The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has embarked on an exercise to transform a famous cave in Musanze district into a tourism site.
This was disclosed by Rica Rwigamba, the head of Rwanda Tourism and Conservation at RDB, while touring the site together with tour operators to assess the progress on Friday.
Located in Musanze district, the decades-old cave is about 2km. She said works are already ongoing. A meeting between tour operators and the department of tourism and conservation is scheduled next month to seal the cooperation to promote the place as a tourist site.
“We have been planning this for a while, our target is to increase tourism products; caves are part of products attracting tourists. We want to discuss with tour operators to help us let tourists know about our new products,” said Rwigamba, adding that within a month, they will announce the price of touring the cave after the consultations with tour operators.
Rwigamba also urged local leaders to help in conservation of the cave by preventing people from dumping wastes or anything which can pollute in the cave.
So far, the inside of the dark cave depicts a picture of a house with several rooms and corridors. The floor is paved and there are some stairs to ease movement.
The cave is said to have been a result of volcanic eruption decades ago.
Residents said they expected the cave to benefit them because they will get jobs. “The cave has been lying idle for years. Now people have started benefitting from it, some are guides there, others are cleaners, we hope as tourism grows more people will get employed,” said Pacifique Nshimiyimana, an area resident
Tourism was identified as a priority sector to achieve Rwanda’s development goals as set out in Vision 2020.
The cave is the newest tourism product in Rwanda; with plans to turn several other caves into tourism sites in the future, according to officials.
Last year, Rwanda’s tourism sector generated $281.8m (Rwf178b) up from $251.3m (Rwf159b) in 2011, according to 2012 Tourism Report by the RDB.
Meanwhile, RDB is also set to introduce hiking as another tourism product, Rwigamba announced.
“The country is hilly. There are people who like mountain climbing,” Rugamba said.
Akagera Park management launched a new Day Visitor Centre complete with a tented boarding facility. Launched on Tuesday, the new 14-bed Rusizi Tented Lodge is located right at the heart of the Akagera National Park.
The accommodation facility will supplement the Akagera Game Lodge, the main hotel inside the Eastern Province-based park. The centre, on the other hand, incorporates the park reception, a café souvenir shop and education centre. The infrastructure was set up with financial support of the US based Walton Family Foundation.
The Foundation has disbursed $500,000 per annum, from 2010, to finance the construction of the facilities under a five-year financial assistance programme that will total $2.5 million upon completion.
Rob Walton, the chairman of the foundation, and his wife, Melani Walton, attended the ceremony. Walton Family Foundation is a philanthropic organisation with a strong focus on conservation and biodiversity protection.
According to the park’s officials, the new infrastructure is part of an integrated tourism development plan aimed at increasing revenues for the park’s long-term sustainability. The Minister of Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, who presided over the function, said new infrastructure was an important step towards the park’s achievement of self-reliance.
“The Park has been performing well in the last three years or so…we expect it to do more, so that it can stop relying on aid. I also commend the support of Walton Foundation; local investors should borrow a leaf,” he said.
Kanimba noted that revenue from the industry is progressively increasing. “Tourism will remain number one for many years. It earns the country over $280m per year. This explains why we are committed to supporting the industry,” said Kanimba.
Jes Gruner, the Manager of Akagera Park, the largest in the country, noted that proper management and infrastructure development drastically increased the number of tourists. “In 2011, we had 20,000 tourists. In 2012 they increased to 23,000. The park has seen 40 per cent increase in visitor numbers and 73 per cent increase in revenue over the last three years,” he said.
Akagera Park, African Parks and Rwanda Development Board partnered to form the Akagera Management Company (AMC). This is a 20-year joint management agreement with a vision to restore, develop and manage the park to international standards.
Rica Rwigamba, Head of Rwanda Tourism and Conservation, RDB, said that tourism industry would increase its revenue by a large margin at the end of the year 2014. “We want our revenues to increase to $317million by next year,” she said.
Akagera National Park was founded in 1934.
The Workforce Development Authority (WDA) has earmarked Rwf500m to promote and professionalise art in the country.
Jerome Gasana, the WDA director-general, revealed this at a symposium on arts and craft organised by the Authority and the Rwanda Arts Initiative.
It drew artists, teachers, government and private institutions to discuss the way forward to develop arts and craft.
According to the State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Mathias Harebamungu, the first step is to expand the arts school of Nyundo (Ecole d’Arts de Nyundo) in Rubavu district, Western Province, to train more students.
