Category Archives: staying healthy

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!

Kwaimatta Village in South America


While in most parts of the world everyone seems to be exploiting natural resources, cutting down rain forests, destroying fragile ecosystems, Guyana is doing something different. Under its Low Carbon Development Strategy, Guyana receives USD 50 million per year from international partners to protect its forests. Of course one needs to read in more detail to discern the pros and cons to this, but let’s be thankful for this long-term development plan and hope it works and others follow. Guyanas rain forests benefit us all no matter where we live.

The Karanambu team took Allison, Lucy, and I to communities in the Northern Rupununi to conduct our one health conservation activities. This entailed boating to get to the schools.

Geography at Kwaimatta Village. ©Art of Conservation 2013I started off with a geography activity. This young girl marched right up to the world map and placed the South America card in the absolutley correct place.

Our first village – Kwaimatta (Massara)- is the closest and perhaps most secluded of all three we visited. In general, this area is a critical watershed between the Amazon and Essequibo rivers. The open savanna and riverine plain is stunning.

Decorating animals masks at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013We talked about the local animals and discussed what makes them so special and then out came the markers, crayons, and paper masks.

A number of the children attending Kwaimatta Primary School have parents that are employed by the Karanambu Trust and Lodge.

Decorating animals masks at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Children decorating their animal masks.

As you may remember from a previous post, Des Moines artist Amy Harris helped AoC with the otter, monkey, jaguar, macaw, and arapaima masks. Thanks again Amy! Do you love the masterpieces?

Decorating animals masks at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Blue jaguars in Guyana? Right on!

Here I am in a new part of the world – experiencing new cultures and trying out AoC’s curricula. It is safe to say that no matter where you are children want to learn and discover.

Decorating animals masks at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Salvador tries to scare the kids with his Red Howler Monkey mask. I think they are on to Salvador! Not scared at all.

We had a few extra moments to end our time at Kwaimatta so I did a quick oral health lesson with toothbrushes and paste for everyone.

Oral health at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Allison and Salvador distribute toothbrushes and paste.

Diane McTurk with students at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Diane McTurk with her Kwaimatta Village children.

It was a pleasure to end our class with outdoor craziness including singing and showing appreciation to the villages’ beloved Aunti Di.

Please join us at Pratt NYC on November 22nd. Get your tickets here!

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.

More Lessons On How To Stay Healthy

From Julie
From Julie

Late last year, Lori Howe, Ellen Strachota, and Tracy Levine arrived in Rwanda to visit us and with them they brought huge duffle bags filled with dental supplies donated from their friends in Des Moines, Iowa. We just loved it and love them! This week, each student receives their own toothbrush and toothpaste and are incredibly pleased – most likely their first time ever to have such things.

Staying Healthy lessons. Art of Conservation March 2013Upon receiving toothbrushes and paste, these boys closely examine their new gifts.

We discuss the importance of oral hygiene as well as the traditional methods for brushing teeth each day such as using a pointed tip of bamboo or eucalyptus twigs and cloth tied at the end of a twig. All of the students have a chance to sit in front of mirrors and watch themselves as they brush their teeth for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Staying Healthy lessons. Art of Conservation March 2013Eusebe encourages the children to brush gently and thoroughly.

Thank you again Lori, Ellen, and Tracy for bringing us such excellent supplies – they are being put to good use!

Preventing Common Illnesses in Communities Near The Park

From Julie
From Julie

Valerie asks, “How do you feel today?”
“Good, happy, joyful.” respond the children.
“What do you get to do when you feel healthy?” Valerie asks.
“Go to school and play with friends!” children eagerly reply.

Washing our hands at Art of Conservation 2013Our students receive bars of soap and washcloths and practice washing their hands with buckets of water and plastic basins seen here in the photo. There is no running water at the schools.

Valerie teaches the children that to avoid getting sick from common illnesses they need to practice good hygiene. With that, she proceeds to demonstrate effective hand washing and distributes soap and washcloths to all of the students. The classroom fills with even more happiness and joy!

Washing our hands at Art of Conservation 2013Children learn our hand washing rules during this weeks staying healthy lessons.

Every student gets a chance to practice washing their hands with the buckets of water and plastic basins we brought in. Outside of the classroom are handwashing stations AoC has provided although they are in disrepair. We will look for a more sturdy design to replace them. If you have a nice design idea, we would love learning about it. Thank you!

Hard To Say Good-Bye To Such Special Children

From Julie
From Julie

As Olivier shared in his previous blog, our 2012 conservation and health education students are graduating from a fantastic year of learning. As I look through photographs I’ve taken I think how much these children have matured and how much I will miss them. While it is difficult to ‘track’ each and every past AoC student, we are doing our best to follow their progress and will keep you informed as well.

