Category Archives: Art of Conservation (AoC)

Birthday Wishes From Habineza Moise

Recently, Habibu Habineza celebrated his birthday at his ‘home away from home’ in Des Moines, Iowa. When celebrating this day, he thought of his friends and family in Rwanda, especially his peers at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. And, in place of receiving gifts, Habibu asked that gifts be sent to Rwanda.
September 1st Blog (2)

When the balls arrived, we immediately unpacked them.

His host family, the Benings, purchased two boxes of brand new high-altitude tennis balls and shipped them to Rwanda as a sign of Habibu’s support. The children, club leaders, and families were more than happy to receive the balls.

September 1st BlogWhen the balls arrived, the children immediately unpacked them and started playing a few matches, both singles and doubles.

Everyone was delighted by the gift and wish Habibu many more happy birthdays! We send our regards to the Bening family.

By Olivier Habimana, Author at CHT

Author Image

Olivier’s Sports for Gorillas News from Rwanda

Art of Conservation spent many years of rehabilitating, managing, and providing security for children to engage in healthy activities and learning at the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club in the Northern Province of Rwanda. Today, Olivier Habimana – president of the club – updates us with news we can all cheer about.

From Olivier-
Recently, the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club was honored to receive an important supporter named Amelia Banner and her friends: Tonya Huston, Dennis Evans, Scott Zesch, and Kay Evans. They brought a lot of donations including tennis shoes, rackets and string, high altitude balls, women’s tops and more. It was really exciting to receive her at our club!

Amelia supports Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club ©Conservation Heritage-Turambe 2014Amelia at the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club

Tonya, our friend, partner in human health education, and director of the Imidido Project introduced Amelia to us.

Amelia at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club  with Tonya Huston©Conservation Heritage-Turambe2014From left: Amelia (reading a thank you note card from Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club) and Scott behind her, Tonya (in a white T-shirt with Imidido Project logo) and Kay Evans behind her, Dennis Evans with a camera, and our good friend Kavos.

Amelia is a tennis player from Mason, Texas in the United States of America. She loves the game a lot. She immediately picked her racket and played doubles with children and coach Rashid Nsanzimana. It was so amazing!

Amelia plays a doubles match with Coach Rashid©CHT 2014Amelia plays a doubles match with Coach Rashid, Evariste, and Jean Bosco.

Amelia & Olivier©CHT2014After the match, I got to spend some time with her talking and laughing.

Clement Twizerimana, Musanze District’s officer in charge of Youth, Sports and Culture, arrived to thank Amelia and her colleagues for supporting the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club and the Musanze District in general. He welcomed the guests to come again and again.

Giving donations©CHT2014While Amelia was pulling out her donation items many tennis players and fans including district officials watched her with happiness!

Then, Amelia presented her donations to the Ibirunga tennis players who were there and her speech was received with a lot of excitement and applause.

Happy club thanks to Amelia©CHT2014Coach Rashid and his team of children happily waving their shoes and rackets. So amazing!

Thank you Amelia. You are warmly welcome back at the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club! Warm gratitude to friends who contributed to making this happen including Tonya Huston.

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

An Evening Not To Be Forgotten, continued again

My last set of photos from a great evening. Thanks everybody for your support!

#1 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#2 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#3 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#4 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#5 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#6 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#7 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#8 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#9 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#10 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

#11 One-Health Meet&Greet©Art of Conservation 2014

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

An Evening Not To Be Forgotten, continued

Once people arrived at Holistika and began enjoying the watermelon margaritas, fruit-infused water, lionfish ceviche, and more it was time to begin our brief presentations. I began with a history of Art of Conservation. Lucy followed with her One-health conservation highlighting her work with pandas in China, mountain gorillas in Africa, and giant river otters in Guyana and why we should all be alarmed at the rate of species extinction. Ilze presented a very real picture of the condition of our water world with her One-health conservation aquatic examples.

I appreciated everyones attention and interest. Plus during conversations before and after the talks we got to learn more about what people are doing and their ideas for the future. Follow-up meetings are certainly in order.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I wish I had photos of everyone who came out to our Meet-&-Greet, but I came up short. Next time! Please have a look at the few I did capture.

AoC's One-Health Meet&Greet at Holistika ©Art of Conservation 2014

#2 AoC's One-Health Meet&Greet at Holistika ©Art of Conservation 2014

#3 AoC's One-Health Meet&Greet at Holistika ©Art of Conservation 2014

#4 AoC's One-Health Meet&Greet at Holistika ©Art of Conservation 2014

#5 AoC's One-Health Meet&Greet at Holistika ©Art of Conservation 2014

#6 AoC's One-Health Meet&Greet at Holistika ©Art of Conservation 2014

#7 AoC's One-Health Meet&Greet at Holistika ©Art of Conservation 2014

#8 AoC's One-Health Meet&Greet at Holistika ©Art of Conservation 2014

More photos coming up!