The school will later have branches countrywide to nurture talent.
“Artists can’t be professionals unless they sacrifice and put more effort. The appealing arts products should market artists and the country,” said Harebamungu.
WDA has toured the country to meet talented people and gather their views on what can be done to equip them with skills to generate income like other paying professions.
The Education Ministry has set a curricula to cover arts and craft in primary and secondary schools.
The minister urged artists to define arts, be original, innovative and critical thinkers before seeking government support.
According to Gasana, the drive targets not only students, but other persons whose talents have not been tapped.
He said expanding schools of arts and craft will be done in Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centers (IPRC) are spread country wide.
“Promoting arts and craft is our priority. We want every artist to be competitive at international level,” Gasana said.
He said WDA is looking for qualified teachers in arts and crafts.
Michel Saba, an expert and staff from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Burkina Faso, who was invited to participate in the symposium, said arts and craft has in his country to the extent that artists earn a lot from it and contribute significantly to national development.
Saba said his country has been developing the arts industry since 1969.
Florence Boivin Roumestan, a Canadian consultant, said she has seen a lot of potential among Rwandan artists.
“Artists should work as a team, organise themselves and do lobbying so that the government supports them,” she said, stressing the need for arts schools and individuals to inculcate respect of copy right law of other artist.
Despite being an ideal tourist destination, many Rwandans have continued to ignore the beauty of their country while foreigners remain the best story tellers of the country’s beauty and wonders.
When Joe McDonald and Mary Ann, an American couple landed in Rwanda in 2003 for the first time, their main destination was the home to the rare mountain gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park.
On January 5, they celebrated their 75th visit to the gorillas.
“We decided to come very often and our 75th visit is not the last. We will keep coming until we reach hundred times and more,” Mary Ann disclosed adding that every year they make up to three visits to the country and five rounds in the park.
The couple has spent around US$ 1m in the visits with the friends they brought on board.
“There is no other place in the world where you can be so close to large wild animals and be safe,” McDonald told The New Times shortly after completing their record breaking visit on January 5.
Officials in the tourism department in the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) say they have never registered such a record from any Rwandan. Not even for ‘smaller’ wonderful packages such as the canopy walk in Nyungwe and the game safari in Akagera that are sold by various tour operators.
But although the number of tourists in general increased from 18,865 in 2009 to 27,000 tourists in 2011, according to statistics from RDB, Rwandans always lag behind their foreign counterparts in visiting parks, except in the Akagera National Park where about 10,362 Rwandans were registered to have visited the park, compared to 8,649 foreign tourists, in 2011.
There are also fewer Rwandans visiting the six museums and 80 historical sites in the country.
Statistics from the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (IMNR) indicate that by June 2012, of the 151,000 visitors to the six museums, 100,666 were Rwandans, an insignificant number considering their target is 600,000 local and foreign visitors.
Despite a steady increase in the number of park activities bought by Rwandans – 10,263 and 13,172 in 2010 and 2011- RDB believes they are still very few.
The explanations offered by Rwandans for not visiting the various tourist sites are diverse, including the most common one that prices are very high.
Most people The New Times talked to said they visit some of these sites only when the companies or institutions they work for plan to visit the parks, usually once a year. Otherwise, a family can barely plan a visit to a tourist site.
According to Innocent Bahati, a civil society activist, many costs involved such as transport, entry fees, picnic and sometimes accommodation make visiting tourist sites expensive.
“I feel that Rwandans, like most Africans, would rather visit places outside their own country,” observed Darla Rudakubana who visited Rubavu Beach once, adding that she has only started thinking of Rwanda as a tourist attraction recently.
To visit a park, a Rwandan resident pays about Rwf 5,000 and Rwf 30,000 against US$ 60 and US$750 for foreigners in Nyungwe National Park and Volcano National Park respectively.
In museums, the entry fee for locals is Rwf 1,000 against Rwf 6,000 for foreigners. Unfortunately, there is no fee set for the historical sites, regrets Alphonse B. Umulisa, the Director General of IMNR in charge of cultural tourism. And yet, most Rwandans don’t visit these either.
But Rica Rwigamba, the Director General of tourism and conservation at RDB, says the issue of price is an excuse because someone can spend much more on a night out with friends and family.
“We are conscious to make it accessible for Rwandans when it comes to price so I don’t think it is the impediment. More awareness, education and change of culture that tourism is for foreigners is what is needed. That’s our priority and we trust it will improve further and bring more local tourists.”
