The coronavirus (COVID-19) has put some 50 million jobs in the global travel and tourism sector at risk, and in Rwanda we are acutely aware of the enormous impact this is having on businesses, personal lives and local communities. With no tourists travelling in the country, community members are feeling the impact through a decline in available jobs, sales in arts and crafts, and produce supplied to lodges.
There are five villages surrounding Bisate Lodge – Gahura, Nyarusizi, Myase, Ruginga and Nyondo – which, together are often referred to as Bisate village.
Many of the villagers are subsistence farmers who rely on their jobs as porters or casual workers at the lodges and other companies in the area for extra income; many also sell their baskets and wood carvings to visitors.
With donations from guests who have visited Bisate Lodge we are thankful to be able to support our surrounding communities with essential supplies during this time of lockdown and no tourists.
The leaders of our five surrounding villages provided us with a list of 157 households, consisting of 565 people, who are in dire need of support. With assistance from the village leaders, Aline Umutoni – our community and Children in the Wilderness coordinator for Rwanda – and Bisate employees we will distribute monthly parcels containing maize meal, beans and soap to these households. The village chiefs and leaders assisted us with a list of the most necessary supplies, so that we could ensure that we provide what is actually needed.
Bisate Primary School will be used as the distribution centre, and during distribution a distance of one metre between individuals will be adhered to; our volunteers distributing the food parcels to each family leader will also wear masks and gloves.
Our plan is to continue our support for the community during May and June, in the event that there is still no tourism to Rwanda and the Kinigi sector where Bisate Lodge is situated.
In total 2 045 kg of maize meal, 1 055 kg of beans and 252 soaps – valued at some RWF1 828 000 (USD2 000) – will be distributed to the families each month.
On Friday the 17th of April the first distribution took place at Bisate Primary School. On Thursday the team in charge divided the food into allotments for each family, the quantities depending on the family size. Each of the five villages was allocated a time slot during which they could collect their supplies. The chiefs of each village were involved in the distribution, which greatly helped ensure the handover was orderly and on time.
Before entering the school grounds everybody washed their hands at the Tippy Taps, and the villagers adhered to instructions and remained one metre apart while waiting their turn.
The team, comprising the chiefs of the villages, Bisate employees, Bisate village community committee and Aline, worked tirelessly to ensure that all families received the correct supplies. The people in the village were extremely grateful and thanked Bisate Lodge and its guests for their continued support.
“We thought they might forget about us now that Bisate Lodge has no guests, but they have kept on thinking about us. We are together in this”, said Gilbert one of our neighbours.
Our heartfelt thanks go to our Bisate guests who donated funds so that we can make projects like this become a reality. We are committed to doing whatever we can to assist the communities that we work with at this challenging time.
Report by Ingrid Baas