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I almost got struck by lightning during a world record attempt – Faith Ariokot

Faith Patricia Ariokot

Starting her quest for the world record on December 29, 2023, Ugandan environmentalist Faith Patricia Ariokot had already attempted to beat the same record on December 8, 2023 but faced a few challenges including camera glitches. There have been at least 3 attempts on this record but none of them led to a Guinness World Record.

Ariokot says she attempted this challenge to encourage others to plant trees, and to highlight the need for humans to protect them.

On February 24 2024, The Guinness World Records (GWR) confirmed the 16 hours 6 seconds world record set by Ariokot, for the longest time to hug a tree.

This resilient lady traces her roots back to the picturesque landscapes of Soroti District. In an exclusive interview, Ariokot opens up about her journey from a career in accounting to becoming a leading voice in the fight against climate change.

Who is Faith Patricia Ariokot?

I am an accountant by profession but right now I am a full-time climate and environmental activist. I was born on April 20, 1994, in Soroti District. I studied at Uganda Martyrs Namugongo for 6 years and later attained my degree from Kyambogo University with a Bachelor of Accounting and Finance.

I became an activist by choice. Growing up, I planted trees with my father just for fun and didn’t attach much meaning to it. However, after seeing the destruction happening to forests like the Mabira forest, and the Amazon Forest being cut down at record rates, I felt I had to do something. Lucky for me I had a background in tree planting, so it was easy for me to pick up and take action. I didn’t think this was my destiny, I just think the way I grew up dictated a lot of how I have turned up, especially when it comes to the environment.

What was your childhood like?

My childhood was filled with harrowing experiences. I was still young by then, but I still remember it like yesterday, being an IDP (Internally Displaced Person) because of the LRA rebels in Teso. The gunshots, the late-night running, the screams of helpless people. All these are still glued to my mind, a time I will never forget. We lost our home, our household items. I don’t even have childhood photos to this date.

What is it like standing while hugging a tree for 16 hours?

It is not easy at all. I was immobile for the duration of the attempt. I couldn’t go for bathroom breaks, the tree was rough, so it tore through my skin as I tried to change positions. I am just happy that it all worked out and the record is home.

Faith Patricia Ariokot is the new Guinness World Records holder

What are your biggest achievements in her life so far?

Of course, I am the first person to ever set this Guinness World Record. I have also planted 10,000 trees personally and encouraged the planting of 150,000 trees among children in Uganda using my innovation, ‘The Boom Pencil and Seedballs Project’.

Tell us more about “The Boom Pencils and Seedballs Project.

It is an outreach I started that has reached over 40 schools across 12 districts to teach children that tree planting isn’t only for grownups.

What is your greatest fear?

Being judged. I am afraid to speak up sometimes something I need to work on because people will always judge and not all judgment is bad.

Who inspires you?

Wangara Mathai and my father. Both their actions give me guidance on my tree-planting journey.

What more should we expect from you soon?

More tree planting ventures. Possible Time Magazine Cover, you never know.

How are you fostering environmental protection?

By planting trees and encouraging/teaching others to do the same. Also encouraging people to know that you can love trees even without having to plant them. You can opt to use briquettes instead of charcoal for example which can save the environment.


Most unforgettable moment

Almost being struck by lightning during my record attempt.

Favorite dish

Rice, beans with chicken always

Favorite destination

I want to visit Botswana someday

Favorite color

Brown and Green

Favorite song

Give me Azawi any day any time. Right now, ‘Masavu’ is on repeat

Favorite movie

Shotgun Wedding, Get Ready To Laugh Out Loud.

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