GentleWays for OurPlanet’s first in-person tree planting event was an awesome, memorable day! Dozens of youths and youth at heart mainly from the Lebanese-Canadian community in Ottawa planted 125 trees at Neil Nesbitt Park in Barrhaven, Ottawa, on September 24, 2022 under perfect weather conditions! The planting site felt like a festival, brimming with delighted volunteers and onlookers from neighboring homes.  Local dignitaries attended the event, including Mayor Jim Watson, Mr. Chandra Arya, MP and Mrs. Lisa McLeod, MPP for Nepean. Also in attendance was Mr. Kamel El-CheikhAli, Consul of Lebanon in Canada.

Barrhaven has one of the lowest tree canopy rates in the city, second to last place with the coverage being only at 23%. The city is trying to increase the neighborhood tree canopy to 40% in each community. When we were asked where we wanted to plant the trees, we said wherever trees are needed the most in Ottawa. We suggested Barrhaven and Hunt Club areas, which have lost thousands of trees this past spring due to a severe storm. Tree Canada, the organisation who provided the logistical support for the event proposed Barrhaven, and we said yes!

“We’re delighted for Barrhaven residents and particularly those neighboring the planting site like Christina Thompson.” GentleWays’ Executive Director, Dr. Aïda Waraha said. Ms. Thompson, a supporter of GentleWays for OurPlanet, had been requesting from the City that more trees be planted in her neighborhood park. “Trees are such an important part of fighting climate change. Having an entire new forest planted right in our community, will show our kids and grandchildren that we can make a difference.”  Thomson shared

Although this is our first in person tree planting event, GentleWays for OurPlanet, with our supporters have already planted 292 trees in Ottawa via our mobile app, i4ThePlanet, in collaboration with Ecology Ottawa and One Tree Planted. Everyone could still plant trees and reduce their carbon footprint via our app any time of the year!

The event program included words from local dignitaries, a poem by poet Saïd -El-Hage, live violin performance by Sarah Williams, snacks and lunch, and some awards. In his speech, the Lebanese Consul, Mr. Kamel El-Cheikh Ali underlined the importance of protecting the cedar tree, Cedrus Libani, which is under threat in Lebanon due to climate change.  It’s GentleWays for OurPlanet’s intent that Cedrus Libani, be brought to Canada as part of an envisioned Lebanon Forest in Ottawa!

Over the past several months, a Steering Committee worked generously and lovingly to bring this event to life. Miss Ashley Janna, Mrs. Carole Nehme, Mrs. Colette Corban, Mr. Hashem Y Hashem, Ms. Christiane Mayo and Mr. Teke Rerri have given this project their absolute best, their time, counsel, and valuable gifts to make it a very special event. A huge thank you!

There were also many donors and sponsors from the Lebanese-Canadian community, whose generous gifts and contributions made this event possible. We also acknowledge and thank all the volunteers who enthusiastically planted the trees and made this event a wonderful experience. A big thank you to the three churches in Ottawa who sent a large number of volunteers to this tree planting event,  Saint-Charbel Parish Maronite Catholic Church,  St. Paul Syriac Catholic Church and Sts. Peter & Paul Melkite Catholic Church.

This project was also supported with grants from Nature Canada and Sustainable Capacity Foundation!