Tag Archives: Africa

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!

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!

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!

Valerie

-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!-

Allison Contributes To The Gorilla Journal

From Julie

Allison Hanes writes about the work of Art of Conservation in the latest Gorilla Journal. In addition to Allison’s article, you’ll find other important news including a discussion on the economic value of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’d like to thank editor Dr. Angela Meder for putting out such an informative journal and for incorporating Allison’s article in this latest edition.

Please click here Gorilla Journal No. 47, December 2013.

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

Allison & Cheryl Plant Trees at Rushubi & Nyange Schools

From Julie Ghrist

The days were perfect for a week of planting trees with 200 plus children. We packed our truck with seedlings, hoes, jerry cans of water and more and worked our way to schools located next to the park. Andrew Walmsley, an amazing photographer and friend, captured these wonderful pictures.

Planting trees at Art of Conservation 2013AoC student Innocent is ready to plant his seedling at the Rushubi School woodlot.

Cheryl Stockton helps plant trees at Rushubi School, Rwanda. Art of Conservation 2013AoC Board Member Cheryl Stockton and students.

Planting trees in Rwanda. Art of Conservation 2013Students plant trees in our established woodlots at schools located next to Volcanoes National Park.

Allison Hanes helps plant trees at Nyange School, Rwanda. Art of Conservation 2013AoC’s ED Allison Hanes with very happy children…. and gorilla.

The team, children, and I loved having Andrew, Allison, and Cheryl with us. Thank you guys!

Connecting With Friends & Colleagues at Zoos & Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference

From Julie Ghrist

A few weeks ago Blank Park Zoo hosted the 2013 Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation (ZACC) conference. The conference offered four days of presentations from people all over the world. I was pleased to have the opportunity to present an Art of Conservation poster entitled Evaluating the Impact of Conservation & Health Education Bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

John Lukas at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013John Lukas spoke about the serious work being done to save the okapi. I particularly loved this slide of his presentation… Education is the basis of Conservation.

One of the keynote speakers, President of Okapi Conservation Project in Epulu, Democratic Republic of Congo John Lukas, shared the dire situation of the okapi. Wars, illegal activity, and poor roads are a few of the obstacles facing his team in Epulu.

Martha & Julie at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Houston Zoo’s Martha Parker and I with AoC’s poster.

Martha Parker, from Houston Zoo and AoC Board Member along with Allison Hanes, Cheryl Stockton, and Andrew Walmsley helped me in all kinds of ways putting together the poster. It took time but was worth it. Thanks guys!

I’d like to thank Mark Vukovich, President & CEO of Blank Park Zoo and ZACC’s Steering Committee for putting on this great conference. Please enjoy the photos below. I wish I had pics of everyone… but it was a big crowd!

Regina Pfistermuller, Zoo Vienna at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Regina Pfistermuller from Zoo Vienna presents Flying with the Northern Bald Ibis: The adventure story of a conservation project. Is the bald ibis the ugliest of all rare birds? Perhaps not so pretty but worth saving!

Snow leopard at the market place ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Beautiful handmade work on sale from The Snow Leopard Trust at ZACC’s Marketplace.

Edward Lewis at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Dr. Edward Louis, Jr. from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium gave a great talk about incentivizing community-based reforestation efforts in Madagascar. Look closely, that’s him in the book he is holding along with Russell Mittermeier and lemurs. Love those lemurs and so thankful I have had a chance to see them in the wild in Madagascar.

Peter Riger hosting ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Peter Riger, an AoC hero because he believed in AoC’s work in the first years and has been a supporter, holds a piece of paper with vegetarian on it.

Bengt Holst at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Bengt Holst of Copenhagen Zoo presented one of the most provocative talks regarding the palm companies in Borneo and Sumatra. He and his colleagues are advising with a major palm production company to teach and insist on better practices, hence saving the orangutan and other species from extinction.

Frands Carlsen at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Bengt Holst’s colleague, Frands Carlsen, of Zoo Copenhagen supporting important conservation work in SE Asia.

Miriam & Alejandro at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Miriam Monterroso and Alejandro Morales from Arcas gave us news on their great conservation work in Guatemala. Please expect a visit from me soon!

With Joel Sartore at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Joel Sartore, another keynote speaker, is the founder of The Photo Ark, a multi-year documentary project to save species and habitat. My niece Lizzy and her friend Riley are pictured to the right of Mr. Sartore. RARE is a beautiful book and his stories are enthralling.

Susie at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Conservation Fusion’s Susie McGuire hands down makes learning fun. Her education work in Madagascar helps create diverse partnerships to help endangered species.

Jeff from PIC at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013A nice friend, Jeff from Partners in Conservation adds Rwanda handicrafts to the Marketplace.

Samson at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013I felt at home meeting Samson at the Ice Breaker at the Iowa State Historical Building. Samson is from Uganda and receives counsel from the wonderful Beth Kaplain from Antioch University and Rwanda”s National University. He is charged and ready to go with conservation work.

Jeff Flocken IFAW keynote ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Opening the conference was Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. When you think of the plight polar bears, lions, whales, and so many other species are facing, you got to thank Jeff for his advocation for animals. Please continue Jeff.

Again, thank you Blank Park Zoo for hosting this great conference and to ZACC’s Steering Committee.

For The Birds

From Julie Ghrist

We have spent many evenings and weekends recently painting birdhouses which were built at the AoC office. Because of limited classroom time our students didn’t get the opportunity to decorate the houses themselves, maybe next time.

Preparing a nice bird house. Art of Conservation 2013A student prepares a birdhouse by putting grasses inside.

This is truly an experiment! Birdhouses are nowhere to be seen in these parts of Northern Rwanda. My team and I think it’s a worthwhile experience nevertheless.

Hanging bird houses. Art of Conservation 2013Students look for perfect branches to hang their houses.

After lively discussions, we made our way outside to the school woodlots we’ve established over the years.

In the trees. Art of Conservation 2013With a GoPro on his head, a student reaches for more birdhouses from below.

A ladder was propped up against trees as well as a little climbing – whatever the mode of ascension – the school playgrounds and woodlots started looking so beautiful with the new houses.

Hanging bird houses. Art of Conservation 2013Little Lititia, in the foreground, is not an AoC student but seems to be with us always!

Week One Visit to Art of Conservation

From Allison Hanes

Two full days of travel and three plane rides later I arrive late Tuesday June 4th in Kigali, Rwanda with Art of Conservation (AoC) board member Cheryl Stockton and photographer friend/colleague Andrew Walmsley. The first thing I notice off the plane is that distinct musky yet floral smell of Africa! It’s nice to be back to East Africa after two years. We travel by car up and around in mountains about an hour to Musanze welcomed by new friends, including four friendly dogs at The Garden House, a friend’s bed and breakfast nearby Art of Conservation. On our beds are beautiful paper maché gorilla masks made by the Rwandan AoC team and our full exciting itinerary for the month ahead.

The following morning after a proper African breakfast, Julie starts out our trip and adventure in Rwanda by picking us up and taking us to the Art of Conservation compound just a few streets away. Again we receive a warm welcome by Julie’s dogs, new friends, neighbors and staff. The tour is impressive, including a beautiful flower and vegetable garden with giant corn stalks, composting site, rain water collection tank, array of recycled bird feeders and birdhouses, art studio and several common areas filled with beautiful artwork.

Art of Conservation garden. June 2013Art of Conservation garden.

Bird house painting at Art of Conservation June 2013Bird houses in the works being painted and varnished by AoC staff and friends.

We make introductions. I share Ghirardelli chocolates from San Francisco and Cheryl “I Love NY” shirts for the staff. We instantly adore our smiling kind new friends.

Cheryl with team and new I Love You t-shirts. Art of Conservation June 2013Olivier, Cheryl, Eusebe, Valerie, Eric and Innocent full of smiles.

Allison and team with chocolate. Art of Conservation 2013Eric, Valerie and myself enjoying San Francisco Ghiradelli chocolates.

We unpack and layout our photography gear organizing lenses and learning all about our new toys, which some of us particularly myself, are yet to play with. Nikon, Canon, Apple and GoPro equipment overflow the table and we immediately start flicking through manuals and dialing in settings ready for our early morning trek to the mountain gorillas.

Enough equipment? Art of Conservation 2013Do you think we have enough equipment?

Thursday morning we are up before sunrise ready to hike up Volcanoes National Park. Cheryl, Julie and myself trek to the furthest gorilla family, Susa, which has three silverbacks. My previous experience of tracking gorillas for three months in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda proved useful in preparing me for the day ahead but I still found the trek not to be all that easy. The high-altitude was very noticeable especially since we had limited time to acclimatize. However, we made it to the group without any trouble and I managed to handle Andrew’s special 300mm f2.8 lens for the hour-long session. You can tell by my shots and GoPro filming comments that the equipment was heavy! I was still able to get some great shots and had a wonderful time. It was one of the best gorilla treks I have experienced, particularly because I could share the experience with new friends and colleagues.

Trekking gorillas. Art of Conservation 2013In the forest with Julie.

Furry mountain gorillas. AoC 2013Rwandan gorillas are much furrier than the Ugandan population because of the higher elevation and cooler climate.

We had a grand time and our guide “D” joined us in our celebration dinner at Muhabura Restaurant. Julie always likes to celebrate after a good day of gorilla trekking and we are full of laughs. Each day I feel luckier to work with such inspiring, talented, hard working and fun colleagues.

Friday we get right into meetings and prepare for week two classes. I’ve noticed pretty much everyday at AoC we find ourselves singing, dancing and acting! I’m learning so many new things here in Rwanda. We also paint birdhouses with Eric and Eusebe and end the evening with a party in AoC’s garden and bungalow. Julie’s friend Alberto cooks us up a feast and Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) friends and colleagues join us to make another great close to the night.

Group meeting in bingalow. Art of Conservation 2013Let the work begin.

Saturday we all meet at the tennis courts. One of AoC’s most significant programs is the Ibirunga Tennis and Running Club. Olivier was recently nominated president and Valerie treasurer. AoC murals, plants and flowers decorate the grounds. The nets look like they have had their run and I am happy to know that by the end of the month through a USTA grant the club will have two brand new nets!

Tennis with Art of Conservation 2013Julie runs tennis drills and exercise with the children. I pick up a racquet after several years.

Cheryl guiding yoga at the courts.  Art of Conservation 2013Cheryl cools us down leading us in a yoga session and then I get to play a good high-energy game of tennis with Johnny, one of the best tennis players in the community.

Ibirunga Tennis & Running ClubThese kids fill you with joy and energy!

After a great workout I quickly take a shower and we head off to find our Batwa friend or as Rwandans now call her – “marginalized indigenous woman.” However, the dramatic driving adventure in search of Marie Rose is unsuccessful and instead we follow Art of Conservation’s dear friend and partner Cecil to her village for dancing. We bring sacks for rice, beans and a jerry can of banana beer. Cecil is a very special woman that Art of Conservation has been working with for years and is famous throughout Rwanda. To learn more about her Saving the Forests Briquette Initiative read here.

Sunday we are still full of energy editing photos, working and preparing for the remaining few weeks. Monday is our first day of classes at one of our two local schools and the fun has just begun!

Singing for Gorillas – 2013 Children’s Performance Preparations at Art of Conservation

From Julie Ghrist

 
Art of Conservation is preparing for our 2013 children’s performances with music written and recorded by musicians Kaiser Cartel. Please watch our video below, thanks!

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Preparations for 2013 children’s performances at Art of Conservation