It was not until I got involved with the Polynesian Voyaging Society that I started to think more about where I come from and the history of my ancestors. Funny how I have to be all the way in Hawaiʻi to get to appreciate my Korean ancestry! That is the beauty of the Polynesian Voyaging Society; the value that is placed on the history of the places that we visit is something that made me appreciate where I come from, and want to learn more about my roots.
While I was teaching mathematics at University Laboratory School PCS on Oʻahu, I had the opportunity to work with some of my students on the Propagate Peace Project: One million trees for the Worldwide Voyage. The purpose was to have a million trees go in the ground around the world in commemoration of the voyage and to thank the organizations and individuals who are taking the time to plant these trees. It was a substantial task that the students took on and the students were somewhat overwhelmed — rightfully so. A million trees – the mind can barely imagine it.
Naturally, I turned to the person who taught me to mālama ʻāina in the first place, my father. My father works at the Miryang City Hall in the forestry department and I asked him if our city had plans to plant trees. He said “Of course, about ten thousand”. You should have seen the excitement on my face. My next question was, “Dad, you think we can plant in commemoration of the voyage?” After explaining my students’ project to my father, ten thousand trees in Miryang were counted towards the one million for the voyage!
The Worldwide Voyage has been highlighting the actions of people and organizations that are taking care of our precious earth and I am very excited to have found a story in Korea through my father. On my last visit to South Korea on March 20, 2016, I learned so much more about the City’s systematic planting of trees every year. What I have learned is a small part of the larger picture but similar government-funded tree plantings happen in every city of South Korea. For me personally, it was a way to ground myself back to the city that I lived in and where my parents currently reside.
More than ten thousand trees go in the ground every spring in the city of Miryang, South Korea. The entire process is funded by the government and all the outplantings are done systematically. One of the exciting aspects of Miryang city is that they offer to plant trees on private land as well. Each year the experts at the city hall surveys the city to locate plots of land to plant trees. Some of the regions that are selected are the sections burned by fire in previous years, areas that trees had to be cut down due to diseases, or areas that many trees have fallen due to diseases.
Every year, there are nurseries that grow the trees to be out planted later on in the year, the locations are designated by members of the city hall’s forestry division, and seasonal workers make sure the trees go in the ground in the various locations. The entire process is funded by the government and year after year it is a budget item that does not disappear. The value that the South Korean government places on tree planting is one that I am amazed by and thankful for. The story of South Korea is one that I makes me so proud of where I come from and is inspirational.
Here in Hawaiʻi, my former students Baylee Jackson, Brandon Caliwag, and Kuʻu Hanohano have presented their project to Hawaiʻi’s Community College faculty group at a conference, they have made connections to schools and organizations in Florida, and they have planted trees at their former school University Laboratory School prior to graduating. The project has evolved to include more students in Hawaiʻi and more specifically Nā Kelamoku, Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Youth Leadership Initiative, the group who will be heading over to various islands and projects to help the organizations plant trees. The Propagate Peace Project is one that could not be completed without the help of others and I am truly honored and thankful to have this group of youth who inspire me every day.
Please continue to visit Hokule.com and follow us on Facebook to hear more about our tree planting and other mālama honua volunteer opportunities and activities!
More than Adventure
Beyond a daring expedition, the Worldwide Voyage is quite possibly the most important mission that Hawaiʻi has ever attempted. As people of Oceania, we are leading a campaign that gives voice to our ocean and planet by highlighting innovative solutions practiced by cultures around the planet.
We could not have begun this great journey without your support, nor can we continue to its completion.
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