From a Training Participant to a Successful Local Community Leader

Tree by Tree Activists
Interview done by: Ana Alibegova
Edited by: Stefan Alievikj

Tree by Tree (Drvo po drvo) is an initiative that started in Subotica, Serbia as a symbol of welfare and environment. The young enthusiasts behind the initiative want to show that with patience and step by step progress, great changes could be achieved. Nenad Lukic participated at a Balkan Let’s Get Up Programme and after the seminar in Project Management in Ecology he came home with an idea to start doing something for his local community. By engaging in the Tree by Tree activities, he got some practical experience as well, essential for the labor market. “It might sound funny, but although we finished Landscape Architecture studies, first thing we learned in Tree by Tree was how to properly plant a tree”, the 25-year old Nenad starts his story:

M!:  Who are the people behind Tree by Tree and what is the focus of your activities?

Nenad: Considering that we recently graduated Landscape Architecture, it was clear that our field of work would be related with environment and this profession. After few actions of a smaller scale, our first bigger initiative was the project “Young Trees For Young People”, implemented in autumn last year. We realized that the playgrounds around the kindergartens in our hometown are plain, lacking trees and green areas. We were shocked how our society sometimes neglects the children needs and we decided to try to change that. The kids also took part in the planting process, which help them develop positive attitude towards environment from the very beginning. To be honest, those are indeed some small steps, but as the name of initiative  suggests, Tree by Tree means that with lot of patience and enthusiasm, one day, those changes would become bigger and bigger.

Education as important part of every action
Education as important part of every action

M!: What current projects do you work on? Can you tell us something more about the concept of landscape architecture?

Nenad: Landscape architecture is very multidisciplinary profession consisted of design, geography, urbanism, forestry, horticulture, and ecology. It deals with different issues, from smaller things such as projecting your garden, through work on public spaces and parks, to influence at landscapes, nature reserves and national parks. Currently, we are shaping few ideas in order to raise the awareness and empower the citizens to do something for their surroundings and neighborhood. In the mentality of people in Serbia, we still have some remains from the old times, from the system when everything was owned by everybody. On the other hand, older people remember the advantages of that system when youth were participating in huge voluntary actions. That system is not present anymore, nobody organizes the same type of volunteering actions and the public property is not considered as no man’s land. People do not care enough for their surrounding because they usually think that “it is somebody else’s job”.

We do not belong in the group of rich countries, but for many actions and deeds we do not need money or some huge funding. Go out with your neighbor and plant a tree, recycle, cut the grass, clean the space because you live there, nobody would do it for us. In next actions we want to motivate and encourage people to take more care for each other and their community. Many have forgotten how good it is to do something and to contribute to the general welfare.

Without funds, but with big hearts!

Education with kids during plantation at kindergartens
Education with kids during plantation at kindergartens

M!: How do you organize your work in the organization? How hard it is to keep the members motivated and engaged in everything you do?

Nenad: All actions so far we did on voluntarily basis. Money and funds often are something what is welcome and can help us stay motivated, but so far, the noble goal and enthusiasm made a strong engine themselves. When you do not have money for salaries, then you know that you are doing something with heart, and the feeling is just great! Of course, money can help a lot and it is necessary when you want to make a wider influence.

In order to keep motivation and level of responsibility at high level, we decided to respect a line management. We have no presidents or bosses. Good ideas and creative suggestions is something we look for the most, no matter who delivers them. People around are noticing that we work with passion and get inspired, so they involve and help. It is touching to see how many volunteers from different generations are ready to contribute without being paid for their efforts, just because they feel your honest intention to work for a common good. For instance, just after broadcasting news about our project “Young Trees for Young People”, one man in his seventies called the local station and asked for our contact to volunteer at the project. And he came and joined us, although digging holes for big trees is not an easy thing to do, even for a young man.

Volunteers with presents at landscape architecture exibittion organized by Drvo po drvo
Volunteers with presents at landscape architecture exhibition organized by Drvo po drvo 

M!: Being an eco-friendly organization located in Serbia, what is your opinion about the ecological awareness in your country?

Being in a region facing war and sanctions in the nineties, as well as constant economic crisis, most of the citizens think only about crucial political problems on which, usually, we cannot influence directly. While sitting in the waiting room, the life is passing by and we forget the “little” things which actually comprise our lives and can make us happier. It is true that maybe one individual cannot solve the economic crisis but, for sure, can make improve things at a local scale.

Serbia has a lot of environmental issues and we need to work on them. No matter if we are going to become a new EU member or not, we need to arouse the eco-standards and to take care of our nature. As always, only together we can initiate big changes and can do greater things at higher levels.

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