up a Wonderful page to help the community we work with in rural Kenya. He's an incredible man, a survival and bushcraft expert too and he's coming with us on our annual monitoring and evaluation trip, to teach the community how to make clean water from the dirty river water they have to resort to drinking in times of abject poverty and when they've been hit by floods. Using locally sourced natural materials like gravel and sand, he'll be able to make the water safe, ridding it of the water-borne diseases that kill and debilitate young and old. We are hopeful we'll be able to raise enough money for him to get around to all of the schools we're working with to run workshops and to build larger water purification units at high points through the community too. Thanks for anything you can do to elevate the cause.

6. If we limited you to just three words to describe Wonderful, what would they be?

Altruistic, selfless, pioneering.

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