Tag Archives: parents

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.

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.

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!

2nd Annual Children’s Tennis Tournament

This past Saturday in Musanze Town, Coach Tony’s tennis players put on a remarkable show of talent. The children’s camaraderie plus enthusiasm for the game of tennis was clearly apparent, too. By the time I got to the courts in the morning, kids were reapplying paint to the lines, sweeping and watering the clay courts, arranging rented chairs, and beginning their warm-ups. Olivier and I dashed to town to fill the truck with crates of water and bottles of beverages. The players’ parents were invited. Flyers were distributed inviting the community to come and watch.

2011-Children's Tennis Tournament, 11 june 2011, AoCEvartiste and Assumpta head off the court after talking with Coach Tony. Players are ready to begin their matches.

Habibu was last year’s boys champion and last weekend his fellow team mates had it out to beat him. Most days after school they were at the courts practicing in addition to Saturday and Sunday morning clinics. But guess what? Habibu pulled through becoming this year’s champion again! I love all of these kids finding it hard to see some loose their matches and witnessing their tears. Ah, such are life’s lessons.

Parents watch their children play tennis.  Rwanda AoC 2011Player’s parents and friends watched 12 exciting 1-set matches.

The day was beautiful. Rwanda is entering into dry season and a lingering thunderstorm staved off until the late afternoon.

John Bosco serving. AoC 2011Jean Bosco preparing to serve.

This event as well as the recent 3K Gorilla Fun Run and the upcoming performances at Igitaramo, are all children’s activities we organize leading up to Rwanda’s Annual Gorilla Naming ceremony and are registered activities at WED, the UN’s World Environment Day.

Champion Habibu with mom & dad. AoC 2011Champion Habibu with his parents.

Earlier in the week, Coach Tony and I put together prizes for all of the players. Tennis rackets, back packs, t-shirts, shorts, water bottles, chap stick, notepads, pencils, pens, children’s books, boots, jump ropes, and caps had been donated by Bunny Bruning and John Terpkosh from USPTA, USTA/NJTL, Peter Riger of the Houston Zoo, and our recent Simpson College volunteers. Our thanks goes out the them.

Girls champion Uwase with her mom, dad, and Coach Tony. AoC 2011Girl’s champion Uwase with her parents and Coach Tony.

Umpire Josephine with gorilla. AoC 2011The tournament’s umpire, Josephine, with a gorilla after the matches.

You can see more photos on AoC’s facebook page.

Art of Conservation manages the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club, where the tournament was held and is providing the funding for the rehabilitation of the courts and the children’s weekend clinics, but at some point in the future Coach Tony will take it over.

National Junior Tennis & Learning Newsletter features AoC’s Kids Tennis

Please click here for Reach Out, National Junior Tennis and Learning summer newsletter which includes an article titled Rwandan Youth Show Off Their Skill at Art of Conservation Children’s Tennis Tournament.

Tennis Tournament, 22 May 2010, Photo by Molly Feltner for Art of ConservationThe article in USTA’s National Junior Tennis and Learning newsletter shares the story of how we got started and where we are heading.

Progress continues at the newly named Ibirunga Tennis Club as brick walls and fencing are put in place. (Click here for more on the tennis court rehabilitation.)
AoC Team with Phocas and mothers planting grass. Rehabilitation of Ibirunga Tennis Club.  August 2010.AoC staff members and a few of the tennis player’s mothers help beautify the land outside of the courts by planting grass, trees, and flowers.

Rwandan Schoolchildren Need Your Help!

Dear Friends,
Right here, right now…..Art for Gorillas has its donate button active and ready to accept your kind and generous support! Your financial contributions go directly to our conservation education program, Art of Conservation, which works closely with schoolchildren living near the border of Volcanoes National Park – home of the endangered mountain gorillas. What better way to ensure a healthy future for all living things than by engaging these young children in learning and exploring the world around them? All of us at AoC sincerely thank you for your support!

Rwandan Schoolchildren Need Your Help! Photo by Molly Feltner. AoC 2010A scene from our recent Parents Open Houses in which our students performed skits, dances, and songs about the lessons we have covered thus far. Parents, AoC staff and I were deeply touched.

Nyange Open House: A Time to Celebrate

Well, we are about finished with our kick-off “Parents as Partners” open houses. We’ll have a second round of open houses to end the school year in October. I think we have connected with parents and leaders about what we are trying to achieve and how much they can add to our efforts if they take the time to talk with their kids and encourage their learning and exploration in life. The Nyange Open house ends with speeches from VIP guests and celebration.

Final speeches.
Pelagie, Executive Secretary of Nyange, speaks to the group of parents about the importance of education and conservation. Photo by Molly Feltner. AoC 2010Pelagie, the executive secretary of the sector where the school is located, stands up in front of parents and students.

Janvier Kwizera from RDB/ORTPN speaks with parents and students about conservation at AoC's Parents as Partners Open Houses. Photo by Molly Feltner.2010Janvier, the Volcanoes National Park’s community conservation warden, encourages students to be serious about school and taking care of the environment.

Creative expression of lessons learned.
Students performing a skit about protecting the environment and mountain gorillas. Photo by Molly Feltner. Art of Conservation 2010With the sun still shining brightly and students still sporting their rainforest animal visors, the children put on skits about stop spreading germs.

Art of Conservation students perform at Parents as Partners Open Houses. Nyange. Photo by Molly Feltner. 2010We listen to songs about taking care of one another.

Pelagie, Jean Bosco, Pierre Celestin dancing.  Photo by Molly Feltner AoC 2010We dance! Jean Bosco, Pelagie, and Pierre Celestin celebrate.

Skits performed by AoC students about staying healthy and conservation. Photo by Molly Feltner. 2010Valerie, Janvier, and I laugh about the rap songs the kids wrote and perform. They sing about staying healthy, stopping the spread of germs, the similarities mountain gorillas and people share, and more.

We do not have another event to race off to so as the celebrating continues, Team AoC and I relish in the progress we’ve made thus far with an exceptional group of kids.

Nyange Open House: Welcome, Mom’s & Dad’s!

Team AoC and volunteers take down the morning’s open house materials, load the truck, and head off to Nyange Primary School for the afternoon event.

Mother's arriving to their child's open house at Nyange. Rwanda. Photo by Molly Feltner AoC 2010African beauties, the mothers of our students, arrive to the event, which is held in a field behind Nyange Primary School. Our AoC classes, extracurricular, are held in the mornings.

The sky appears threatening with rain which would truly be unfortunate – classrooms are too small for all of us to gather in.

Nyange Primary School in Rwanda. AoC hosts Parents as Partners Open House. Photo by Molly Feltner 2010Snacks are served and the sun begins to shine.

Julie welcoming parents and guests to Parents as Partners Open House at Nyange Primary School in Rwanda.  Photo by Molly Feltner. AoC 2010I begin the program by introducing myself, the team, and invited guests. I also share with the parents why I came to Africa and how my own parents have played an extremely important role in my life.

I feel priviledged to have this time with our student’s parents.

Mother's listen intently. Photo by Molly Feltner.  Art of Conservation Rwanda 2010This woman’s life has been full of challenges and yet she takes a sincere interest in what Art of Conservation is doing and how we help her kids.

Julie with Muzehe who shares his gratitude to the work we are doing with the children and for the environment. Photo by Molly Feltner.2010“Our children were bandits before you came to work with them,” this spirited man tells me. The crowd laughs and agrees.

Stay tuned for our last Parents as Partners Open Houses report.

Rushubi Open House: The Program Begins

We are ready to present our guests with our project objectives, the typical class format, and the ways we must work together as we continue with our coverage of our recently held Parents as Partners Open Houses.

Students perform.
A play performed and created by AoC students about illegal activity in the forest and protecting nature.  Photo by Molly Feltner. 2010AoC students perform a skit telling the story of illegal hunting and poaching of trees in the forest.

Rushubi's director, Donat speaks with the crowd of parents.  AoC Open House.  Photo by Molly Feltner 2010Donat, the school’s director, gives a speech.

I am not one who necessarily thrives on this type of event but it seems to be part of the role I must play as director of the project.

Janvier Kwizera, RDB's Community Conservation Warden for Volcanoes National Park. Photo by Molly Feltner. 2010Janvier is Volcanoes National Park’s Community Conservation Warden. Here he amuses the kids about their growing English language skills, their personal hygiene practice, their commitment to being conservationists, and so on.

Children's skits and singing using the Staying Healthy messages learned in AoC classes.Photo by Molly Feltner.2010After a round of speeches by the pastor of the church, a local leader, a proud parent, and Team AoC, more skits are performed. It is definitely time to poke fun at me and I am loving it all. Students sing and perform about our three hand-washing rules.

I see kids in class were truly listening!