Working with schools for study trips and marketing destinations are some of measures that Rwigamba thinks will increase the number of local tourists.
Her views were echoed by Paulline Uwera who works with a telecom company in Kigali.
“The only problem we are facing here is the mindset. People think tourism belongs to the wealthy that have time to waste and money to spend,” she says. This should be the case. Rwandans need to be proud of Rwanda. And what better way than to know the country’s most beautiful and historical sites.
SOME OF RWANDA’S ATTRACTIONS
*Gisozi Genocide Memorial site
*Murambi Genocide Memorial site
*Rukari Kings Palace
*Huye Ethnographic Museum
*Natural History Museum
Eleven years ago, in 2011, Mary Ann and John McDonald hardly knew that a sovereign state called Rwanda existed. Only with the aid of American newspapers and online travel articles did they acquaint themselves fairly well with the country and, more so, its immense tourism endowments.
Talking of tourism endowments, the couple’s interest was specific and well-defined: gorilla tracking.
Against this background, the couple made its first trip to Rwanda in 2003. Mission: gorilla tracking and photography. Nine years on, and the sport of gorilla tracking has become almost more than just a mere hobby of the couple’s; it’s an addiction!
What else would one say of a couple that has so far made a record-setting 75 gorilla treks in the deeply endowed Volcanoes National Park in the Northern Province? And that’s not all. Anne McDonald remarked thus after their latest trek, which ended last Friday: “We felt one time was not enough, so we decided to come very often and our 75th visit is not the last. We will keep coming until we reach a hundred times and above.”
For his part, Joe McDonald said: “Tens of treks after our first expedition in 2003, we can honestly say that the magic hasn’t disappeared, the excitement is still as great, the experience still as unique and wonderful as it was at our first trek. We can’t wait to return and continue our experiences in what may be the most intimate and rewarding wildlife experience in the world today.”
Joe and Mary Ann McDonald are the most popular and active husband-wife nature photography team in the US today. The couple spends at least half of each year in the field, leading photo safaris to Africa and other remote destinations.
The couple spends most of its time leading and facilitating photo tours, safaris and workshops across the globe. Typically in a year, they cover at least six different continents. And Rwanda is by far the dearest to them among all places they have been to.
“There is no other place in the world where you can be so close to large wild animals and yet still be safe. These are animals that could take one’s head off but they are gentle,” remarked Joe as the couple concluded their latest expedition on Friday.
There was a triumphant and heroic mood in the air as locals gathered at the bottom of the Volcanoes Park to meet and greet the couple. The couple was bedecked in traditional Rwandan garb, in which they were crowned as a sign of their majesty in a small ceremony.
This particular visit was the third this year alone. On each of these visits, they bring a long at least six new tourists, who they offer practical skills in gorilla photography. “We basically get people through websites and articles, we invite them and we come together to share experiences of the wild. As they come they get hooked and some have returned on their own,” remarked Anne.
Touring aside, the couple is carrying out research into the life of the rare mountain gorilla species. They have collected numerous pictures, documenting gorillas’ lives.
Part of the reason for this particular undertaking is the fact that at present, the mountain gorilla is an endangered species. There are about only 720 mountain gorillas left in the wild, most of them concentrated in the rugged mountain slopes of five dormant volcanoes preserved by the Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda’s share of the mountain gorilla population is the largest, with over three hundred primates, while the rest are scattered between the DRC and Uganda.
“Gorillas are so big, so powerful and so gentle. Their strength is the most interesting; how they break bamboo and how they climb the mountain. Gorillas in Rwanda are so special and deserve visiting,” remarked Joe, adding; “We are so impressed with the country, how much progress it has made, how friendly the people are, how wonderful the roads are and, of course, how spectacular the gorilla photography is. The experience of trekking is fantastic, and the people are always so warm and friendly that you know that your tourist dollar, your business and visit, is appreciated.”
Joe contends that; “The shooting is one of the most moving and exciting experiences you’ll ever have. It’s exciting, intimate, and you’ll never suspect an hour can go so fast, or that so much can be crammed into that one hour.”
The photos they capture appear regularly in calendars and publications of the National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, and numerous other companies globally.
Joe has been photographing wildlife and nature since 1966, starting with images of pet turtles, lizards and snakes he made in high school. He is 60 years old, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, plus a Masters in Media degree. He taught high school biology for 6 years before completely devoting his time to photography.
His wife Ann has been photographing wildlife and nature professionally since 1990, after attending a photo workshop run by Joe, who would become her future husband. Since then, she has been published in most American natural history magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.
