Tag Archives: World Environment Day

Heroes of the Forest Performed at 2011’s Igitaramo Party

At Rwanda’s recently held Igitaramo party, 100 Art of Conservation students performed to a song called Heroes of the Forest written and recorded by Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel. Holding papier mache animal masks made by Eric and Eusebe at the AoC art studio in Musanze Town, children danced and sang in front of their peers, parents, neighbors, tourists, and government officials. Igitaramo is held annually in Kinigi Town on the evening before Kwita Izina, a gorilla naming ceremony hosted by Rwanda Development Board.
Please click here to view our video of the children’s performance.

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.

The Race! Running For Gorillas

And they’re off!
200 children and a few independently registered runners begin AoC’s 2nd Annual 3K Gorilla Fun Run set in Kinigi Town. It’s a gradual uphill course ending at Rwanda’s Park and Tourism Office headquarters.

And they're off!  3K Gorilla Fun Run AoC 2011Runners take their mark and then off they go with excitement.

There are not road races in this area of Rwanda and as much as we talked about the race beforehand with our students in the classrooms, it was a new experience for all.

Go girls!  3K Gorilla Fun Run . AoC 2011Girls cross the finishing line.

Kids were told in advance that the top 10 girls and top 10 boys would receive prizes. AoC appreciates being able to use Volcanoes National Park headquarters as a place to end the race.

Almost home! 3K Gorilla Fun Run Art of Conservation 2011Innocent, with the microphone, cheers on runners approaching the finish line.

A Muzehe cheering.  AoC 2011Felix, a volunteer for the day, gets an observing man to join in the cheering.

Crossing the finishing line! Art of Conservation 2011A happy runner finishes the race. Bravo!

Find out who the winners are in our next blog!

Racers Take Your Mark

AoC’s 2nd Annual 3K Gorilla Fun Run is set in Rwanda’s rural countryside in the Northern Province. The 200 students who are currently enrolled in AoC’s conservation & health education program are ready to begin the race. The race is also open to the public for a fee of 5000FRW (10 USD).

Mt. Sabyinyo.  Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.  AoC 2011A beautiful day. The finishing line is at Volcanoes National Park’s headquarters below Mount Sabyinyo.

A bus picks the children from Nyange and Rushubi schools and drops them at Kinigi Town – the starting line.

Starting Line in Kinigi Town.  AoC 2011With a little face paint, kids wait to begin.

Eusebe holding the starting line.  AoC 3K Gorilla Fun Run. 2011Eusebe and Eric talk with the runners at the starting line.

1, 2, 3 GO!  AoC's 3K Gorilla Fun Run.The race starter from on top of my truck calls RIMWE, KABIRI, GATATU… GENDA. (1, 2, 3, GO!)

Timekeepers at 3K Gorilla Fun Run. AoC 2011.Timekeepers are waiting.

Stay tuned…more race coverage coming up!

2nd Annual Children’s Tennis Tournament


Suiting Up for Gorilla Fun Run!

One by one students wait their turn to receive a t-shirt, a race number, and help pinning the race number on their shirt. At the closing of each lesson this week, this is what has occurred along with a discussion of Saturday morning’s happenings.

Olivier helps student put on t-shirt for 3K Gorilla Fun Run. AoC 2011Olivier helps a student with his t-shirt.

AoC’s 2nd Annual 3K Gorilla Fun Run will be held this Saturday, 4 June 2011. Starting line is in Kinigi Town. RDB headquarters is the finishing line. The top 10 girls and top 10 boys who are participating in AoC’s 2011 conservation and health education program will receive prizes. The top 3 male and top 3 female ‘public’ entrants will receive prizes, as well. All runners will enjoy soft drinks after the race.

2nd Annual 3K Gorilla Fun Run preparations at Rushubi.  Rwanda AoC 2011T-shirts and race numbers.

Our ‘very’ grassroots 3K event will hopefully spark interest in local community conservation and health education programs to a broader audience. We’ve registered this event along with other forthcoming events with WED (UN’s World Environment Day) and partnered with Rwanda’s Park and Tourism office.

Eric with students at Rushubi Primary School in Kinigi.  AoC 2011.Eric after helping kids prepare for Saturday’s race.

Last year’s run went without any problems, although we learned a few things or two. Sportsmanship is of key importance.

Very cute kids with new t-shirts and race numbers. AoC 2011.Very excited kids.

Excited AoC students for 3K Gorilla Fun Run.  AoC 2011More very excited kids.

