Category Archives: Contributors

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!

Thank You Friends! What Would We Do Without You? NYC Part 2

Here is another batch of photos – courtesy of Jason Rearick and Marcus Alexander of Epoch Times – from our special evening with friends at AoC’s Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in Manhattan.

Thank you again to our sponsors, volunteers, board members, musicians, Pratt faculty, friends and family. A special thanks for new funding offered by the Norman and Bettina Roberts Foundation.

Dave & Lucy at Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in NYC November 2013Dave and Lucy.

Keynote by Lucy at Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in NYC November 2013A slide from Dr. Lucy Spelman’s excellent keynote. She asks, “How can we help people feel closer to wild animals the way they feel about their pets?”

Jolie at Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in NYC November 2013I am so happy to see and talk with my longtime childhood friend Jolie!

Missing CHT at Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in NYC November 2013Andrew and Allison take time out to reflect on the Conservation Heritage – Turambe team in Rwanda and how much we all miss them.

Julie, Jocelyn, Cheryl. Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in NYC November 2013I am here with ceramics artist Jocelyn and our fabulous hostess Cheryl.

Tracy & Crystal Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in NYC November 2013Honorary Board Member Tracy Levine and an extraordinary volunteer, Crystal, share a moment in front of photography on display.

Dalton at Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in NYC November 2013Another extraordinary volunteer DALTON!

AoC's Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in New York City November 2013Allison with artist Rodrigo Valles.

AoC's Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser in New York City November 2013Daniel, Scarlett, and Dawn are kind supporters of AoC.

Thanks again everyone for a successful event.

Sports for Gorillas In Rwanda Is Great Thanks To John Terpkosh/NJTL

From Julie Ghrist

Art of Conservation recently received a remarkable gift of $1000 from National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) of Des Moines thanks to our supporter John Terpkosh.

Thank you John Terpkosh! Art of Conservation 2013Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club’s Coach Rachid installs a new tennis net thanks to NJTL.

Olivier Habimana, the president of Musanze District’s Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club, immediately put the generous grant money to the purchase and installation of a much needed new net. Funds left over has been allocated to the clubs monthly maintenance of water and electricity fees.

Thank you John for your continued support. I know first-hand how your goodness has benefited many individuals and communities.

Take Me To The Zoo

From Julie Ghrist

When I was child my mom and dad took my brother, sisters, and I to the Blank Park Zoo. We loved learning about the animals, meeting the zoo keepers, and taking rides on the childrens train. While growing up, I witnessed this small zoo in Des Moines, Iowa growing up too. I observed the generosity of civic leaders dedicated to developing it into a city landmark attracting both its residents as well as visitors. The zoo has always had an unusually strong base of volunteers too. Through my parents, I had my first look at the process of raising money for causes one feels strongly about. They got me involved in a capital campaign years ago. I painted zoo animals on the top rung of a picnic bench. Donors who pledged a certain amount received a bench.

As our world gets smaller and people infiltrate nearly every corner of the globe habitat lose for wild animals is shrinking. Blank Park Zoo remains vigilant and active in conservation. Art of Conservation recently received bags and bags of donated items from the zoo’s organized donation drive. Caring people donated all kinds of things that AoC is so thankful to be able to use in our classrooms.

Donations from Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, IowaAoC uses donated items received from Blank Park Zoo in our Rwandan classrooms.

Experimenting with color, we use the variety of craft materials donated from the zoo.

Donations from Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, IAExploring how color makes us feel, this young boy has fun with green felt.

It’s going to take more time for my team and I to thoughtfully give out all of the wonderful gifts from BPZ – shirts, paper, yarn – but each and every thing is greatly appreciated.

Volunteering at Blank Park ZooHere I am years ago at Blank Park Zoo after painting animals on the top rung of picinic benches for one of their fundraising events.

So as you can see, Blank Park Zoo not only nurtures the love of animals it is also an establishment that time and time again has proven to bring out the best in the human spirit – a place where people work together in making the world a healthier place for people and animals.

Thank you again Blank Park Zoo!

Rwanda Tennis Federation Visits AoC’s Sports for Gorillas Initiatives

From Olivier

Fidele Bayama Kamanzi, Technical Advisor to Rwanda Tennis Federation (RTF), recently paid a visit to the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. He arrived with his tennis racket and had an energy about him that was undeniably positive. We introduced Mr. Kamanzi to all of the children. He said to the kids, “I want to make tennis and its benefits known to as many people as possible and promote children like you because you hold promise and inspiration to others. You may become future coaches so keep your job up and strive for being the best you possibly can be.”

Fidele visits Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club.  Art of Conservation 2012I (left) listened to Mr. Kamanzi (middle) share RTF’s program and what they need from us as a key partner. Coach Tony listens.

Mr. Kamanzi thanked Art of Conservation for its Sports for Gorillas initiative and building a business for Rwandan adults, such as Coach Tony and requested our continued collaboration. We’ve all ready followed through with writing a letter to the district for the need of more courts which RTF would fund and support.

Wow, see a very beautiful photo at the Ibirunga courts.

Welcome again Bayama and bring more visitors to us!