The Rwanda Development Board in partnership with Google has conducted the mapping exercise of Rwanda’s tourism attractions with the objective of increasing access to tourism information on the web.
Google mappers during the Rwanda Tourism MapUp 2012 exercise. (photo Bruno Birakwate)
The so-called Rwanda Tourism MapUp started in Kigali before continuing to Musanze and Rubavu where key touristic features and attractions were mapped to be added to the Google map list.
The mapping will cover hotels, restaurants, road networks, entertainment facilities, banks and forex bureaus, business and shopping centers, historical sites and geographic features among others.
”Rwanda is proud to be the first African country to work with Google, citizen mappers and tourism operators to systematically map all tourism facilities and attractions,” said Rica Rwigamba, RDB’s head of tourism and conservation. “The aim of this exercise is to increase discoverability through search engines where more tourism destinations are chosen by travelers worldwide.”
According to Rwanda’s sustainable tourism development master plan, the Internet is now firmly established as the most important means of communication in global travel industry. It is estimated that around 70% of travel decisions are made using websites.
Forty participants including professional mappers, GIS experts, university students and tourism operators took part in Rwanda Tourism MapUp, and it is planned that updates will be made regularly.
In 2011, tourism sector overtook coffee and tea to become Rwanda’s top foreign exchange earner. This was facilitated by increased flight frequencies by national carrier RwandAir and the arrival in Kigali of new airlines such as KLM. Collaboration among tourism stakeholders when promoting and marketing tourism and increased PR campaigns also boosted Rwanda’s tourism sector, which earned an estimated US$ 216 million in 2011.
Rwanda, the new preferred East African Destination – Interview with Ms. Rica Rwigamba, Head of Tourism and Conservation at RD
Why is Rwanda becoming a preferred destination for tourists?
For a couple of years, Rwanda has been doing a lot to showcase its touristic sites. Not only new attractions have been added to the existing portfolio, new facilities like hotels and restaurants have also opened. People feel safe to travel to Rwanda due to the peace and security that Rwanda enjoys and which makes it one of the safest countries in Africa. I can also add to this the warm hospitality which is characteristic of Banyarwanda, a clean environment as well as a possibility to have an all-in-one experience in Rwanda; from game reserve to high altitude scenery and indigenous species like mountain gorillas.
Talking about touristic sites in Rwanda, which are the major ones?
Well, we have the Volcanoes National Park; home of the world’s remaining Mountain Gorilla. This park attracts more than 50% of all our park visits. The Akagera National Park with hippos, giraffes, elephants, zebras and crocodiles; it is also the largest park in Rwanda and has more than 500 bird species. We also have the Nyungwe National Park with 13 primate species with the now famous Canopy Walk. Apart from parks, we also have Kivu lake and with the new Thousand Hills Trail previously known as the Congo Nile Trail which will give an opportunity to tourists to discover the various activities at the shores of Lake Kivu, from Rubavu to Rusizi. A lot of people also like to visit the cultural towns of Huye and Nyanza as well as Lake Muhazi.
Tell us more about the Thousands Hills Trail…
This new addition to the existing attraction was previously known as the Congo Nile Trail. It is a 227 Km hike stretching from Rubavu to Rusizi with various activities including biking, camping, sightseeing and many others. The Trail is a unique experience as the visitor is basically walking along the divide of the two major African rivers; Congo and Nile. The hike also gives an opportunity to visit tea plantations, fisheries along the lake, historic sites like the Shangi Post but also meeting with local populations and having a unique western Rwanda experience.
What is the state of the tourism infrastructure like hotels and restaurants in Rwanda?
We have increased our room capacity to more than 5000 within 237 hotels today. We have not only focused on the increment in number but also in quality and standards. In fact, we are completing a classification of accommodations in Rwanda and by the end of the year; we will present the first batch of this classification’s result. For a sustainable classification process, we now have 11 Rwandan certified assessors who meet the EAC Classification standards. These assessors will be doing the assessment on a regular basis to check if the requirements are met but also to encourage professionalism and raising standards for this demanding and ever upgrading sector.
What about professionalism in the industry practitioners?
As you know, tourism is the largest foreign exchange earner with more than $ 200 million per year. It is thus imperative to keep up this trend by having professional and qualified practitioners starting from tour guides, hotel staff but also waiters, drivers and many others who interact with tourists on a day-to-day basis. With institutions like the Rwanda Tourism University College and the Akilah Institute we now have a growing number of certified practitioners and the quality of service is improving.
