Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) has collaborated with Autism Cook Islands and the Ministry of Agriculture this week to plant five new young trees at Constitution Park.
A tree-planting ceremony was held on Thursday, May 20, attended by Deputy Prime Minister Hon Robert Tapaitau, Minister of Agriculture Hon Rose Brown and Minister of Punanga Nui Market Hon George Maggie Angene, as well as CIIC CEO Allan Jensen and director Fletcher Melvin.
A delegation from Autism Cook Islands also attended, including a group of children who were on hand to assist with the tree-planting, supervised by Ministry of Agriculture crop technician Victor Mataora – himself the proud parent of an autistic child.
Before the tree planting itself, which consisted of two toa trees, two miro trees, and one tamanu tree, Mataora explained to the children the environmental importance of what they were doing and how they could best ensure that each tree would grow and thrive in its new environment.
“I am proud to be a part of this event, where we have government working alongside a community group like Autism Cook Islands to help enhance and beautify our public spaces for all of our people to enjoy and appreciate,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tapaitau in his welcome to all those present.
“I think a big meitaki ma’ata is due to Cook Islands Investment Corporation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Autism Cook Islands for the work they have done to make this happen today and the benefits these trees will provide to our people for many years to come.”
Adding to the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments, the Hon Rose Brown said it made the occasion “that much more special” to have the children from Autism Cook Islands along to help with the planting.
“Like the trees we are planting today, all of us as people need nurture and nourishment to live, grow, thrive and reach our full potential as individuals,” she said.
“And just like a tree in different stages of its growth cycle, at certain times of our lives we might need just a little bit of extra support or assistance to help us overcome any difficulties we might face and help us become the best people we can be.
This is true of everyone, no matter who you are – sometimes some people might need a little more help than others in some things, but we can all use a helping hand now and then.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Autism Cook Islands vice president Tony Fe’ao responded with a few words.
“Autism Cook Islands is grateful to be included and to be a part of the planting programme at Constitution Park. Being included in society and our local community is a big part of our “being”. Inclusion means so much to our families and our children and seeing families take part in activities like today is the best feeling. Our kids and our families want the same as everyone else – to live happy and fulfilled lives.”
Fe’ao thanked CIIC and the government for including Autism Cook Islands and also mentioned that going forward Autism Cook Islands were now planning to add a family picnic at Constitution Park to their annual April awareness campaign, so that the children could observe the trees they planted and see how they were growing.