African Supper at Guilford Church Raises Funds for Tree Planting in Kenya

Guilford Community Church is hosting an African Supper on Saturday, May 18 from 5:30-7 p.m. as a fundraiser for re-forestation efforts in Kenya.

The price of the meal for adults is $10; children ages 11 and under are $5; ages 5 and under free. The maximum charge per family will be $25. The menu includes traditional meat and vegetarian dishes such as fried plantain, African roasted vegetable soup, Samosas, Chicken Tikka, beef stew, vegetable curry, spiced red beans in coconut milk and cornbread, with Maandazi, a sweet donut, served for dessert with ginger tea.

This effort is a continuation of the long-standing partnership between the Guilford Church and the Kenyan village of Kaiguchu, where a youth contingency from Brattleboro performed service projects last spring, including tree planting, with the youth of that community. It is also part of a 50-day MISSSION 4-1-Earth campaign by all UCC denominations to plant 100,000 trees worldwide in a church-wide earth care initiative.

Pastor Lise Sparrow recalls her group’s visit a year ago where, with the help of 200 Kenyan students, they planted 2,000 trees in one afternoon. The village’s eager children had all of the seedlings prepared and all 2,000 holes dug before the Guildford group arrived, and together they reforested a hillside that Sparrow describes as “steeper than steep. Its youth helping youth and we’re using tree plantings as a way to do that,” said Sparrow. “Not only does it reforest Kenya, which is really important, but it also helps women and children in poverty.”

“Mission 4/1 Earth could be unbelievable for the village,” said Sparrow. “Trees are one thing that makes a very big difference, very concrete and visible.” Deforestation in Kenya became a problem in the 1960s because of government-mandated colonization. Trees villagers relied on for shelter, shade and firewood were being cleared for apartment complexes and parking lots. Animals that served as food migrated to places with more vegetation, hillsides eroded, rivers dried up, air quality deteriorated, and people suffered.

The late Wangari Maathai recognized the problems this caused for the environment and people of Kenya and started the Green Belt Movement in 1977, an organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women’s rights. Maathai went on to earn multiple degrees, write numerous books, and receive countless honors, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

Since Maathai’s death, Sparrow says the Green Belt Movement has “gone a bit defunct,” but those who have taken her place continue to organize women in rural Kenya to plant trees, combat deforestation, generate income and stop soil erosion. Since the movement began, more than 51 million trees have been planted and more than 30,000 women have been trained in forestry, food processing, bee keeping, and other trades that help them earn income while preserving their land and resources.

“She created a network of groups of women who would nurture seedlings and plant trees,” said Sparrow. “When you’re driving up north out of Nairobi, you can look out and see a band of new trees that have been planted by these women in the last 20 years.”

With the help of Lawrence Kabuathi, a villager Sparrow met on her first trip to Kenya in 2006, Guilford Community Church is personally responsible for planting nearly 3,000 of these trees. But the group has also provided the Kaiguchu villagers with food, mattresses and school uniforms, which are required for all students.

The Guilford Church Kaiguchu Youth Group project continues to gain momentum – it may soon partner with another organization that will help build a school for orphans. Groups from Guilford have visited Kenya three times, and another trip is planned for November. But depending on the success of the Mission 4/1 Earth tree-planting partnership, Sparrow may return sooner to help with the planting of what she is hopeful could be 10,000 trees or more.

The United Church of Christ has been working for environmental justice for almost 30 years, and recognizes the opportunity for a shared mission campaign to live out our faith — in unity, as one church — for the sake of our fragile planet Earth.

With the help of UCC congregations everywhere, Mission 4/1 Earth, which began Easter Monday 2013, hopes to accomplish more than 1 million hours of engaged earth care, 100,000 tree plantings across the globe, and 100,000 advocacy letters written and sent on environmental concerns.

Tickets will also be available at the door until sold out. Through this initiative, even people who can’t make the supper can purchase a tree to be planted in Kenya for $1 as part of the Mission 4/1 Earth goal to plant 100,000 trees worldwide.

Directions: 1-91 to Vermont Exit 1 (Brattleboro), south on Route 5 to just past the Guilford Country Store, left on Bee Barn Road, left again on Church Drive. To make reservations or for more information call (802) 254-9329 or email

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