John Davidson

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Shajarat – a Tree Planting Project led by the Arab Community Centre of Toronto (ACCT)

June 15, 2018

Every Tree Counts funding supports a number of great tree planting and stewardship projects in the City of Toronto. One project is called Shajarat (Arabic for "Tree"), which is being led by The Arab Community Center of Toronto to engage newcomers and faith communities through tree planting.


The Shajarat project focuses on communities with less than 30% tree canopy. The project aims to support inclusion of marginalized, newcomer and faith based communities and includes plans for community planting and celebration events with support from the Association for Canadian Educational resources (ACER) who will provide trees/shrubs and expertise to train volunteer stewards to plant, maintain, monitor and report to track growth and health over time.


Huda Bukhari, ACCT’s Executive Director, spoke to us about this exciting initiative:


“The project is going well! So far we have designed and promoted a brochure, posted about the project on social media outlets, carried out outreach to identify partners in three sites across the GTA- two sites in Scarborough and one in Etobicoke - and we provided an info session on tree canopies and shrubs. There is a high level of enthusiasm from communities to be involved as the project engages newcomers outdoors in environmental stewardship.


We chose two communities with Hindu temples and one community with a church attached to a school for this project. These faith-based communities are areas that have less than 30% tree canopy. Historically, newcomers in Canada are not involved in their larger communities and not involved in environmental stewardship. Shajarat facilitates this engagement and builds knowledge of environmental sustainability for these communities. The idea is to increase native tree and shrub planting on private land, so that we increase the overall Toronto tree canopy. We also want to enable the agency to expand the definition of settlement by providing opportunities of services outside of four walls, and to encourage our clients to be connected to the communities in which they live.


We are working with 3 regions which were chosen because they had less than 30% tree canopy cover, had enough space for 25 additional trees to be planted, and because these specific faith communities wanted to increase volunteerism at their sites. ACER will be training volunteers to care for the trees, monitoring, and maintain proper data records after the lifecycle of this project. So ACER provides technical support to this project while we take care of planning, coordination, and engagement. The different expertise we bring to the project is complementary.


The project both introduces the idea of environmental stewardship and volunteering to newcomer communities, while promoting social connectivity and combating isolation for them. The project builds our capacity as an organization as we are learning to engage the communities we work with in new ways and for activities they have never participated in.”