Next time you think you can’t make a difference in the world, this story might come to mind.
Over 30 years ago in 1979, then 16-year-old Jadav â€œMolaiâ€ Payeng began planting seeds along a sandbar in Indiaâ€™s Assam region. Floods had washed hundreds of snakes onto the sandbar, and when Payeng saw them, they were all dead.
â€œThe snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover,â€ said Payeng. â€œI sat down and wept over their lifeless forms.â€
After alerting the forest department and asking if they could grow trees, they told him nothing would grow in that area. They asked him to try growing bamboo, which he decided to do with absolutely no help from anyone else.
The previously desolate sandbar is now a 1,360-acre forest named â€œMolai Woodsâ€, home to birds, apes, deer, elephants, rhinos, and tigers.
Payeng, now 47, has dedicated his life to maintaining this forest. He began living alone on the sandbar when he was a teen, tending to plants and doing whatever he needed to do in order to encourage growth and sprawl. He still lives in the forest with his wife and 3 kids, selling cow and buffalo milk to make a living.
Region officials didnâ€™t even know about the forest until 2008, and according to Gunin Saikia, Assistant Conservator of Forest, it may actually be the biggest forest in the middle of a river.
Now that word is out about Payeng and his forest, he just might get the help he deserves. Locals have threatened to cut down the forest, but he dared them to kill him instead of his thriving work.
This story is amazing for a million reasons, and almost sounds like an environment-based childrenâ€™s story to me. Whatâ€™s the moral at the end? Next time you think youâ€™re too small, too poor, or too insignificant to make a change in the world, whether itâ€™s in your own backyard or on the opposite end of the Earth, youâ€™re not. If Payeng can build a forest with virtually no resources or help, what do you think you could do?