With the motto, Shokto Kori Bangladesh, 3,349 volunteers successfully planted 49,000 trees in 49 minutes, commemorating the 49th year of Bangladesh's independence, on September 4, in Koyra Upazila, Khulna. BANDHU Foundation of Bangladesh, Give Bangladesh and Aamrai Bangladesh facilitated the event to lend support to the Sundarbans in withstanding future natural disasters.
Seventh grader Zakir, along with his friends, participated in Project Oxygen as several trees in his school were destroyed by cyclone Amphan in May. Thousands of 'Zakirs' suffered the brunt of Amphan as the cyclone disrupted the lives of people in the coastal areas, uprooting thousands of trees. With every cyclone that hits the coasts of Bangladesh, people of Koyra are among the ones who suffer the most. Due to Amphan, 40,000 trees in Koyra were destroyed.
"Another boy lost 300 to 400 trees because of cyclone Amphan. When he received 500 trees for replanting, the joy was evident in his eyes," shares Khandaker Abir Hossain Nur, Executive at Give Bangladesh.
The inspiration for this project stemmed from the idea of strengthening the soil of Bangladesh, not just from the brunt of cyclones and disasters, but by strengthening the country financially, physically and spiritually.
"This was an online initiative and the objective was to turn it into an offline project," shares Arif R Hossain, Co-founder at Aamrai Bangladesh. "People's enthusiasm and drive to help, not only financially but also by volunteering was incredible."
Volunteers planted the trees in Amadi, Baghali, Maheshwarpur, Maharajpur, Koyra Sadar, Uttor Bekdashi and Dakshin Bekdashi of Koyra Upazila. 20,500 Shirish, 16,500 Lombu, 2,000 Guava, 2,500 Wood Apple, 5,000 Sobeda, 2,000 Tamarind, 500 Krishnachura, 500 Bokul, 1000 Amla and 3000 Tala Palm trees were planted in these areas.
Planting thousands of trees in 49 minutes was a challenge. Under the supervision of one central control room, communicators, delegates, local leaders, spot leaders and volunteers were appointed in 182 spots across Koyra. The event started off with the national anthem at 10:30 in the morning and concluded by 11:19 am. In a festive mood, the locals also took part in the event.
"I am proud of the volunteers for successfully pulling off this event. It was a team effort and this is a success for Bangladesh," says Arif R Hossain.
"Anyone can plant a tree, but the main challenge is to take care of the trees after the fact, and we wanted to involve the local authorities in this," shares Saifullah Mithu, President of BANDHU Foundation of Bangladesh and Co-founder of Give Bangladesh. "We are involving 25 local authorities to look after the trees and they will have to report back to us after a year."
Another key aim of this project was to support the locals by planting fruit-bearing trees. 1,000 locals who are living below the poverty line were appointed to look after the fruit-bearing trees and use the fruits that are expected to grow in a few years.
The project is was financed through a successful crowd-funding effort, with generous contributions from the people of Bangladesh and by local institutional supporters who came forward to contribute to this cause. Bank Asia, BRAC Bank, IPDC Finance Limited, Nijer Bolar Moto Ekta Golpo, Robi Axiata and Shwapno contributed 5000 trees each. Dhaka Ladies' Club contributed 2,500 trees and Epyllion Group provided 3,000 masks for the volunteers who participated in the event. People from across the country provided financial support for buying the trees, under the names of their loved ones. One person bought seven trees under the names of our country's seven bravest sons (Bir Shreshtha).
The youth of our country proved their commitment to build a better Bangladesh yet again with Project Oxygen. This initiative will inspire others in the future to work towards a unified nation.