This Mom Planted 2 Million Trees To Fulfill Her Son’s Dying Wish (1)

This Mom Planted 2 Million Trees To Fulfill Her Son’s Dying Wish!

In 2000, tragedy struck Yi Jiefang when her only son, Yang Ruizhe, died in a traffic accident while studying in Japan. This devastating news compelled Yi, at 67 years old, to channel her grief into an extraordinary mission. She fulfilled her son’s last wish of planting a forest in his homeland. Yi and her husband together planted over 2 Million trees in the Alxa Desert.

Yi sold her properties in Shanghai and used the insurance payout from her son’s accident to establish “Green Life.” It is a non-profit organization committed to planting trees in the deserts of Inner Mongolia. Let’s have a closer look at how this mom transferred a desert into a sight of greenery and her son’s last wish. 

From Grief to Green Legacy

Yang had always been captivated by nature. His concerns extended to environmental issues like desertification, a topic he became passionate about after watching documentaries. This passion is what drove his dream to rejuvenate his homeland by planting a forest. 

Inspired by her son’s vision, Yi embarked on her own journey to turn the desert into a forest. An endeavor that not only honored her son’s memory but also sparked a broader environmental movement. Yi Jiefang planned on greening 8.7 square kilometers in the Alxa Desert with over 2 million trees. She wanted the project to gradually extend towards the deserts in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

“I’ve talked and cried with many families into the night. Afterward, I took them with me to plant trees… It’s a way to help those families through their grief, and turn their feelings from negative to positive.” 

Yi shared about the healing process the project fosters
This Mom Planted 2 Million Trees To Fulfill Her Son’s Dying Wish
Image source:
This Mom Planted 2 Million Trees To Fulfill Her Son’s Dying Wish
Image source:

Establishing a Non-Profit in Memory

With an initial investment from their life’s savings and yet with considerable financial challenges, Yi and her husband, Yang Antai, founded ‘Green Life’ in 2003. The organization started modestly but soon grew with the couple’s dedication. 

 “If the situation keeps getting worse, how can 1.3 billion Chinese people possibly survive?”

Yi put it briefly.
Image source: (Yi Jiefang and her husband Yang Antai next to the monument built in honor of their son, Yang Ruizhe)
Image source: (Yi posing where she planted the first tree in Hure Banner after almost a decade)

Environmental and Operational Challenges

The first few days were not easy. The first year saw less-than-ideal rainfall and strong winds that jeopardized the young saplings. However, after consulting with local forestry experts, the survival rate of planted trees dramatically improved.

 “It seemed that my son’s spirits bestowed good fortune on us – it rained heavily when we finished.” 

Yi recounted. 

She noted that the survival rate has since remained above 85%.

Image source:

Broader Impacts of Yi’s Initiative

Yi’s project has become more than just a tribute to her son. It’s a community for those coping with loss and a crucial environmental effort. The initiative has drawn volunteers and donors, including parents who faced similar tragedies. The foundation created a resilient support network. 

This shared mission has fostered a community but it also had significant ecological benefits, like increased biodiversity and stabilized soils.

Future Aspirations and Continuing the Legacy

Looking ahead, Yi is determined to expand Green Life’s impact by targeting more regions affected by desertification. Despite the challenges, the support from volunteers and new funding strategies provide hope for the work.

“It is easy to break a chopstick, but they become unbreakable when we put all of them together.” 

Yi Jiefang


Yi Jiefang’s endeavor to plant over 2 million trees is a powerful testament to the impact of personal tragedy transformed into a global benefit. Her story resonates with a profound message of resilience, hope, and the enduring influence of a son’s dream on his mother, an entire community, and potentially the planet. Through Yi’s story, we see how individual actions can lead to significant environmental and social benefits, turning grief into a legacy of growth and renewal.

Also read,

Similar Posts