Please stay up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

An Evening Not To Be Forgotten

A recent night in Tulum was an evening not soon to be forgotten. Friends, colleagues, partners, and new acquaintances arrived at Holistika in the late afternoon, sauntered through jungle paths, and were greeted with tasty drink and food – the only fish served being the invasive scrooge of the Caribbean Basin… Lionfish, Pterois volitans, in the form of ceviche prepared by the talented team at Ginger Tulum.

It has been a little less than two months since Art of Conservation moved our base of operations to Tulum and I have been busy reconnecting with the people we’ve met over the past year during our scouting trips to the Caribbean Basin who have in turn generously introduced me to many more people. So what better time to have a gathering to cement these new relationships and say thanks to the warm welcome? Right now and right here!

Lucy Spelman, Art of Conservation’s VP and One-Health Program Coordinator and Ize Berzins, our Consulting Scientist, arrived a few days prior to soak up our new settings – more on our field trips later – which filled our days from dawn to dusk with exploration and learning.

But before I go much further, I’d like to say thanks again to Holistika’s Denisse and Monica for making this event so easy and so much fun!

Denisse at Holistika July 2014 ©Art of ConservationThanks Denisse!

Monica at Holistika July 2014 ©Art of Conservation
Thanks Monica and Holistika’s head grounds staff member who looks handsome in his AoC t-shirt!

My next post will be full of photos from the evening… although I did not get as many pictures as I would have liked. I’m finding it more and more difficult to talk, walk, shoot photos, and really engage all at once.

More soon and thanks,

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

Farewell Announcement

So much has happened in the last years, and many of the things occurring at Art of Conservation are the result of seeds planted by Allison Hanes. Seventeen months ago Allison joined Art of Conservation (AoC) as our Executive Director. Allison recently informed the AoC board of directors and me that after a great deal of thoughtful consideration, she will pursue new opportunities and offered her resignation, which the board accepted. The board and I wish Allison well and thank you for her dedication and service to AoC.

Allison shared her passion for AoC’s work with everyone she met. Her gift for making connections with individuals interested in global conservation helped introduce AoC and AoC’s offshoot organization Conservation Heritage – Turambe in Rwanda to new supporters and partners, including the World Rainforest Fund and the Norman and Bettina Roberts Foundation.

Believing that AoC could connect with more people in new ways, Allison joined AoC’s team to more effectively tell our story. AoC benefits from new partnerships and an increasing base of AoC friends because of Allison’s efforts. Our new website and increased conversations about one-health conservation programs and AoC via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are a result of Allison’s focus on communications and partnership development.

The AoC journey started in the Virunga Massif region in northwest Rwanda. Allison recognized the value in documenting AoC’s impact on community-based conservation programs and one-health awareness during our seven years in Rwanda.

Allison coordinated the filming and production of a short film while working in the field at AoC’s base of operations in Musanze, Rwanda. She engaged renown professional wildlife photographer Andrew Walmsley to join the AoC team in capturing images and footage, which beautifully conveys our work in the communities near Volcanoes National Park, where the critically endangered mountain gorillas live. The video premiered at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival.

During Art of Conservation’s strategic planning and expansion process, Allison assisted in workshops with board member Lucy Spelman and me in Guyana and Honduras and helped with the evaluation and decision to locate AoC’s new global base of operations – effective in June 2014 – to Quintana Roo, Mexico in the heart of the biodiverse Mesoamerican region.

We wish Allison great success and know her talents and commitment to one-health conservation will continue to make the world a better place.

During this transition, I will serve as the point of contact for Art of Conservation. Please reach out to me at [email protected] I love hearing from our friends.

Julie Ghrist
Program Director and Founder, Art of Conservation

A Positive Start To Tulum

It entailed a full year of concentrated effort from the Art of Conservation Board, our executive director Allison Hanes, and myself to arrive at the decision of setting up our new base of operations in the Caribbean Basin and more specifically in the town of Tulum which is in the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. But we did it and we are off to a very positive start. Before I go any further I’d like to take a quick look back at the people we met along the way who inspired and welcomed us. Enjoy the pictures and thanks everyone for your encouragement.