We also noticed that the shift towards a private-sector led tourism sector with the investment and business friendly environment that is being facilitated by the Government will allow the market to continue growing and become more vibrant and professional.
Finally, what to expect soon in the tourism sector?
As I said earlier, we have the announcement of the accommodation classification that will come out by the end of the year. We are launching the Cave Tourism in Musanze Northern Province by the end of next year’s second quarter; we will also unveil new destinations especially in cultural and events tourism. We are promoting Domestic Tourism by encouraging Rwandans to discover and visit their country and new incentives will be announced to encourage this move. We will also continue to proudly represent Rwanda in various Tourism forums to attract more tourists and so far this has proven to be effective, not only due to the number of visitors that it attracts but also due to the visibility that Rwanda attractions have been gaining over time.
(CNN) — The tiny landlocked nation of Rwanda may be known for its violent past but tourism officials are hoping, with the help of mountain gorillas, that travelers will see for themselves why the “land of a thousand hills” is worth a visit.
Rwanda is one of just three countries where the world’s population of mountain gorillas can be observed in the wild. In addition to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, gorillas also inhabit Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park. These parks border each other and the area the mountain gorillas call home is known as Virunga Massif.
Gorillas filmed up close in the wild
Volcanoes National Park is about two hours from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. The drive to the park will make it obvious why Rwanda is referred to as the “land of a thousand hills.” Locals cultivate the lush green hills where the gorilla treks begin, and there are five volcanoes in the park.
The scenery is stunning from a distance but it may lose its appeal as you make your climb in search of the gorillas, who will determine the altitude and incline of the hike. The trek up the mountain can be challenging, with thick brush, fire ants and stinging nettles.
It can take minutes or hours depending on where the gorillas decide to rest.
“The gorillas don’t need any visas or passports to leave one country and go to another one,” the guide jokes as he leads a group of eight tourists up the side of the mountain.
Lucky visitors will see the animals feeding and crushing through the underbrush, babies running around and full-grown gorillas inching toward observers loudly declaring their importance. Hikers are not permitted closer than 10 meters, but the gorillas are under no such restriction and may creep closer, as tourist heart rates increase.
As with most wildlife tours there are no guarantees of gorilla sightings, but the odds of seeing them are good, according to Simon Gluckman, president of Intrepid Expeditions. “In 11 years I’ve never had someone in Rwanda not see the gorillas,” says Gluckman.
Gluckman tells his clients to prepare for treks up to 9,000 feet above sea level. “If the gorillas are moving one particular day and there is somebody having a hard time keeping up physically then that person may not see them.”
Visitors need a permit to hike up the mountain in hopes of seeing a family of mountain gorillas. The cost is $500 per person and permits are limited to 56 a day. Permits should be purchased well in advance and they can be obtained through a tour company or directly from the issuing organization, the country’s Tourism and Conservation Office. Included in the price are the guides assigned by the park.
Once the mountain gorillas are located, visitors will spend an hour watching these incredible animals. “We only have one tour a day for one hour in order to give the animals free range,” says Felix Semivumbi, a guide in the area for 24 years.
Perhaps not as high-profile but also worth the time is a trip to see Rwanda’s golden monkeys, and the price of the permit is less expensive than for gorillas: $100 per person.
The monkeys are also located in Volcanoes National Park. This tour is a good way to get adjusted to the altitude, which when tracking the gorillas can be at elevations from 7,000 to 9,000 feet, and it offers a taste of what to expect on the mountain gorilla trek if visitors do this first.
“It’s a shorter walk to the golden monkeys than the mountain gorillas” since the gorillas are found at the higher altitude says Semivumbi.
Unlike the gorillas, which move at a slower pace and tend to rest as a group in one place, the monkeys keep tourists on their toes. “They are fast so we have to be fast,” says Semivumbi.
Once spotted you may be following the monkeys as they swing from the treetops overhead. Watching them you will realize how aptly named playground equipment such as monkey bars and jungle gyms are; only here the equipment is bamboo.
Seeing these endangered animals in their natural habitat is worth an extra day in the area. There’s only one tour per day for the monkeys and one overlapping tour for gorillas, so you can’t visit both the big and small primates in the same day.
It’s possible to visit several of Rwanda’s many memorial sites commemorating the 1994 genocide in a day.
Learning about the country’s history is important in understanding the people and places you will encounter, says Rwandan Ambassador to the United States James Kimonyo.
