Throughout my career I have been fortunate to work alongside many extraordinary people that have taught and continue to teach me about natural resources, passion, community, and life. Many of the Urban Forest Project’s Citizen Foresters, Citizen Forester Trainees, and volunteers have amazing stories that are uniquely unforgettable to me. Here is one such story of the man I believe can be an inspiration to all.
There are, of course, an infinite number of ways to be involved in the community you call home, many people decide to get involved and give back through activities like park clean ups, church choirs, tree plantings, and many more. David Naibei chose not just to give back to his community, but also chose to give back to ours.
David came to Grand Rapids on holiday from N’Djamena, Chad. N’Djamena is the capital and largest city of Chad, a landlocked country in Central Africa. Chad is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest and Niger to the west. Chad is best known for being the home of Lake Chad, the second largest wetland in all of Africa. Lake Chad is a historically large, shallow, endorheic lake, which has varied in size over the centuries. However, according to the Global Resource Information Database of the United Nations Environment Program, Lake Chad shrank by as much as 95% from about 1963 to 1998.
Lake Chad is economically important, providing water to more than 68 million people living in the four countries (Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Libya) surrounding it. Besides the environmental crisis of a shrinking Lake Chad, the country also has experienced extensive deforestation which has caused loss of natural habitat for wild animals. Populations of lions, leopards and rhinos, amongst other have been decimated.
In Chad, David, a 20-year-old, works as a Trainer for the NGO Greenspace of Sahel. Similar to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Greenspace of Sahel works within the community with volunteers to protect and enhance the environment through activities like tree plantings, clean ups, and trainings in schools. David participated in the Greenspace of Sahel training when he was 16. Throughout the 15-chapter training, David learned all about habitat destruction, deforestation, global warming, Lake Chad, biodiversity, and more. It was the training, his passion for the environment, and his love and desire to help the people in his community that led David to become a Trainer with Greenspace of Sahel and serve for the past 4 years. In addition, David has attended international climate summits, and presented alongside the President of Chad to the United Nations on issues such as climate, forestry, biodiversity and more.
While visiting with his family and relaxing was the main focus of his travels, David decided he wanted to get involved and use his holiday in Grand Rapids as an opportunity to learn and volunteer. David arrived in Grand Rapids in October and has since joined and greatly impacted Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Urban Roots, and Love Inc. David also sings and plays the drums for an area church choir. “Getting involved” to David means he has worked on urban farming and agriculture training with Urbanroots, become a Parks Alive Leader, and completed his Citizen Forester training. He has pruned trees at an After Work Tree Time, assisted in planting over 315 trees at several fall tree plantings, and worked on a recycling project with Love INC. that has influenced a recycling plan he plans to launch in N’Djamena. David’s recycling project would involve engaging at-risk youth in community recycling and then utilizing some of the unrecyclable materials to create unique pieces of art that can be sold for profit. The profits could then be utilized by the youth for schooling and other trainings to help them find employment and possibly a passion that drives them to better the community.
It is ideas like this that make David a great example of a community leader. If you had the pleasure of interacting with David, you may have thought he was an average 20-year-old that enjoys playing PlayStation and hanging out with friends and you would be almost right. While, David does enjoy PlayStation and hanging out with friends, David is the furthest from average. What David has done in 3 months most people don’t do in even 3 years. David is selfless, passionate and an inspiration to be around. David’s favorite quote is: “A moins que tu ne sentes concerné nous ne trouvverons pas une solution,” which translates to “Unless you feel concerned we shall never find a solution.” David did not only share with me this beautiful quote, but he shared with me the solution. We are the solution and we have the power to change the world!
As we head into 2017, I challenge each and every one of you to feel the concern and be the solution. There are an infinite number of ways to be involved in your community and to learn more about some of the organizations that David volunteered with please follow the links: