Tag Archives: friends & visitors

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!

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


From Julie
From Julie

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Tonya Huston visits AoC classes. Imidido Project. 2013Tonya with AoC students and team at Rushubi School, Kinigi.

Graduating from AoC’s 2012 Education Programs

From Olivier

We celebrate during our annual End-of-the-Year Parents as Partners Open House at Nyange school. Innocent calls a child by his/her name and that student responds by saying, “Good morning, My name is …… I am an Art of Conservation graduate!” Graduates then receive their decorated envelopes that contain the works that he/she did throughout the year. It is extremely pleasant.

Valerie gives the graduates their envelopes.

Students are thrilled to look again at their work and proudly show them to their parents or guardians. Our guests take this opportunity to see how children gradually developed from the beginning and how amazing they are now with their inspirational works containing good messages for the entire world. Children are calling the community to contribute in protecting Volcanoes National Park where mountain gorilla and a diversity of other animals live.

Guests include Nyange schools headmaster, a Rwanda Environment Management Authority representative, Musanze District’s Joint Action Development Forum’s president, Nyange school’s deputy principal, and more.

To aim is not enough, you must hit! Use your mind; use your eyes and your body. Get all the education you can, but then, by nature, do something. Don’t just stand there, make something happen around you. The best of all things is to learn. Money can be lost or stolen, health and strength may fail, but what you have learned and practiced is yours forever. AoC students do it because they learned. They are acting out what they learned. They are now teachers, delivering our messages to a big crowd of people: their fathers, mothers, cousins, neighbors and local leaders. All these people get to know some of the threats to mountain gorillas and how they are treated. No more poachers in the mountain gorilla habitat! AoC students vow to expose even those who will be in the underground because they now know the importance of a healthy ecosystem.

Children perform as Gorilla Doctors – one child is a mountain gorilla doctor teaching children how to treat the critically endangered animal. So amazing! May be he will become a veterinarian.

This year’s Parents as Partners Open House is really a good opportunity for our students to celebrate and start their roles as conservation ambassadors. In acting out the AoC Staying Healthy messages, students talk about how one can get sick by letting germs enter their bodies through eyes, mouth, ears and nose. Our children, however, are committed to staying healthy and to not spreading germs at all! They will cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze, they will wash their hands, and they will try to eat a healthy diet.

A drama depicting how to stay healthy.

How can you know that something is missing if you’ve never met it or seen it? Please come and celebrate our next year’s Parents as Partners Open House at the foot of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

I Want To Be… A Park Guide, Part 1

From Julie

Our classroom is filled with joyful chatter as children try to recognize the people in the photos/visuals being passed around the room. We are educating our students about the many jobs they need to strive for that will bring them fulfillment and income while protecting their critically endangered mountain gorillas and our shared environment. Todays focus is on the vital roles park guides play. After our invigorating discussion, creative expression fills the room as kids put themselves in the role of a park guide on paper. Please enjoy a sampling of our visuals and the children’s pictures.

AoC visual for classroom discussion.

AoC student artwork.

AoC visual for classroom discussion.

AoC student artwork.

AoC visual for classroom discussion.

AoC student artwork.

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!

Great Ape Expert, Ian Redmond, Adds Great Fun & Inspiration

My team and I had the pleasure and honor of getting a few moments with Ian Redmond, the renowned Great Ape expert. Ian was in town with the crew of Visionquest, an Australian-based, independent production company filming in 3D the plight of the great apes. Having just crossed the DRC border into Rwanda, they were surfacing from Kahuzi-Biega National Park, home to Grauer’s gorillas. While in DRC they also spent time with bonobos in their wild habitat and sanctuaries… something I hope to do one of these years. The orangutans of South East Asia will also feature largely in the film with the distressing sight of the extreme loss of their habitat largely due to the planting of palm plantations. I think the film comes out in 2013. I’ll let you know.

Had Ian originally planned on getting a bit of exercise in addition to his forest foraging? Probably not, but while the film crew was busy speaking with colleagues at the Karisoke Research Center, Eric and I quietly captured Ian and brought him to the tennis courts where we had been giving a lesson on rainforest animals to the children.

Donning newly created rainforest animal visors, children happily welcome Ian.

A tennis racket was offered to Ian which he then proceeded to hold onto for an hour or more. The children took turns playing with this most special great ape.

Assumpta and Ian preparing to serve to their opponents by emulating gorilla behavior.

With our upcoming Children’s Tennis Tournament, an event featured in Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony called Kwita Izina, the children now have a new technique of psyching out their opponents. Ian’s demonstration of panting, chest slapping, celebrating with a big ‘ole slap on the ground, and finally striking a pose with such attitude gives kids the confidence that they will have the upper edge in any competition by doing this type of display!

Practicing gorilla behavior with an expert.

We made our way from the courts to the AoC House with Coach Tony and the excited sports kids in tow. Ian cued up some of his recent gorilla footage (click here for Silverback Siblings Strutting Their Stuff) for the children to see the real actors, the gorillas, doing their stuff. The team and I also got the opportunity to show him around and share with him some of the things that we do.

The AoC team, Coach Tony, sports kids, Umulinzi dog, and Ian.

If all days were this much fun and joy so easily shared, life would be great! Thanks, Ian, for your time with us and all that you do for the great apes and their habitat.

Happy Holidays

From all of us at Art of Conservation

Virunga Volcanoes Lodge, 13 September 2011, Rwanda.  Art of ConservationOlivier, Valerie, Innocent, Julie, Eusebe, Eric, Amy (not pictured) with dancers in Rwanda.

Parents as our Partners in Conservation & Health, Open Houses Part 1

Wow, what a year it has been with the children we’ve worked with so closely since January. We started those first classes by introducing our code of conduct, partnered yoga poses to feel trust, discovering how to share, feeling ok about making mistakes, and beginning the journey of understanding how all living things are connected and deserve care and respect.

And now…. we happily witness the culmination of these efforts as the kids express themselves with the lessons learned and ideas developed at our recent annual end of the year Parents As Partners Open Houses… a cause for celebration without a doubt!

Art of Conservation's End of the Year Open Houses. 2011Moms, dads, and guardians attend AoC’s Parents as Partners Open Houses.

On a recent Saturday and Sunday, the AoC team and I including Mary Burns – a board member visiting from the US – welcomed parents and guardians of our students at both Rushubi and Nyange schools where we work during the week. The teachers we work with at the schools, Providence, Jean Bosco, Naome, and Theoneste, helped host the event as well. Together we welcomed our guests by offering them delicious sambusas and a bottle of soda.

Student Speciose and her mother at Open House.  AoC 2011.I get the opportunity to speak with student Speciose and her mother.

I love it when the children introduce their mom or dad to the AoC team and me. I am very touched by their show of interest and appreciation.

Art of Conservation's Parents as Partners Open Houses, Nyange 2011Parents relax before the program continues with a graduation ceremony.

Throughout the year, we encourage our kids to share what they are learning with their families. Occasionally we receive feed back from the community that they are indeed learning from their children! Yeah! This makes us so happy!

Providence with a parent at Nyange Open House.  AoC 2011.Nyange school teacher and fabulous partner, Providence, speaks with a mother of a student. Eric is shown in the background.

Please watch for our next Open House story coming up tomorrow. Thank you!

End of the Year Open Houses.  Art of Conservation 2011With great seriousness to that of smiles, parents show their interest in their child’s education by attending our annual event.

Talking Gorillas with Dept. of Parks & Recreation in Iowa USA

Much of the United States is experiencing extreme heat and humidity (along with the political nonsense in Washington) and Des Moines, Iowa – my hometown – is no exception. I was invited by John Terpkosh, Des Moines’s coordinator of the parks and recreation service and USTA’s Community Tennis Association leader, to join him at Davis Park- the city’s largest inner city park. With pleasure, I spoke to about 20 children from disadvantaged backgrounds hoping to teach them a bit about Africa and its critically endangered animal species. Well, hmmm, I walk away from today’s gathering with more questions than satisfaction.

Davis Park in Des Moines, IA USA.  Art of Conservation 2011At Davis Park in Des Moines, Iowa on a hot summer afternoon.

It’s striking to me how the families my AoC team and I work so intensely with in the rural Rwandan communities will go to great length to get their children enrolled in our conservation and health education program. Baby brothers and sisters of our students are trying to get good marks so they may be selected to participate in our year-long course. Yet what I saw today -and certainly what my USA teacher friends have been describing- many of these students rather shove a teacher out the door than get an education. I’m greatly generalizing here and all cases are unique, but what a shame we have such problems in the US- a place where we live in relative safety, in peace, access to essentials such as running water, electricity, and food.

Evelyn Davis Park in Des Moines, Iowa USA.  Art of Conservation 2011Learning about Africa and gorillas at Davis Park in the USA.

John and I are ready to try again next time I come home, perhaps in the winter. We can’t give up. If anything the day gives me more determination in better understanding what children need in order for my team and I to nurture in them more compassion to care for the environment and other living things. It’s tough. I look to our sweet Rwandan students in a slightly new light and with exceptional gratitude in being able to be trusted by such lovely individuals despite their hardships.

Davis Park for Dept. of Parks & Recreation.  Iowa USA.  Art of Conservation 2011Children look at the many different photos I brought in of African animals. John Terpkosh and the Doster/Stanley family look on.

My mom helped me pack up my bags of materials when a tiny hand slipped into my hand followed by a voice from a darling girl saying, “We don’t want you to leave.”

Thanks John for this opportunity. See you next time!