The SSSIO-USA Mid-Central Region kicked off their SAI 100 Initiative One Million (OM) Trees ( on May 27, 2023, during their annual Retreat at the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Greater St. Louis, MO. Sai volunteers planted five trees amidst sacred chanting and prayers by retreat attendees. Also present was Guest Speaker, Tina Schweickert, well-known in the Sai community as a dedicated environmentalist, and the author of Tread Softly: Sathya Sai Baba’s Teachings on Nature and the Environment (2005).

Two months before the event, a Task Force involving all Sai Centers in the Region had a planning meeting on Zoom. On April 28, 2023, five saplings were procured during the annual Arbor Day tree giveaway. The Task Force decided to plant the trees at the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Greater St. Louis on a slope at the edge of the property. Sai Volunteers had several tasks to accomplish prior to the tree planting.

Initially, a few adult volunteers cleared the vine-tangled and weed-overgrown area at the Center on May 18, 2023. It took a massive effort as the area had grown wild, having been untouched for many years. In the end, it took more than a day and a few more volunteers to accomplish the task. A layer of rich topsoil was added. Sandbags were placed at the edge so that there was no run-off to the neighboring property. Deep holes had to be dug prior to the event. In all, it took about 4-5 hours of hard manual labor on three separate occasions to prepare the ground, a mammoth task that required the support of young adults to accomplish.

On 27 May, 2023, during the retreat, participants gathered around the planting site at the scheduled time. Devotional songs and prayers to Mother Earth were offered. Out-of-town SSSIO guests as well as the guest Speaker then planted five trees, helped by Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) students, who added peat moss and watered the saplings. Chicken wire was placed around each sapling, in addition to bamboo sticks to secure the saplings. The SSE students were extremely excited and happy to be given this important task. The five saplings were named after the five human values – Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi, Prema, Ahimsa.  

Since then, members of the Task Force in St. Louis have taken turns to water the trees, which struggled a bit initially, but are now thriving. The Region looks forward to clearing more of the land around the property and planting more trees in the Fall, when the weather cools a little. SSE students will take on the task of taking care of the saplings by watering them weekly when they attend SSE.  

Here are some reflections by Sai volunteers involved in the tree planting:

We sang His glory and took turns to plant the trees. It was a way to share our heartfelt gratitude and give back to Nature for all the nurturing we receive from her.”

“Being a nature lover, the tree planting at the retreat was one of the most joyful activities we have engaged in. Trees teach us some of the most valuable lessons in life about unconditional love and sacrifice. I am very grateful for the opportunity to strengthen our bonds with each other through this tree planting activity!”

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