How one man gave children reason to love their environment

Monday September 19 2016

Mr Masembe plants trees with

Mr Masembe plants trees with school children  

By Isaac Ssejombwe

The ‘Go Green Fest’ is possibly the biggest children funfair day in east and central Africa. Yet, it is not your ordinary “come and play with bouncing castles” kind of events organised in every corner of the city.

The Superstar Kids Go Green Festival is a social movement, which has grassroots in schools where mentors from Little Hands Go Green organisations set up by Joseph Masembe, visits schools weekly to teach children about planting trees and the benefits of caring for mother nature.

The festival in Kololo is usually a climax of events that helps children recharge their batteries and show off to their parents what they have done in the past terms.

Therefore, every September and December, children flock Kololo Airstrip, to meet with peers from other schools who are part of the green movement.

The festivals that take place twice in the year after second and third terms attract not only children but also their parents, who are not charged to take part in the children event.

Camila Wangoi Wanjohi, a coordinator for the event, says, “Apart from the exhibition by environmental organisations like Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Nature Uganda, some parents come with fruit tree seedlings that they brought to show their solidarity in conservation of our environment.”

The beginnings
The same happens to the artistes that perform on the day.

For example, this year, dancehall singer Sheeba Karungi, who has captured the imagination of children and youth in the country, kept sending out words of encouragement to the children and parents to plant trees for a beautiful Uganda.

Masembe started this movement less than five years ago. The festival has since been graced by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni himself.
President Museveni’s first time at the festival, was accidental. He was flying into Kololo airstrip from Adjumani in northern Uganda when he spotted thousands of children gathered at the airstrip.

The politician in Museveni, sent his aide then, now Joint Chief of Staff (JCOS), Lt. Gen. Wilson Mbadi, to inform the event’s organisers that he wanted to speak to the children.

Then, the President told the children to stay in school, study hard, avoid bad company and obey their parents.

Organisers, Little Hands Go Green, would see the President again as chief guest last year.

Masembe, however, says it is not big people like the President that come to the event that drive him. He says, it is children growing up with belief that they are inheriting a better planet.

At the Green Fest, children dance, do fashion shows, swim, ride horses and camels, visit the zoo, carousel and other fun activities.

So far, Masembe says, children have helped plant more than 100,000 trees in their respective schools and homes, with the hope they are making their contributions towards countering the negative effects of climate change.

The social movement in as many as 200 primary schools follows the wise saying, “A wise man plants a tree whose shade he knows he will never sit under.”

Indeed, the little green army of over 100,000 children, are planting seeds they will leave for generations to come. During the party, estimated to have cost Shs70 million ($27,000), new members are registered and issued with identity cards with a promise to be tree-planting ambassadors in their schools, homes and neighbourhoods.
National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Standard Chartered Bank are some of the promoters of the event.

According to Masembe, at the event, children have fun to the fullest, but also learn about the environment and wildlife.

Masembe says last year, they introduced the aspect of teaching children to start saving money when they are still young. “We plant seeds of greatness in children when they are still young,” he says. “My Kid is a Superstar, as the name suggests, is about recognising the superstar in our children.” “The little things we have done in environmental conservation are making them realise that we cannot outsource shade and rain.”

The initiative in planting trees, he said thereofre, should not be left to governments, NGOs and foreign donors. Masembe founded Little Hands Go Green to promote children’s talents but it has blossomed into one of the most pragmatic approaches promoting afforestation in the country.

“We shall not worry about the environment if we raise a generation that believes strongly that trees should not be cut,” he said.

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