Confirming Wilderness Rwanda’s continued commitment to community upliftment and wildlife protection, the company’s non-profit Children in the Wilderness (CITW) recently ran two children’s Conservation Camps in partnership with Conservation Heritage-Turambe, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and Muhisimbi Youth in Conservation. Eighty young learners from four schools in the Volcanoes National Park and Kinigi area were hosted on workshops held in the last week of July 2022.
The very first – and equally successful – Conservation Camp in Rwanda took place in 2019, but unfortunately, the scheduled 2020 and 2021 programmes had to be postponed due to COVID regulations. “We are absolutely delighted that in 2022 we have been able to continue with the Conservation Camps! To ensure that the students who missed out on the previous years could participate before they head to their secondary schools, we decided to make up for the missed programmes by running two back-to-back camps this year. We are now back on track for hopefully many years of Conservation Camps to come”, noted Aline Umutoni, CITW and Community Co-ordinator for Wilderness Rwanda.
The students were divided into two groups of 40, each participating in a three-day programme. The children were transported daily by bus from their respective schools to the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, where a number of the workshops took place. All the children were selected because they are members of the Environmental Clubs at their schools, and will continue on to secondary school in September, leading the way in environmental awareness among their peers.
During the workshops, the students learned about gorilla behaviour and ecology, the different national parks of Rwanda, threats to biodiversity in Volcanoes National Park and actions to help protect it, plus the importance of birds in ecosystems. They also enjoyed arts & crafts, games and singing.
On the third day of both camps, the students had the opportunity to visit Volcanoes National Park Headquarters, with a field trip to Buhanga Eco-Park. Buhanga is a forest located in an ancient and sacred site that was used for the coronation rituals of Rwandan kings. It is biologically and culturally significant to Rwanda, and most importantly the surrounding areas of Volcanoes National Park. At the start of the park trails the children were divided in to different teams and set on a flora and fauna identifying assignment.
The community welcomed the Conservation Camps, with many attending the closing ceremony. This much-anticipated event took place in the presence of Innocent and Augustin, the Executive Secretaries of the Kinigi and Nyange sectors, the Headmasters of the children’s four schools, and journalists from the local newspaper and radio station.
Rosine Uwase, a student from Kabara Primary School said, “I like how we were taken care of and loved learning about Dian Fossey. How she was a small girl like me and already passionate about the environment. I now know I can make a difference too”.
Theogene Manizabayo from Bisate Primary School said in appreciation of all the people who organised the Conservation Camp, “They taught me how to protect and conserve the environment. This will help me to teach others how important this is”.
“I especially liked the food”, said Emmanuel Ntivuguruzwa from Rushubi Primary School. “I now know all the names of the national parks in Rwanda, and the animals that live there. Let us do our best to protect them like our family”.
Ingrid Baas, Wilderness Rwanda Operations Manager noted the success of the camps: “The partnership between four organisations, which are equally committed to environmental education and protecting the surrounding Volcanoes National Park, makes the Conservation Camps particularly meaningful. By joining forces we can achieve so much more. The benefits of this partnership directly impact the learners and their schools and camp planning has already begun for the next school holidays”.
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