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UNICEF Child Ambassadors lead tree-planting project in Zambia

© The Post/Cynthia Michelo
UNICEF Zambia Child Ambassadors (from left) Kondwani Joe Banda, Thokozile Siwale, Grace Mwenya, and Luyando Mutale Katenda visit with a young patient at Beit Cure Children's Hospital.

By Betty Chella Nalungwe

LUSAKA, Zambia, 17 March 2009 – In support of the Millennium Development Goals, UNICEF Zambia’s Child Ambassadors recently led a group of schoolchildren in planting hundreds of trees at the Beit Cure Children’s Hospital here in the Zambian capital.

“We came up with this initiative after reading an article about the Beit Cure Hospital, and since I live around this area I had noticed that the hospital land was bare and had very few trees,” said ambassador Thokozile Siwale, 16. “We had a meeting where we decided to come and plant trees.”

With the help of UNICEF staff members, the four Child Ambassadors wrote to the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Natural Resources about the initiative. The government responded by providing 300 fruit and fast-growing trees.

About 80 young people – many of them children or dependants of UN staff members in Zambia – planted the trees during their visit to Beit Cure earlier this month. The three-year-old medical facility is a paediatric teaching hospital specializing in the treatment and care of children living with physical disabilities. Beit Cure provides medical services free of charge to underprivileged Zambian children.

Creating a ‘positive environment’
“On behalf of all our patients and their families, we would like to say ‘thank you’, that you found time to be with them and to mind their environment,” Beit Cure’s Administrative Manager, Charity Mathenge-Nduna, said at the tree-planting. “I would like to extend an invitation to all of you to visit us again, if at least to check on your tree and give a smile to a disabled child!

“To the Child Ambassadors, we applaud your efforts!” she added.

After the tree-planting ceremony, which included the participation of UNICEF Representative in Zambia Lotta Sylwander, the children toured the wards and met with patients.

“I want to thank you for coming up with such a befitting project,” Ms. Sylwander said at the ceremony. “I want to commend you for your choice of venue. The healing process will also be aided by a positive environment that we are creating today.”

A moving experience
Said ambassador Grace Mwenya, 11: “I was sad when I saw the sick children, but I felt good that I have been able to help them even just by contributing a tree that will make the place have a beautiful environment.”

© UNICEF Zambia/2009
UNICEF Representative in Zambia Lotta Sylwander planting a guava tree.

Ambassador Luyando Katenda, 13, said he was moved after seeing the sick children.

“I felt great touring the hospital as it has given me a feel of how doctors work, because I want to be a doctor,” he explained. “I was touched when I saw the sick children… I felt like I was the one in that condition. You could see that some of the children were in pain and their conditions are dangerous.”

Luyando, who is in the eighth grade at Save Life Community School, added: “The trees will help the patients in a lot of ways, but more importantly is that they will provide oxygen. With the global warming we are experiencing, it is good to know we are doing something to combat it.”



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