Teacher-In-Training Jean Bosco at Nyange School.  AoC 2011.Jean Bosco, the children’s regular classroom teacher and AoC’s teacher-in-training, will help monitor Saturday’s race.

Please stay tuned here… we’ll let you know how the race goes!

This Saturday! 3K Gorilla Fun Run

flyer-AoC's 3K Gorilla Fun Run, 4 June 2011

Sports for Gorillas: Tennis Club Rehabilitation

Recalling an earlier blog I wrote about Art of Conservation’s World Environment Day (WED) activities, I mentioned our 3K Gorilla Fun Run and our 1st Annual Children’s Tennis Tournament. It is now time to turn our attention to rehabilitating the existing, yet degenerated tennis club. We start with a new name: Ibirunga Tennis Club. Ibirunga is Kinyarwanda for Virunga referring to the Virunga Volcano Massif, the home of the mountain gorillas, which can be seen in the distance from the courts

Phase 1: Rehabilitation of Ibirunga Tennis Club. AoC 2010.Coach Tony with workers during the beginning phases of the tennis court rehabilitation.

The curious thing about the tennis courts is that no one, including district officials, know much about them except that they were built perhaps by the French and then ignored and fallen into disrepair with rogues posing as tennis coaches trying to make a buck from any interested player. I know this because I’ve experienced it firsthand.

Court renovations at District Musanze, Rwanda. Art of Conservation 2010.Tony, a former professional tennis player, is now the club’s coach. Here Tony is with the welder and fence builders.

One thing that has remained consistent over the past 4 years is that the group of neighborhood kids sponsored by the AoC project has been spending nearly every Saturday and Sunday at these courts practicing and greatly improving on everything from the game itself, sportsmanship, individual successes, and even AoC’s staying healthy messages. Now with Coach Tony, not only are the kids being instructed well, but they also have a fabulous father figure in their lives.

'Club House' needing great attention. Ibirunga Tennis Club RWANDA. AoC 2010The Club House leaves much to be desired!

I wish to thank the United States Tennis Association/Community Tennis Association, Bunny Bruning and John Terpkosh for their continuing support.

Masks For Sale!

We make them in our Rwandan studio. The students use them in performance and classroom lessons. Now it’s time for you to purchase 1 or more of these fantastic masks which will directly help support our work! Please go to Art of Conservation or click here. Thank you!

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find available at this time.

Support Conservation Education for Kids in Rwanda!

Support Conservation Education for Kids in Rwanda!

In the Art of Conservation studio, staff artists craft beautiful animal masks depicting mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, forest buffaloes, and other species that inhabit Rwanda’s national parks. The artists sculpt masks using clay molds and papier mache, and hand paint each to look as realistic as possible.

Give to Children, Animals, & Nature!

Give to Children, Animals, & Nature!

Each year in June during Igitaramo, a cultural festival that celebrates Rwanda’s environment and biodiversity, AoC students put on song and dance performances while wearing the masks. For “Mu Birunga,” a song about mountain gorillas, students don gorilla masks; for “Heroes of the Forest,” a song about the many different wild animals that inhabit Rwanda, costumed children depict more than 10 different species.

Support our Efforts in Keeping People & Animals Healthy!

Support our Efforts in Keeping People & Animals Healthy!

We are pleased to offer the masks for sale through our website.

The Making of Heroes of the Forest (A Song & Dance for all Animals)

Similar to our last blog, The Making of Mu Birunga (A Song and Dance for Gorillas), today’s video again takes you inside the classroom when we first introduced our students to Courtney and Benjamin’s song they wrote for our project called Heroes of the Forest. The video concludes showing months of practice and the arrival of the children-filled bus at Igitaramo for our recent performances celebrating World Environment Day.

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The Making of Heroes of the Forest, a video.

Students participating in Art of Conservation’s (AoC) conservation education program performed two song and dance pieces celebrating animals and Volcanoes National Park at Igitaramo, a large community party held the day before Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual Mountain Gorilla Naming Ceremony.

AoC choreographed the performances for their two groups of 50 fifth-form students selected from the two schools where it operates, Rushubi and Nyange I primary schools. Each group of students sang a heartening song, written by the New York-based band Kaiser Cartel, which was commissioned by AoC, and perform a dance wearing colorful masks made by AoC staff artists.

Children from Rushubi performed “Mu Birunga,” or “In Virunga,” a song about the mountain gorillas that live in Volcanoes National Park. Students from Nyange I performed “Heroes of the Forest,” a song about conserving the many different animals that inhabit Volcanoes National Park, including forest buffaloes, golden monkeys, giant-pouched rats, elephants, and others.