Spiritual Life

Volunteer service at Redwood Grove provides dual benefits

Photo By: Apala Egan/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Apala Egan/Special To The Town Crier

Members of the Baha’i Youth Group pitch in to restore the habitat at Redwood Grove by weeding out invasive plants.

When Elham Chandler wanted to pursue a service project in Los Altos with her children several years ago, she contacted city hall. Staff members directed her to Acterra and the Redwood Grove restoration project.

Saturday mornings at Redwood Grove one might hear the sounds of spade against earth and youthful chatter and see splashes of red, tan and blue through the trees. Those are indications that members of the Baha’i Youth Group are hard at work pulling out ivy, hemlock and other invasive plants and clearing the ground to plant native shrubs. The goal is to restore the area, in particular the undergrowth, to its native habitat, according to officials from Acterra, a nonprofit environmental restoration organization.

Chandler, leader of the Baha’i Youth Group, said the group has a two-fold purpose: to protect the environment and, more importantly, to provide an opportunity for Los Altos youth to volunteer in a safe and organized manner.

“It is a challenge to pull out all the ivy,” Chandler’s son Jake said.

In his early teens, Jake has the work all figured out.

“You need to lift from the legs, not the back,” he said.

Chandler’s son Max said the work is tough but has its rewards.

“I enjoy working with my friends and being outdoors with nature,” he said.

The Baha’is are a faith-based group, but Chandler emphasized that the youth service group is open to people of all faiths. In fact, group members come from a variety of backgrounds, including Jewish, Baha’i, Christian and Hindu.

The Baha’i movement originated in Iran in the mid-19th century and spread slowly around the world. The Baha’i center nearest to Los Altos is in San Jose, where Bryn Higgins is a study circle coordinator. Baha’u’llah, born in 1817, preached the “Oneness” of God and that all prophets were messengers to guide humanity forward.

“The culture of learning is very important among the Baha’is and equates with the independent investigation of truth,” Higgins said. “The faith is also focused on community service.”

The Baha’is, since their beginnings more than a century and a half ago, believed gender equality was essential to the advancement of civilization and the creation of a just and peaceful society. To this day, adherents face persecution in the religion’s country of origin.

Chandler and her young volunteers aim to typify the spirit of the Baha’i as they maintain Redwood Grove on an ongoing basis. Recently, they planted trees in the Grove in honor of the Sandy Hook victims.

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