Thank You Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund

From Julie

Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund selected AoC as one of the 75 organizations receiving funding this year. We are jumping for joy with this recent news. We will proudly continue with promoting gorilla conservation through education thanks to the generous contribution.

Thank you Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund from all of us at AoC.

Thank You Alyson, Lori, Ellen, Tracy, & Carla

From Julie
AoC’s recent visitors have given the team and I so much help and happiness that it’s hard to express the gratitude we feel. Alyson, Lori, Ellen, Tracy, and Carla have added to our work here in Rwanda in immeasurable ways and we eagerly await their return…. next year? We hope!

Lori, Ellen, and Carla are warmly welcomed to the AoC office by Eric and Eusebe.

Our visitors comprise of a member of our Board, an Advisory Counsel member, donors and volunteers, and new friends. How great is that? They arrived exuding energy and optimism and bearing gifts of excellent resource books and materials plus bags of donated supplies that we are donating directly to our partner schools as well as use in our daily classes, workshops, and initiatives

Alsyon, an AoC Advisory Counsel member, with Innocent and the director of Nyamurimirwa Primary School.

In addition to help in our office with lesson preparation, job descriptions, performance evaluation and more our visitors came to class with us. The children clapped as we spilled out of my tiny truck. Later, one of the students asked them why my mom had not come with them which we thought was very sweet.

Tracy and our teacher-in-training Jean Bosco compare their silverback mountain gorilla drawings. Carla looks on as Ellen is busy distributing more materials.

Ellen, a former teacher, felt right at home in the classroom and the children loved her.

So, friends, a BIG thank you and a BIG love for all that you have done and continue to do. We can’t do it without you! Cheers!

Rwanda Tennis Federation Contributes to Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club

Recently, we received an email from Fidele at the Rwanda Tennis Federation (RTF) which has its office in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. Fidele’s message informed us that RTF wanted to donate tennis equipment to our club, the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club in Musanze Town. We were happy to hear this news as was Coach Tony when we relayed the information to him.

Rwanda Tennis Federation’s secretary Chantal gives Coach Tony gifts for our Ibirunga Tennis & Running club.

Without much delay, Coach Tony and I headed to Kigali. Chantal, the federation’s secretary, warmly welcomed us and proceeded to hand Coach Tony tennis balls for beginners, junior rackets, and a used – but still better than what we have now – tennis net! We appreciate RTF’s donations. We know that the game of tennis has such an important impact on the individuals who can participate in the sport. We see maturity in all of the children AoC sponsors at the courts.

Jonathan and Coach Tony with a net donated by RTF.


Today’s blog by Eric, Olivier, and Innocent.
Approximately 786 mountain gorillas are alive today living in their natural habitat; the Virunga Massif and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Four orphaned mountain gorillas are in a forested sanctuary in Virunga National Park called the Senkwekwe Center. The Gorilla Doctors refer to the joint protection effort of this critically endangered great ape as “extreme conservation”.

Art of Conservation’s work is to help increase local community members knowledge about the ecosystem they share with the mountain gorillas. The human density bordering the gorilla habitat where we work is 645 people per square kilometer.

Continuing with our basic foundational art lessons, we begin today’s art activities with the question, “How many mountain gorillas are alive today?” To make it easier for our 10 to 16 year old students to remember, we round off the population number to 800. With inspiration from Sandi Henry in Making Amazing Art on abstract design, children write the letters g-o-r-i-l-l-a and the numbers 8-0-0 in a creative way on their papers. Color is then added to the positive and negative spaces for more visual interest.

Approximately 800 mountain gorillas in the world today.  Art of Conservation 2012Children come out with such beautiful masterpieces as this example shows.

After this exercise, the stuffed gorilla toy that we usually call our ‘friend’ because it always comes to class with us, is our model. Children draw the outline of the gorilla.

Eric teaching decorative line drawing.  Art of Conservation 2012Eric helps the children draw the outline of our friend toy gorilla.

Finally, students use their own creativity and divide the gorilla into sections with straight and angled lines and add decorative line designs. So beautiful!

Decorative mountain gorillas. AoC 2012Huh, guess what drawing this is? Our friend gorilla in decorative line design by one of our students!

Thank You Coach Bunny! From Coach Tony

Dear Coach Bunny,
I am pleased to take this opportunity to write this thank-you note to you because you really deserve it for so many reasons. We sincerely appreciate your gifts of tennis equipment which is very helpful and gives us new perspectives on available opportunities. I ensure continuing improvement and success from the team you help support. I am also grateful to you for having chosen one of our team members, Moise HABINEZA (Habibu) to go to the USA for a tennis workshop. We are sure he will increase his skills that he will share with his teammates when he comes back.

Tennis shorts and rackets from Bunny.  AoC 2012Coach Tony presenting the many tennis shorts from Bunny to the children’s tennis team.

Any additional suggestions you may have would be welcome and you are also welcome to visit us at our Ibirunga tennis courts.

Gifts from Bunny.  Art of Conservation 2012.Finally, tennis shorts with pockets!

Thank you so much for your continuing assistance.

Best regards,