If you’ve ever doubted the power of just one person, this story might change your mind. Husband and wife Sri Bikkala Chikkayya and Saalumarada Thimmakka from southern India couldn’t have children, so they began to plant and care for trees instead. Now Thimmakka, who is around 105-years old, has planted approximately 300 trees.
After being married for 25 years without kids, Thimmakka started planting trees from her home village Hulikal along the road to Kudur in the state of Karnataka. The trees now span around four kilometers, or nearly two and a half miles, on the route. Thimmakka told CNN, “It was my fate to not have any children. Because of that, we planned to plant trees and raise them and get blessings. We have treated the trees as our children.”
After working all day farming, the couple would turn their attention to the trees. Chikkayya planted thorny bushes near the trees to protect them from animals. Thimmakka planted saplings she found in the area. As the local climate is arid, the couple had to lug water for the trees for several kilometers. Chikkayya has passed away but Thimmakka continues nurturing the trees, gaining some notoriety for her conservation efforts.
Today the Saalumarada Thimmakka International Foundation works to conserve the environment, inspired by Thimmakka. She herself had to start working at a young age and never went to school, and the foundation in her name provides money for education. The foundation also donates and maintains medicine and blood banks, and builds rest houses for the poor.
Thimmakka’s adopted son Sri Umesh cares for her now. Although Umesh has parents of his own, he became Thimmakka’s son because he was so inspired by her work, and today cares for the environment by planting trees and operating a nursery. Umesh told CNN, “I have a suggestion to everyone: We are born as human beings and will die as human beings, but to live we need to conserve nature. We cannot live without the environment.”