Category Archives: Sports for Gorillas

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!

Fantastic Updates From Rwanda

From Valerie

Art of Conservation started the one-health awareness programs at the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. The Rwandan team: Valerie, Eric, Innocent, Olivier, and Eusebe continue carrying on AoC’s work!! If you recall, the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club is one of the great local community initiatives that we have been supporting for eight years. Children are provided the opportunity to exercise, practice teamwork, and gain a sense of accomplishment. In addition to that the club also brings local people together leading to a stronger sense of community and pride while playing sports in the name of conservation.

My colleagues and I say, “Let us carry on this great initiative!” The children are eager to know more about what surrounds them in order to protect them!

Recently, our discussion began with review questions from previous lessons. I ask, “Somebody please tell me the name of Rwanda’s three national parks.” The children raise their hands saying, “Me! Please, me! Please!” This is different from what happens during our lessons with children in schools. They say, “Teacher, teacher!” It draws my attention and makes me happy when I see happy children wanting to respond to questions and eager to learn!

CHT at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeChildren are excited to respond to the review question before I introduce the new topic of the day.

We distribute a map to each child. I ask them to point to the areas depicting mountain gorilla habitat.

Studying gorilla habitat. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeEach child points and shows me the two places where mountain gorillas live: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga Massif.

I keep on monitoring the children to make sure they all understand that our gorillas live in only two places. I know some children are young and they may have been distracted by a passing car on the road since the tennis courts are located next to a main road!

CHT at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeI help our students study the map.

I guide the kids thoroughly on what the Virunga Massif means with the help of another close-up illustration. They now know that mountain gorillas are not only in Rwanda but in other neighboring countries namely, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They also learn the name of the park in each country. It is such a discovery for these children to know what the Virunga Massif is made up with.

One-health awareness in Rwanda. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeOur youth sports kids ask questions as we study the Virunga Massif.

The next session is the art activity. During this session, children have fun. Their drawings are very good. The first excise they draw a proportional silverback mountain gorilla and the second exercise they draw their own mountain gorilla.

Eric working with kids. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeWith Eric’s instruction, children have fun drawing a proportionally correct silverback mountain gorilla using a pencil and they paint their artwork with watercolors.

Coach Rachid joins. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeHappily, Coach Rachid joins the children during the workshop. “Do gorillas live in one family?” he asks. This might be our next workshop topic. Let us think about it.

Gorilla drawings. ©Conservation Heritage - Turambe

Stay tuned for more blogs coming!


-Art of Conservation completed seven years of successful conservation programming in Rwanda with the exciting announcement that its local staff has launched their own nonprofit, Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). Turambe means “let us be sustainable” in Kinyarwanda. 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!-

Sports for Gorillas News from Rwanda

From Olivier

Hi, Olivier here with exciting Sports for Gorillas news.
In December, children from our Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club competed in the JUNIOR TENNIS NATIONAL TOURNAMENT at Cercle Sportif de Kigali.
Five clubs participated in the tournament:
1. Cercle Sportif de Kigali
2. Nyarutarama Tennis Club
3. Kanombe Tennis Club
4. Remera Tennis Club
5. Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club
Coach Rachid Nsanzimana and I traveled with seven of our players on the bus to Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali.

Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club kids going to tournament in Kigali. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeIbirunga Tennis & Running Club players at Cercle Sportif: Bottom row-Marie Claire Uwimbabazi, Emmanuel Twagirayezu, Eurade Ishimwe. Top row- Clementine Uwineza, Jean Bosco Hakorimana, Coach Rachid Nsanzimana, Evariste Nahayo, and Darius Mufasha.

Marie Claire Uwimbabazi has the second place at the national level while Clementine Uwineza has the third place.

Evariste Nahayo is the third while Jean Bosco Hakorimana is the forth at the national level.

Other Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club Team members also played well. After defeating Jean de le Croix Ndahunga from Kanombe Tennis Club 4-0 Darius Mufasha is fifth at the national level while Emmanuel Twagirayezu is sixth after defeating Aimable Nshimiyimana from Cercle Sportif 4-2.

Eurade Ishimwe was beaten, however he played very well.

Thank you very much Art of Conservation for allowing all this to happen. On my side I was respected at both District and National levels because of this tournament.

-Art of Conservation completed seven years of successful conservation programming in Rwanda with the exciting announcement that its local staff has launched their own nonprofit, Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). Turambe means “let us be sustainable” in Kinyarwanda. 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!-

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.

Adrien Niyonshuti – A Role Model

From Julie Ghrist

I spoke with Pierre Carrey from Union Cycliste International recently. He has written an article on the new “Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy” in Rwanda and asked to include a photo we took when Team Rwanda’s Jock Boyer and Kimberly Coats kindly arranged Adrien to chat with our sports kids. The photo below captures our kids happiness when receiving Adrien’s autograph on the really cool stickers Kimberly gave to them. Please enjoy Pierre’s article below and congratulations to all for the work being done.

