A whisper from the woods

Can trees heal people?

May 23, 2022

– By Dr. Koncha Pinos, The Wellbeing Planet.

When South Korea began its exploration of healing forests, it did so to improve the health and well-being of its citizens and to protect its forest heritage. It was the beginning of a novel approach in global public health. South Korea, three decades since then, is recognized as a pioneer in how to cultivate green well-being, faithfully giving shape to its ambitious idea of ​​continuing to be the lung of Asia. It is the country that has the most healing trails in the world.

The Korean Forestry Agency has built an ambitious addiction healing forest complex, barefoot gardens, herb gardens and miles and miles of sensory trails. The benefits of forests have already been reported in countless scientific articles. We all know that just 20 minutes under the trees can completely change our neuroplasticity.

Building an outdoor healing forest is difficult but possible. Building a forestry project inside a penitentiary for the benefit of people deprived of their liberty is a much greater challenge.

Inmates do not have much opportunity to move. They do not have many possibilities to enjoy good smells, to touch the earth, to feel the appreciation of living beings.

Now. there is a program with a neuroscientific approach. It is designed by Dr. Koncha Pinos, with the scientific advice of  Dr. Richard J. Davidson. It promotes the construction of forest nurseries, medicinal plants, and flowers in prisons. Prisoners receive forestry training, along with socio-emotional and cognitive training for a full year. Scientific evidence shows that trees can change our emotions and cognitive structures.

Reforesting Lives is a project of MiAmbiente (Government of Panama), La Joyita Penitentiary Center and The Wellbeing Planet Foundation.

Through this work, it is evident that the value of planting trees extends beyond protecting the environment. The forest can also help people deprived of liberty to heal (emotionally and psychologically) and to work through their past (traumatic stress and recurring memories). Taking care of the forests and other living beings can help prevent relapses and prepare those incarcerated for a future outside of prison.

Every year we lose thousands of hectares of trees, and every year people who deserve to have their lives restored go to prison. Reforestation is nothing new, but a community rehabilitation project for people and the planet is something exemplary.

Those deprived of liberty will say, “Come here. I planted these trees; I made this forest grow.” That makes their life flourish again. The land will be reforested, and lives will be restored.

This project that we present to you today, is something new, not only in Panama, but also in America!

Do you want to know more about Reforesting Lives project? See here.


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