Innocent calls the name of each student to come up and receive their decorated envelope containing maps, worksheets, drawings, and more.

Our scheduled Parents as Partners Open House at Rushubi met us with heavy afternoon rain. Instead of gathering outside in the school yard, we manage to squeeze parents, guardians, and students into a classroom.

Students perform a skit with messages of following daily hygiene habits to stay healthy.

Weeks before the open houses, we requested the students to create a few entertainment pieces with a condition that they have something to do with the lessons learned at AoC. To our great satisfaction, the children come up with insightful renditions of conservation and health education exercises.

Sweet student Pascal reads a heartfelt poem about what he has learned and felt during AoC classes.

Well, I know my team and I will fall in love with next years kids, but it’s sad to say goodbye to these children.

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.

Bright Smiles at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club

Hi. This is Olivier. Rwanda’s children are on break from school for a few weeks as the first term comes to a close. The country also pauses for a moment of reflection in observance of the 1994 Genocide. With permission of Tony, the tennis coach, the AoC team and I are able to use the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club to teach our Sports for Gorillas program during the school break. Resuming our staying healthy lessons with the group of 20 plus kids, we focus on basic oral health.

Just as the children in our weekday program, the sports kids receive toothbrushes and toothpaste and watch demonstrations and listen to discussions from my team mates. With the newly constructed toilet facilities, there is no need for us to haul jerry cans of drinking water and plastic water basins… we can use the sinks!

Sitting on grass mats at the tennis courts, children listen to the team and I talk about basic oral health.

THEN….. before we could move on to our next lesson… THE RAIN CAME POURING DOWN! As many children as could fit into our truck got the first ride home. Julie returned and took the rest of the happy kids home.

Stay tuned!!!

Snack Surprise

Hi readers. Valerie here again. As Olivier spoke about in the previous post, we teach our students that eating a healthy diet goes with all of our other efforts in staying healthy. The food we eat provides our body with the energy and nutrients it needs to keep working and growing. I add to the discussion by showing the children a pop-up book entitled “Human Body” by Weldon Owen Pty Ltd. The children have fun seeing an inside look at our digestive system. And while talking about our five senses, namely ‘taste’ to go with our healthy eating focus, they are impressed to know that there are more than 8,000 taste buds on top of their tongue which enables them to discern whether the food they eat is salty, bitter, sour, or sweet.

A pop-up book called Human Body adds a lot of fun for the kids in their learning. I talk about our digestion system as well as identifying the four main tastes.

As students return from recess, we ask them if they remembered to wash their hands. “Yes!” they reply. And we are like cool! We ask them if they feel hungry after all this talk about food. Again, “Yes!” We now tell them good news, “Everybody is going to receive a snack!”

Students go crazy when they receive their healthy snack.

As our children enjoy their snack, we ask them under what food group the bread and peanut butter fall. Many realize that their snacks belong in more than one food group because the brown bread is made with wheat which belongs to the grain group and peanut butter belongs under the oil group. They really love it and it shows!

These kids enjoy eating snacks!

Healthy Eating, Healthy Communities

Olivier here.
“Eeeh!” our students exclaim when asked if they eat three meals per day. With embarrassed giggling, they explain that their families struggle to find food for one meal per day. That ‘meal’ usually consists of limited variety. We are indeed sad for them that they face such challenges, but we inspire them to learn more. Today’s class is really full of wonders. We present the concept of food groups to the children; grains, vegetables, fruits, milk & dairy products, meat, and oils. And that by incorporating them into our daily diet as best as we can we will be eating a variety of foods and will be healthier.

Laminated food cards are distributed to the children who examine them and pass around to their friends.

“Vegetable, karoti, carrot.” Julienne says aloud while showing her food card to the rest of the class.

Once our students study the food cards, understand what food group it belongs to, and presents it to the rest of the class Innocent helps them stick it on our nutrition mat under the correct food group.

Next we jump to the art activity by reminding our students about a past activity of decorating envelopes with abstract design cut-outs. But for this activity we will cut out recognizable objects… more specifically, food! Tables and desks are divided into six groups representing the food groups. In the middle of each group on top of a drawing board is a still life of food. Children get busy with scissors, paper plates, markers, construction paper, and glitter paint.

Students have fun cutting out samples of food using construction paper.

Eric and Innocent help out the ‘meat, poultry, dried beans, fish and nuts’ group with their art activity.

Finally, kids come out with nice designs that they are proud of.

This child presents his ‘vegetable food group’ artwork after a fun and involved activity which was full of giggles, smiles, and laughter of happiness.