Rwanda launches its academy for young cyclists
By Pierre Carrey
Rwanda launches its academy for young cyclists

The Rwandan Cycling Federation will inaugurate the “Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy” on May 26th. Named after the country’s best rider of the moment, the academy will prepare up and coming riders, both men and women.

The academy will enable riders aged from 16 to 18 (Junior category) to reconcile sport and studies, thanks to a training centre that is open in the evenings, the weekends and the school holidays. In the first year, 15 boys and 8 girls will train at the centre in Rwamagana, east of Kigali.

The trainees will study at one of the city’s excellent institutions and, at the same time, will benefit from a comprehensive cycling apprenticeship at the academy: training, nutrition, tactics (from watching videos), mechanics… At the end of their training they will be able to focus on a professional career in cycling and sport, or join Rwanda’s national team.

“In order to obtain future champions, it is necessary to provide riders with quality support from a young age,” explains Aimable Bayingana, President of the Rwanda Cycling Federation. “The academy will nurture these young talents in a region of the country that encourages cycling, but it will of course train athletes from all over Rwanda.”

UCI President Pat McQuaid adds, “The International Cycling Union supports this excellent initiative which is directed at the grassroots. We hope that the most talented of the trainees at the Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy will be able to come to the World Cycling Centre in Switzerland or its satellite in South Africa to perfect their training. Rwanda is an example to be followed in cycling because it is building its future in the wider sense and places a great deal of importance in cycling both from a social and sporting point of view”.

More than 200 bikes distributed in Rwanda

The man behind the academy, Adrien Niyonshuti, aged 27, has put a great deal into the project. Rwanda’s flag-bearer at the London Olympic Games, the professional with UCI Professional Continental (second division) Team MTN-Qhubeka presented by Samsung is the country’s best-known sportsman. He is a symbolic representative of the generation that endured the genocide in 1994, but he managed to come out of this trauma to achieve a certain level of sporting success.

The athlete, out of road competition since February due to thrombosis, has devoted the last few weeks to his academy projects. “Before retiring, I want to make use of my notoriety to develop this academy,” he said. “The people of Rwanda need to understand that cycling can sometimes be a means of buying a house and a car. Today I lead a good life thanks to this sport and I would like to see other youngsters able to follow suit.”

The Adrien Niyonshuti Cycling Academy, which is still looking for sponsors, has the support of the association World Bicycle Relief. More than Qhubeka 200 bikes are due to be distributed to youngsters from 10 years old so that they can get to school more easily. These bikes will simplify their day-to-day life as well as facilitate the detection of new candidates for the academy.

The national coach Jock Boyer and the association project Rwanda will provide logistical support. The former American professional has already helped raise funds with a mountain bike event, the “50 Mile Ride for Project Rwanda” organised on April 27th at Foothill Ranch, California.

“It was Jock who introduced me to high level cycling in 2007,” says Niyonshuti. “He formed the national team, and cycling progressed considerably in Rwanda. Today, through the academy, I would like to help the National Federation develop our sport. It’s a way for me to give something back to cycling.”

Photo (credit Julie Ghrist): Adrien Niyonshuti, very popular in Rwanda, is a role model for young cyclists and, in this case, for tennis players.

Thanks Jeff! Free English Lessons at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club

From Julie
From Julie

I met Jeff Hahl late last year as he was passing by the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club while Coach Tony was giving the kids their usual weekend tennis clinics. The children offered him a racket, proceeded to make him run around the courts, and really loved being with him.

Volunteer Jeff Hall teaches English at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. AoC 2013Jeff, at the tennis courts with Coach Tony, surrounded by children after their English lesson.

Jeff now comes every Monday and Wednesday afternoon as the kids get out of school and provides them with free English lessons. I think you have noticed that a community space such as the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club is so crucial for towns and small cities. The yoga class a few weekends ago by our friends at the Ubushobozi Project is another example of a recent event. Space is extremely limited here. Let’s hope the community can continue to thrive here and it won’t be taken away.

Volunteer Jeff Hall teaches English at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. AoC 2013The children feel comfortable and happy learning from Jeff.

Now Jeff is giving free English lessons to some of the homeless people he gathered from town at the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club two days a week too.

Volunteer Jeff Hall teaches English at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. AoC 2013Jeff with another volunteer, Sydney, at the courts with homeless people interested in learning English.

Thank you Jeff. We appreciate your work very much!

