Young professionals plant a tree in Béret, southern Haiti for World Environment Day.
Young professionals plant a tree in Béret, southern Haiti for World Environment Day.

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.

Map of Beret in Haiti's south.

​​"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.

Justin Ovid, president of the Rotaract Club in Les Calles, Haiti.

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.

Members of Rotaract Club hold prepare to plant trees in Beret, Haiti for World Environment Day.

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,who lives in Béret expressed the town's gratitude and promised to take care of the gifted trees.

​​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."

Residents of Beret, Haiti hold seedlings gifted to them by young professionals of Rotaract club.