Art of Conservation in Guyana ©Art of Conservation 2014

Art of Conservation in Panama ©Art of Conservation 2014

Art of Conservation in Honduras©Art of Conservation 2014

Art of Conservation in Mexico and Belize©Art of Conservation 2014

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

You Are Invited! ART of CONSERVATION One-Health MEET-AND-GREET in Tulum


Please join us for an Art of Conservation Meet-and-Greet

Date: Saturday, July 19, 2014

Time: 16.30 – 18.30

Location: Holistika, Av. Tulum #83
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Parking is available near the entrance of the common area and park. Enter on foot through the white arches, and then take a right. You’ll find us just down a ways on the path.

About Art of Conservation:
Our mission is to inspire children and their families to conserve biodiversity through creative learning and one-health awareness. We design all of our activities to encourage children, families, young adults, collaborating scientists, artists, and educators to explore the many connections between human, animal, and environmental health, and to understand how their actions have a ripple effect in each ecosystem.

Meet and Greet Event:
As you may know, we have just moved our base of operations from Rwanda to Tulum. The move is a big change, to be sure. But we have our reasons, and we’d like to share them with you. We are also very interested in what you think of our ideas for the future.

We have three brief presentations planned, one each by Julie, Lucy, and Ilze. Each will be a show and tell, of sorts, about our mission, history, and future one-health programs. We will continue with refreshments and plenty of time for conversation.

This is an informal gathering, a chance for like-minded people to get together to talk about their work, and plant the seeds for new partnerships. In our experience, one-health conservation works best when it is truly collaborative, cross disciplinary, and multi-dimensional.

Julie – Welcome. History of AoC
Julie Ghrist, Founder and Board President, AoC
AoC Program Director

Lucy – One-health conservation examples: Terrestrial
Dr. Lucy H. Spelman, Vice President, AoC
Zoo and wild animal veterinarian (DVM), author, educator
One-Health Program Coordinator, AoC

Ilze – One-health conservation examples: Aquatic
Dr. Ilze Berzins, Consulting Scientist, AoC
Aquatic animal veterinarian (DVM) at One World, One Water, One Health, LLC, PhD in Ecology, Master’s in Public Health

Catering kindly provided by: Xoco Loco
Thank you Holistika for this lovely opportunity to gather friends and colleagues and special thanks to Denisse Iglesias and Monica King

Please feel free to contact
Julie at [email protected] or text at (984) 166.89.97
We look forward to seeing you on the 19th of July!

For more about the Art of Conservation, please visit

Yefei Volunteers With Conservation Heritage – Turambe

Hey there!

My name is Yefei Jin and I’m a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in Minneapolis-St. Paul, USA. Earlier this May, I received the fortunate opportunity to get involved with Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT). Though a network of local nonprofit organizations based in Musanze, Rwanda, I got connected to Valerie, the Program Director of CHT.

Yefei volunteers with CHT in Rwanda 2014

Not losing much time, I quickly participated in CHT’s weekend visits to primary schools near Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, about an hour drive from Musanze. CHT recognizes the role of Rwanda’s youth in becoming the social change agents of tomorrow. The teachers here including Valerie, Innocent, Olivier, Eusebe, and Eric dedicate their time to educate the children about conservation and health values. In this photo, Valerie is describing one of those values “Staying Healthy”. Today’s lesson was on keeping a clean home to prevent the spread of disease. I had the opportunity to partially teach the class on this topic through songs and ice breakers. The staff here was definitely eager to see new ways of teaching!

Yefei volunteers with CHT in Rwanda 2014

The pedagogy behind CHT’s work with the children utilizes the fine arts as tools to teach, understand, and live out CHT’s 7 values: respect, honestly, trust, creativity, kindness, healthy living, and celebrate. The instruction is delivered in English with Kinyarwanda translation. Here is a photo of a guest presenter suffering from podoconiosis which caused the swelling of her feet. By sharing with the class her experience, she hopes that keeping a clean home will prevent such diseases from happening to others.

Yefei volunteers with CHT in Rwanda 2014

This is a picture of me teaching some wacky handshakes to the students. I’m hugely thankful for the CHT staff to allow me to fully participate in their school visits. They are curious to learn additional strategies on student engagement and fun activities which can be incorporated in future lessons. I bring knowledge on theatre education and as I continue to brainstorm with the staff, we hope to provide the children with a unique and unforgettable experience!

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

Learn more about our partner the World Rainforest Fund!