More Ideas From Bunny Come To Life In Rwanda

From Eric and Eusebe
From Eric
From Eusebe

Last weekend during one of our weekend conservation and health education workshops at the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club, we unveiled our gorilla toss board. The children were amazed to see this new addition to the tennis courts. They wanted to know what the board was about and competed for a photo. Imagine how wonderful it was!

Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club, Art of Conservation 2013Emmanuel, one of our tennis players, has fun looking through the small hole.

The idea of making the mountain gorilla toss board came in the summer of 2012 when Habibu (Moise Habineza) was invited to Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa from Coach Bunny Bruning. Julie and Valerie traveled with Habibu to Des Moines and they all saw Bunny’s toss board. They became very excited at the thought of bringing this idea in Rwanda. Once Habibu, Julie, and Valerie returned to Rwanda they asked us, the AoC artists, to create a board only instead of a clown face paint a face of a mountain gorilla.

Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club, Art of Conservation 2013An assistant coach at Wakonda Club demonstrates how he encourages kids to toss balls for improving eye/hand coordination and strength.

Children received ideas how to use it but were encouraged to make up their own games. We told them that this exercise is very helpful in improving hand/eye coordination and strengthening upper body muscles. After Coach Tony threw the first successful ball through a hole all of the kids began playing realizing it was a little harder than they thought.

Blog-2Children watch Coach Tony as he throws the first ball at the target. Did he aim well? Yes he did!

Coach Bunny, thanks again for your great ideas and kindness. By the way, we’re still waiting for the high altitude tennis balls you donated to arrive in the post!

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!

Olympian Adrien Niyonshuti Talks With AoC’s Sports Kids

From Valerie

The current news in cycling is all about the superstar Adrien Niyonshuti who carried the Rwandan flag at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Recently, this young man of 25 years visited our Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. He shared his hopes and beliefs that he can achieve more in his life. The Ibirunga Children’s Tennis Team and Coach Tony asked Adrien questions about what the Olympic games mean and what it is like to represent their country in front of the world. Adrien explained to the children that all kinds of disciplines in sports were presented such as volleyball, basketball, golf, handball, tennis, cyclers, and more. “I was there as a mountain bike rider competitor.” he explained. He said he could go on and on with all that he wanted to share about July’s experience in Europe but he said he could not say it all. What he did stress was that the children should always work hard, stay in school, practice tennis, and teach tennis to their friends, brothers, and sisters so that they carry on when they get older. Adrien fostered in these kids a spirit of being courageous and proud of themselves as well as working very hard for their future lives.

Olympian Adrien Nyionshuti (pictured here at the far right) asked Coach Tony how he made it to where he is today and the struggles he has endured.

Adrien encouraged the children by saying, “If you believe that you can achieve something there is still a chance for you.” Then added that they need to work very hard so that their tennis club may be represented in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil! The children yelled, “Yes, we will be there!”

None of the children wanted to leave without having Adrien’s signature on a Team Rwanda sticker.

Adrien requested the childrens signatures on the tennis club t-shirt which was a gift to him.

Eusebe (far right) and Coach Tony (far left) did not want Adrien to leave. They will probably find another day to catch up with him!

Team Rwanda’s Abraham Ruhumuriza and his colleagues played a little tennis.

Thank you very much Kimberly for arranging your cyclists to talk with Coach Tony and the children at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. Please come back another day.

A group photo with Olympian Adrien Niyonshuti, team mates, and Director of Logistics & Marketing, Kimberly Coats.

Weekend Outdoor Conservation Classes

At least once a month we hold our conservation and health workshops at the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. The kids love the lessons and I suppose Coach Tony doesn’t mind a little break from his tennis clinic either! On these mornings, children anxiously wait outside of our gate as the AoC team and I load up the truck. When it’s too full to transport all materials and the team we ask the kids if they would not mind helping us out. They cheerfully grab whatever is handed them, including the leash attached to my dog Umulinzi, and begin walking to the courts – about 5 minutes away.

On the way to conservation lesson at the courts.  2 February 2012Children transport a chalkboard for our conservation lesson at the tennis courts nearby.

The team sets everything up and begins to tell the story of the silverback mountain gorilla. They talk about his role within the group and why we need to protect him. Children study visuals and soon begin drawing an anatomically correct silverback followed by a drawing of the silverback, the protector, with his family in the forest.

Art of Conservation 2012Eusebe beings the art exercise with a few hints on the materials, such as a paint brush.

If you recall, we sponsored gorilla visits for about 9 of the 15 and older kids a few months ago. It’s gratifying to know that their understanding of national parks and animals is deepening.

Learning about silverbacks.  Art of Conservation 2012Children concentrate on drawing a proportional silverback mountain gorilla.

The pictures from the children are great. They capture the mighty composition of a silverback in the first drawing and for the second exercise they illustrate well the positioning of the silverback with his family during one of their feeding, resting, grooming, and playing sessions.