12 Year old Kenyan boy honoured at the UN International Day of Peace.
Boy steps into Maathai’s shoes at age 12.Stephen Njoroge is sipping a mango juice, dressed in a blue school uniform like any other boy his age. Mango trees are his favourite — but as an environmentalist, Njoroge loves trees of all varieties.
And at just 12 years, he has planted over 10,000 of them — and made it to the UN history books.
Last Friday, his efforts to create a sustainable future for Kenya were honoured at the UN International Day of Peace.
Kenya’s most eminent conservationist, Wangari Maathai, once said tree planting was “her little thing”.
Three years ago, Njoroge decided to make it his big thing — and has been working to keep Kenya’s forests healthy ever since.
Not surprisingly, Maathai’s legacy has influenced the young boy, but he says his organisation, We Care Club, was a family operation from the start.
Start a club
“Our whole family has had this love for the environment so I decided to start a club to show how we really care.”
Thanks to his uncle who grew seedlings, Njoroge and his school friends had a ready supply of young trees to plant — first in their backyard, and then in public forests like Karura.
And thanks to Njoroge’s father, they were never short on inspiration either.
“My dad worked for the United Nations and he really loved the environment” remembers Njoroge. “We always used to go for trips with him. checking the climate of places and the kind of trees that grow there.”
The elder Njoroge has since passed away, but his son is keeping his legacy alive at the UN.
“He is a young person who has made a mark, and we want to recognise him, especially because he is working for peace,” said Irene Mwakesi of the United Nations Information Centre.
But planting 10,000 trees requires no small amount of teamwork, so Njoroge insisted that his entire class at Mariki School in Nairobi accompany him to the UN celebration in Nairobi.
“I had to bring the whole army!” he maintains.
The We Care Club is a veritable army now. It has grown from just 100 members to over 5,000.
“A fact that I’ve learned is not everybody is a tree hugger,” says Njoroge. “ So we try and find what they are interested in. For example a number of people in the club like playing football. So we plant trees and find a place where we can play football together.
“Since we are kids, we don’t like all these official things. So we are trying to make it a bit more fun.”