One such campaign, #TrekForTrees, was dreamt up in September to celebrate Arbor month by the teachers at ReUnion yoga studio. Jim Harrington and friends embarked upon a challenging long distance hike and traverse across a glacier at 4,400 metres in the Himalayas, raising enough money to sponsor 305 trees. I had the chance to speak with Tracy, one of the minds behind the #TrekForTrees adventure.
Jim Harrington had been visiting India and walking in the area for years. As India’s largest river and its main water source, the nearby river Ganges is considered sacred, and so the glacier is part of a holy pilgrimage that has been made by Hindus for centuries. Ever since Harrington first visited twenty years ago, he’s noticed the glacier receding due to the effects of climate change. Inspired by their conversation, he and Tracy took action. “We decided as part of our annual trip to India that we should make it into a bit of a fundraising campaign,” she says.
As for their reasons for hiking to this particular location, Tracy says the pathway was obvious: “I don’t think we really chose the glacier; the glacier chose Jim and our team!” The nearby towns of Rishikesh and Gangotri, located in the Himalayan foothills, are part of an ancient pilgrimage revered by Hindus. According to Tracy, Rishikesh is “very well known in the yoga community. It’s considered a very spiritual place and is strictly vegetarian. People have respect for the animals and nature – it’s a unique place.”
The fundraising campaign was a challenge as well, but also a good one. “We didn’t leave much time to get it going,” says Tracy, “and it evolved rapidly as we approached the trek date.” Although there were some unexpected issues, such as not having Internet in India to share updates with supporters, she describes the experience as very rewarding. “I learned a lot from the fundraising campaign. It sparked a lot of conversations that I never would have had otherwise with equally passionate people.”
The campaign gathered speed easily amongst the hikers. “We each sent very personalized communications to our friends as to what we were planning and why. For example, Penny was very interested in the educational aspect of Greenpop’s work. Penny and my other yoga teacher Toni both have two children of their own, and Penny’s also a tree specialist…. They wanted to educate all children in Cape Town about trees, and also to give them the opportunity to experience the joy of planting and playing in a forested area at school… So we eventually chose the Vulamasango orphanage in Philippi as the place to donate some of the indigenous trees.”
Regarding her own fundraising strategy, Tracy says she decided to emphasize the issue of climate change. “Because I’m a mountaineer and environmental activist — my day job is building wind and solar plants — I focussed on that, as I was alarmed about the glacier receding and the environmental destruction climate change is causing globally. I was very conflicted about the amount of airplane travel we were doing and wanted to make a step towards offsetting that. The key for the yoga team was finding what we were personally passionate about and how we could, with authenticity, communicate that view to our personal support network.”
“Make it very simple,” is her advice to other aspiring activists. “Don’t get overly focussed on the details. It’s actually very straightforward! You don’t have to have a unique or complicated story or reason, just do it.”
Tracy also encourages activists to consider their own motivations for fundraising and to work from a personal place. “Keep it simple, keep it honest, be mindful, breathe. You have nothing to lose!”
Although it’s ultimately for a larger cause, any activism project is also a journey for you. Tracy has felt the ripples of the expedition in her own daily life. “It’s deepened my yoga practice in many ways,” she says thoughtfully. “During the trek I learned that you can’t control what happens… we really worked as a team, and there were weaker people, stronger people, but it was so incredible having that journey with a group of people and facing the challenges together. Because it was challenging! Tensions were rising, we were hungry, a few minor arguments, and the weather was looking a bit ominous. So it really taught me to be more flexible in terms of my mental state.”
The fundraising process was a spiritual one as well, and a new one for Tracy. “It helped me to keep in mind the bigger picture and to forgive all the little smaller problems you can’t control that become insignificant in the end. It made me more flexible in my attitude and my thinking, because you can’t control what happens in India. India’s crazy! You can’t control how you’re going to feel at 4000 metres. You can’t predict how much money people give you. It really helped me to change my expectations and not hold onto them.”
Whatever the campaign, we at Greenpop would like to thank every activist who has joined the movement for the planet. It’s about desiring change, dreaming something up, and feeling a spark. It’s about getting active!
Inspired? Create your own campaign for change!
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