CITW Rwanda successfully co-hosts 2 Conservation Camps for 80 children

Eighty young Children in the Wilderness (CITW) learners from six schools in Rwanda’s Kinigi area were hosted on two tremendously successful four-day Conservation Camps in August 2023.

From Monday 7 through Thursday 10 August, CITW Rwanda, in partnership with Conservation Heritage-Turambe, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and Muhisimbi Youth in Conservation, ran the first camp for 40 students. From Monday 14 to Thursday 17 August the second camp was held for another 40 learners.

Early each morning the children were collected by bus from their respective schools and transferred to the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, where a number of the workshops and fun activities took place. On the fourth and final day of camp, an outing to Wilderness Bisate was on the programme, focusing on reforestation and the importance of looking after their environment.

At the end of the day, the same buses took the children back to the Bisate, Sancta Clara, Kamwumba, Rushibi, Nyabitsinde and Gs. Nyange I primary schools. All the children were selected because they are members of the Environmental Clubs at their schools and amongst the most motivated students of their clubs.

During their workshops, the students learned about gorilla behaviour and ecology, the national parks of Rwanda, threats to biodiversity in Volcanoes National Park and the necessary actions to help protect it, plus the importance of birds in ecosystems. There was also time for arts & crafts, many different games and songs, and of course snacks and meals, which were very popular.

The Wilderness Bisate field trip included a visit to the indigenous tree nursery, followed by hiking one of the nature trails on the property. In the nursery the children were welcomed by the Bisate agronomists who explained the process from seed to sapling to tree, the importance of biodiversity in trees and how to look after a sapling. The students were very interested and asked many, many questions. Whilst hiking on the nature trails the different trees were identified and more questions followed. The visit to Bisate ended with each child choosing their own sapling to plant at their home.

From Bisate, a conservation parade back to the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund followed. With a police escort, the group of children marched through the community singing songs which carried their conservation message. What a sight it was with all these yellow t-shirts marching through the villages!

The closing ceremony of the Conservation Camps took place in the presence of sector leaders, RDB representatives, the Headmasters of the six schools, and journalists from the local newspaper and television station.

During the camps, the children shared stories on how they were using what they learned at home.

Justine Mutesi from Bisate Primary School told her fellow students: “When I arrived back home, my daddy asked me what I have learned. I told him that we learned how to protect and conserve the environment. Next time if I see someone going in to the park, who is not supposed to go there, I will inform other people. Daddy asked me if even a mouse is important to protect and I said YES! It is very important because the mouse is part of the web of life”.

Richard Shema from Kamwumba Primary School said, “I explained to my mum how everything is connected and how we need each other to survive. When you cut the grasses the herbivores cannot survive, and if the small animals die the carnivores cannot survive. If they cannot survive, even the people cannot, so we all need to work together and protect everything, from small to big animals and plants”.

The very first – and equally successful – Conservation Camp in Rwanda took place in 2019. Since that time, five Conservation Camps have taken place (apart from 2020 and 2021, when the programmes were postponed due to COVID regulations).

“It looks like we are getting better at these camps each time we run them!” noted Aline Umutoni, CITW and Community Co-ordinator for Rwanda. “We are so happy that we can do this together with our partners. This increases our impact in the area, and because we do this together we can achieve so much more!”

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