Sis Dafni de Leon’s young voice was strong and articulate as she introduced the Dubai Creekside children’s choir to the audience of the 22nd Inter-College Environment Public Speaking Competition held in the United Arab Emirates on November 22, 2022.
“We are the children of the Dubai Creekside Seventh-day Adventists. We are here to support the Emirates Environmental Group [EEG]. We want to help keep the earth a safe, clean, and healthy place to live in.”
The 20 children ranging in age from 2 to 15 were gathered behind 12-year-old Sis Dafni on the stage, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the mission of Dubai Creekside Community Services — “WE CARE, WE ShARE.” Moments later, the entire audience was clapping in rhythm as the children sang their song, “I’m Part of God’s Creation.”
The group performed by special invitation in support of EEG, a high-profile organization that focuses on informing and engaging the public on environmental protection and responsibility. The invitation to the children’s choir was more than a program item, however. The environmental group and the Dubai Creekside children share a history.
Most of the children singing that day had been toddlers and some weren’t even been born in 2017 when Dubai Creekside Community Services contacted various government agencies and offered to participate in volunteer projects for the community. EEG was the first to respond with the prospect of supporting a tree-planting initiative, “For Our Emirates We Plant.”
To participate, groups are required to first collect 2,000 kilograms (4,400 lb.) of recyclable paper and 100 kilograms (220 lb.) of plastic bottles. For more than 10 months, Dubai Creekside members and their friends dropped off newspapers, magazines, and plastic bottles at a member’s home, where they were packed and delivered to the EEG office. Tightly packed crates of recyclables became the platform for a productive, collaborative relationship.
On December 17, 2017, the church group was rewarded with six Ghaf trees, UAE’s national tree. Each sapling carried a sign identifying it as a gift of the Dubai Creekside Seventh-day Adventist Church. More than 30 Dubai Creekside members dug holes and set the saplings in place, with even the youngest participants wearing Community Services t-shirts saying, “WE CARE, WE ShARE.”
Since that beginning, Dubai Creekside members have planted dozens of trees in the community as part of the initiative. They’ve also participated in other initiatives EEG has sponsored, such as a medical and dental community clinic, a gift-giving project for blue-collar workers, and general community-building efforts.
In all this, the children of Dubai Creekside have been one of the most effective connectors, participating in each project with energy and joy, often singing as they dug holes and filled in dirt under the searing desert sun, local leaders report. “The shovels were often too big and the ground too hard, but their energy and involvement communicated joy that EEG organizers noticed and appreciated.” It was only natural to invite the children to bring their joy to the closing ceremonies of the EEG-sponsored public speaking competition.
The song that first caught the audience’s attention, “I’m Part of God’s Creation,” told of being made in the image of God with a special work to do, and of God's plan to bring help to His creation when they didn’t obey His will. The second song they sang, written by church elder Kim de Leon, Sis Dafni’s father, titled, “Earth’s Big Smile,” describes the sadness that results when nature is destroyed and animal life is threatened. The song ends with a commitment to care for nature and “put on Earth a big smile.” To the delight of the audience, as the children sang the closing verse, they each held up a tiny potted sapling. All this, the song concludes, is in response to the Creator, to whom we owe so much.
For both the Dubai Creekside group and the leaders of EEG, the extraordinary opportunity was more than a stage performance. The environmental concerns the two groups have in common are strengthened by the children’s added message that because God cares for all His creation, there is a responsibility to share His care. “That’s what the Dubai Creekside Community Services group has been demonstrating for years in their theme: WE CARE, WE ShARE. That theme is also what they will continue to live as they look for more ways to demonstrate to their communities why they care,” group leaders said.