CITW Rwanda Eco-Mentor Training in Kigali

To celebrate, motivate and empower the amazing Eco-Mentors at Children in the Wilderness’ (CITW) six partner schools in Rwanda, a special get-together and workshop was organised for the programme’s 18 teachers and school leaders.

On Friday 15 April, the teachers travelled from their respective areas (as long as six hours by bus) to Kigali. The Gisunzu Primary and Kinihira Secondary schoolteachers made the journey from the Gishwati Forest area all the way in the west of Rwanda, while the Akayange Primary and Rwabiharamba Secondary schoolteachers came from the east, close to the northern border of Akagera National Park (where Wilderness Safaris Magashi is situated) – and not forgetting our Bisate Lodge neighbours from Bisate Primary and Bisate Secondary schools, who also made the trip to the capital city.

On arrival in Kigali, they were treated to a well-deserved dinner and night in a hotel. How special it was for the teachers to finally meet each other! Although they have been giving similar Eco-Club lessons to the 294 CITW students across their six schools, the teachers had never met in person. This gathering ensured that they now all feel part of the same CITW family.

“Although we have organised teacher trainings over the years, they were mostly held at the individual schools. Being on the school grounds is also a great way of training, but this year it was extra special to bring all the teachers together – especially after two difficult years of dealing with COVID-19, lockdowns and school closures. We wanted to give the teachers something they would not easily forget”, noted Wilderness Rwanda Operations Manager, Ingrid Baas, who is also ultimately responsible for all CITW and community projects in the country.

CITW Community Co-ordinator Aline Umutoni ensured that everybody was introduced and comfortable for the night. A good rest was needed after a long journey and the busy programme coming up the following day.

Everybody was up early for breakfast and ready to get into the bus and head to our Wilderness Safaris offices in time to start the training at 8:30 am. Each school had prepared a short version of an Eco-Club lesson from our Term 3 CITW Eco-Club curriculum book. Every lesson was presented by each school, with the other teachers being the students for a change: a great way to assist one another with lesson ideas for the next term. With the third and last term of this school year starting on Tuesday 19 April, this preparation was very welcome.

Of course, the learning sessions were not only classroom-orientated, but we also did some ice breakers and energising games.

“We had so much fun, danced, sang and made jokes. Even the headmasters and headmistresses were jumping around”, said Aline.

After a morning of study, it was time to experience the outdoors!

The bus collected all the teachers and we visited the Umusambi Village on the outskirts of Kigali. ‘Umusambi’ is the word for grey crowned crane in Kinyarwanda. This unique conservation area is a beautifully restored wetland, providing a sanctuary for over 50 endangered Grey Crowned Cranes saved from the illegal pet trade. As well as the grey crowned cranes, this 21-hectare nature reserve is a peaceful haven for visitors to enjoy the walking trails and be at one with nature, while also learning about conservation work and the importance of protecting our natural environment.

Everybody really enjoyed the visit, which was followed by a late afternoon lunch at the onsite restaurant. Whilst enjoying the well-prepared meal, a WhatsApp group was created between all teachers, with promises made to share lesson plans, ideas and pictures for upcoming CITW Eco-Club lessons.

It was a very successful get-together and we parted saying when can we do this again!

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