The World Rainforest Fund (WRF) saves biodiversity. Biodiversity can be defined as the number of species of animals and plants in an ecosystem. The Earth is undergoing a great crisis of mass extinction of species and loss of biodiversity. It is caused by humans, and the leading cause is habitat destruction. The Fund works to stop habitat destruction. We lose huge numbers of species each year. Species are going extinct at a rate that is 100 to 1,000 times greater than the normal background extinction rate. The renowned evolutionary biologist, Dr. Edward O. Wilson, said in 2002 that if current extinction rates continue, one half of all species on Earth will be extinct in 100 years. Biodiversity is crucial to human welfare. Many of our medicines and industrial chemicals come from living organisms. Life stabilizes local and global climate. It holds the soil in place, preventing erosion. It is the source of our food supply. It is a source of beauty, spiritual rejuvenation, tourism, and scientific knowledge. And life has a right to exist for its own sake—we have a moral obligation not to destroy species.

Hyancinth_Macaw__very_endangered_bird__Pantanal__BrazilEndangered Hyancinth Macaw of the Pantanal, Brazil. ©World Rainforest Fund

The World Rainforest Fund saves biodiversity in ecosystems that have the vast majority of it. Rainforests are home to half the land species on Earth, a major source of biodiversity. They have more species of animals and plants than any other terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. Tropical rainforests are being destroyed at the rate of 300 acres per minute worldwide. This is equivalent to the loss of an area half the size of the state of California annually.

The World Rainforest Fund focuses on rainforest conservation where they are most abundant in a continuous area, and where the preservation of them will last with the highest probability, such as the Amazon Basin. The largest area of intact rainforest is the Amazon Basin. World Rainforest Fund projects conserve rainforests in other countries, but focus on Brazil that has the largest amount of rainforest area. Saving the area on Earth with the most continuous rainforest will have the longest lasting effect. It is especially effective because this strategy saves the most corridors connecting areas where species live. Animals need corridors to keep their genetic diversity high enough to allow their survival. Without corridors, animal populations get isolated and undergo inbreeding, which can drive the species extinct due to lack of genetic variability.

Amazon_rainforest_from_plane__BrazilBrazilian Amazon rainforest. ©World Rainforest Fund

The World Rainforest Fund empowers indigenous people to help them save their rainforest homes. Scientific studies have shown that the most effective way to save rainforests is by empowering indigenous people who live in them to save their rainforest homes. It saves the most rainforest land per dollar spent, and saves rainforest in the way that has the highest chance of lasting permanently. This is because tropical countries tend not to have the money to hire a sufficient number of guards to protect rainforests in national parks. Amazonia National Park in Brazil has only six rangers to protect its 3,300 square miles (8,600 square kilometers). Thus, poachers come in and shoot wildlife, cut trees, and mine minerals illegally in these national parks. On the other hand, indigenous people are natural guardians who live in the rainforests, passionately want to protect them, and do not even require a salary.

The World Rainforest Fund is exceptionally effective and efficient at putting your donation to work at its stated mission. All members of our board of directors and board of advisors, and many of our staff, are volunteers, drawing no salary. The organization is a non-membership organization, so no money is spent on newsletters or other expenses incurred by membership organizations; money that would otherwise be spent in these areas is instead put directly to work on saving rainforests. A greater percentage of money we receive from our donors goes to actually carrying out our stated mission. In fact, over ninety percent of the proceeds we receive go directly to work saving the Earth’s rainforests. Our track record of helping indigenous people, giving grants to organizations that save rainforest, educating the public on the need to save rainforests, and saving rainforests through partnering with other organization dedicated to saving rainforests is exceptionally impressive. We are a 501c3, tax-exempt, public non-profit organization and all donations you give are tax-deductible. Our advisory board has many well-known, distinguished people. Our staff and workers are highly knowledgeable and exceptionally dedicated.

The World Rainforest Fund recently granted Fundacion OSA $3,500.00 to attempt to stop an illegal road to a 10,000 acre rainforest in Ecuador that scientists at the Missouri Botanical Garden showed was the ecosystem with the highest biodiversity in the world, meaning it has more species per area than any other ecosystem on Earth. This is because the rainforest and Andes ecosystems overlap in this area, which therefore has species from both of these ecosystems. The road would have allowed loggers, miners, and other exploiters into the rainforest, and it would have been cut down. Fundacion OSA received no grant other than WRF, and would not have been able to stop the road without the grant. They used the money to send in an observer, who found the road was wider than approved by the government of Ecuador. They also used the grant to print up brochures to distribute to officials of Ecuador’s government that showed the beauty and value of the forest to people, the illegality of the road, and the destruction that would result if it were built. As a result, the government of Ecuador stopped the road. Given the high diversity and low cost of this victory, this is just one example of maximizing saving species of animal and plant per donor dollar.

Art of Conservation and Conservation Heritage-Turambe are very pleased to be working with such a small yet impactful organization like our ourselves! Learn more about our partners on our new website!