On Saturday May 20, 2023, seven volunteers from the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Louisville, Kentucky, helped plant trees around the Chickasaw neighborhood. They worked with a non-profit organization, Louisville Grows, whose goal is to make neighborhoods, especially poorer urban areas, more green and environmentally healthier. Many of these poor urban areas are impacted by urban heat due to the lack of tree canopy. Urban heat results in downtown areas being at least 10 degrees warmer than other parts of the city. Urban heat is more pronounced in lower-income neighborhoods where tree canopies are especially deficient. Ironically, the higher heat leads to higher energy usage and health issues, which the poorest of urban residents can ill afford. Louisville Grows’ goal is to replenish the tree canopy by planting a thousand trees each year in these neighborhoods.

Two Sai Spiritual Education students and five adult volunteers participated in the tree planting activity. A couple of volunteers from Louisville Grows helped guide the group to plant the trees the right way and talked about the environmental benefits of growing trees. At least three volunteers were needed to plant each tree. The service activity took about 2-3 hours to complete. Planting the trees demanded a lot of hard work and stamina. By the end, the group, exhausted but immensely gratified, had successfully planted twenty trees in the neighborhood. It was a whole new experience for all who participated. The neighborhood residents thanked the volunteers who were, in turn, just as happy to have spent time helping the community.

One of the volunteers reflected, “In planting trees, I felt gratitude, reverence and love for our surroundings. The trees are the perfect symbols for divine love and the unity between man and nature! Among all of nature’s teachers, the tree is truly the greatest.” Another volunteer commented, “The saplings will eventually grow into trees and purify the air. At the same time, all of us have planted a little more sensitivity in our hearts to be more conscious of the need to revere, protect and nurture our environment.”