BERET, HAITI - Ahead of World Environment Day, a group of Haitian young professionals put into practice a famous line uttered by former U.S. president John F. Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
With the help of the local Rotary Club's Rotaract group, 6,000 trees were given to the town of Beret, a community in Haiti's south that suffered heavy damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
"We're all responsible for the environment, so we are taking the lead. We're not waiting for government to do it," Justin Ovid, president of the Rotaract club, told VOA Creole. "We have our own role to play in the process, so that's why we launched this initiative."
The International Rotary Club, founded in 1905, has over a million members across the globe with a mission of creating "lasting change" in their communities.
Ovid said the demand for charcoal has had negative consequences on the community's tree population.
"Deforestation, especially people cutting down trees to make charcoal, has a huge impact. So, (that's why) we wanted to make our own contribution to the effort to reforest the country," he said.
Haiti lost 9.5% of its forest foliage between 1990 and 2005, according to the environmental website Mongabay.com, which measures global deforestation. A survey by the nonprofit conservation group Societe Audubon Haiti warned the country could lose its forest cover in the next two decades if nothing is done to halt current deforestation trends.
The tree planting was done on Monday instead of Wednesday, June 5, when World Environment Day is observed internationally. Wednesday is market day in Beret, and Rotaract wanted to make sure members of the community could participate in the effort.
Samson Croisiere, a young resident of the town who participated in the tree planting event, vowed his community would continue to nurture the trees.
"This event is so important to our community," he told VOA Creole. "Residents who are here will take some of the trees home to plant. They will protect them from insects and also water them to keep them healthy. That way, they will continue to benefit us in the years to come."