Growing up in Kenya, Lesein Mutunkei and his family always celebrated special occasions by planting a tree.
It’s a tradition the now-18-year-old amateur soccer player cherishes, especially since Kenya has an ongoing problem with deforestation.
As he got older, Lesein learned about the late Wangari Maathai, a fellow Kenyan who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his Green Belt Movement in 1977. This initiative resulted in the planting of 51 million new trees in Kenya!
In 2018, Lesein decided to start a movement of his own. His was geared towards sparking change in young people, specifically his fellow student-athletes. He started by planting one tree for every goal he scored during a football match.
He called it Trees4Goals, and it has grown so much that he now plants 11 trees, one for each member of his team, every time he scores. He’s also asking others to do the same thing!
“Football is a universal game and climate change is a universal problem,” Lesein explained. “[It] has the power to connect, engage, educate and inspire my generation to create a safer and greener future.”
Trees4Goals has planted 5,500 trees so far, all in areas like schools and football clubs that directly benefit the athletes. The initiative has earned support from Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry. They provide Lesein with saplings to plant, but with one condition: that he helps educate and encourage young Kenyans to follow his lead in environmentalism.
Lesein now holds workshops about deforestation and what we can do to stop it. At the end of each talk, he and the group head out to get their hands dirty by planting trees!
Lesein is hoping to catch the eye of FIFA so they can help spread the word about Trees4Goals. The Arsenal Football Club has already noticed, sending an autographed jersey to thank Lesein for his efforts.
As for what others can do to fight deforestation or other environmental concerns, the teenager says it’s important to just get involved in some way, no matter how small.
“Whether it’s reducing your use of plastic, whether it’s planting that tree, or whether it’s just using your passion to create awareness about the problem — start now, take action now, speak out now,” he urged.
Great advice! Lesein may be young, but he firmly believes that his generation has the power to change the world. We love that confidence, and we applaud conservation efforts like these!
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