Inspired by the wisdom of an age-old Chinese proverb — “It takes ten years to grow a tree, but a hundred years to nurture a person” — the National University of Singapore (NUS) is charting a greener and more equitable course with the launch of the Plant-It-Forward Challenge. This innovative initiative intertwines the cultivation of tomorrow’s leaders with environmental responsibility.

Back in 2018, NUS embarked on a bold mission: To plant 10,000 trees in three years. This drive — aimed at mitigating the urban heat island effect and boosting oxygen production — culminated in 2020, thanks to the University community’s collective efforts. Buoyed by this success, NUS has since ramped up its green efforts, pledging to plant an additional 90,000 trees by 2030 in support of the National Parks Board’s One Million Trees initiative.

The concept of the Plant-It-Forward Challenge sprouted during a tree-planting event at the edge of Kranji Coastal Nature Park in September 2022. Led by NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye (Science ’85) and Co-chair of the NUS Alumni Advisory Board Mr Johnny Tan (Science ’82), a dedicated group of volunteers heaved garden hoes and nestled young saplings into the soil. The day’s activities sparked a transformative idea: Could the University’s fight against climate change also strengthen its commitment to fostering future generations of leaders?

NUS President, Prof Tan Eng Chye, wielding a cangkul during the tree-planting event with NUS Cares volunteers at Kranji Coastal Nature Park in September 2022. 

In 2022, the University introduced the Enhanced Financial Aid Scheme (EFAS) to ensure quality education opportunities are available to all students. The Scheme includes full tuition coverage, living expenses aid, and support for on-campus and overseas programmes for Singaporean undergraduates from lower-income households. 

The Plant-it-Forward Challenge bolsters EFAS and also strengthens the University’s environmental commitment. The key idea is simple: For every $1,000 raised to support our undergraduates through the Challenge, a tree will be planted on campus. This allows the NUS community and friends to help our financially needy students while also contributing to a greener environment.

Our future generations deserve a world ripe with opportunity, where they can flourish despite their financial circumstances. With each tree planted and every dollar donated in support of the Plant-it-Forward Challenge, NUS is nurturing not only the earth but also our students. By intertwining these causes, the University aims to build a more sustainable and inclusive future. This initiative goes beyond planting trees — it is about cultivating minds and possibilities.

Join the Plant-it-Forward Challenge today to build a better future for students and the earth alike. Make a gift today!

This story was first published on page 41, Jul - Sep 2023 issue of the AlumNUS Magazine. Click here to read more issues of the AlumNUS Magazine.