The Rwanda of today is a different place than the country that once dominated the news, he says.
“It is one of the safest places to visit,” says Kimonyo. “You can go out at night and not be bothered.”
That wasn’t the case less than two decades ago when ethnic violence in Rwanda erupted and Tutsis were systematically murdered by Hutus in 1994. It was a time when neighbors killed neighbors and old friends became bitter enemies.
“If you knew me and you really knew yourself you would not have killed me.” This quote by Felicien Ntagengwa, a survivor of the genocide, is found at genocide sites throughout the country including the Kigali Memorial Centre.
Located in the capital, the Kigali Memorial should not be missed. It is a disturbing yet honest look at this country’s horrific past. The center estimates that more than 1 million — mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus — were murdered within 100 days during the genocide.
Exhibits introduce you to children such as 4-year-old Ariane Umutoni who was “stabbed in her eyes and head.” Outside in the quiet courtyard, remains continue to be placed in mass graves as they are discovered.
Many churches around the country are no longer places of worship but places to pay respect to those who died while trying to escape death.
Instead of safe havens, some churches turned into places to find easy prey to massacre.
Nyamata and Ntarama are two churches about an hour outside of Kigali. The bullet-riddled roofs and clothing of those killed are reminders of the people who huddled inside in hope of being spared.
A guide at Nyamata Genocide Memorial said more than 10,000 people were killed at the church and in the immediate area. The yard of Nyamata is now a mass grave where freshly cut flowers are left by those who survived. Down in the crypt is a powerful display of reality that some may find unnecessary to view: rows upon rows of skulls and bones.
People are still healing, but Rwandans have opened their past in order to embrace the future.
Tourism is important in rebuilding, says Kimonyo, and thankfully Rwanda has enough natural and cultural history to make it worth a stamp in your passport.
Rwanda is actively working to grow its tourism sector in as sustainable a way as possible and the efforts are succeeding. RwandAir’s fleet is expanding and new flights and airlines are coming.
RwandAir adds second B737-800 to its fleet, which will provide service to Johannesburg, Dubai and Lagos. With the planned 2015 opening of the new Bugesera International Airport south of Kigali, Rwanda is becoming well positioned to be a major transportation hub for Eastern and Central Africa.
- Turkish Airlines announced that they will launch a direct route from Istanbul to Kigali in April 2012. Kigali is their 18th destination city in Africa. A code-sharing agreement between Turkish Airlines and RwandAir will increase access even further. Turkish Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, which includes Lufthansa and United Airlines.
- KLM launched service to Kigali via Amsterdam less than a year ago and now offers daily service via KLM and KLM/Kenya Airways.
- Ethiopian Airlines offers weekly service from London Heathrow via Addis Ababa.
- SN Brussels Airlines flies from Gatwick and Brussels to Kigali four times a week.
The Rwanda High Commission and Suffolk Council have certainly been breaking bread over the past year! The relationship started when Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk was chosen to host the first ever Rwandan Olympic Team in 2012
Since then, the High Commissioner and other Diplomats at the High Commission have worked closely with Suffolk to keep up the relationship
One of the best relationships formed have been with King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds where the pupils are overwhelmingly enthusiastic to learn about the country, take on the culture , partner and visit schools in Rwanda
Below are a few of the events that have taken place with the school;
RWANDAN EMBASSY VISIT
King Edward VI School and Hardwick Middle School students were excited to be special guests of Rwanda House (The Rwandan High Commission). They were treated to a tour of the embassy, learning about the famous hand-made Peace Baskets as well as other arts, crafts and a sample of traditional Rwandan dancing at the World Travel Market. They were particularly taken by the connoisseur coffee which Wynn Rees, our Fair trade ambassador at King Edward VI has taken to serving to all our guests at school, and will be looking to source a variety of Rwandan products for sale in school. One of the projects our students will be working on is creating markets for Rwandan products in the town, as well as further afield through an online business.
Spearheaded by our special guests from the Rwandan embassy and diaspora (names), Rwanda week at King Edward VI School saw an explosion of colour and celebration. Students learnt the art of Rwandan bead making, sampled traditional food, hosted charity sports events and held a showcase event for 7 partner schools (some 200 primary school students), focussed around the Olympic and Paralympic values and the link with our Rwandan Olympians. Students watched videos and listened to stories of Rwanda from people with real experiences. The showcase was the launch pad for a town-wide poetry competition to be judged by Waterstones, the prize being a sightseeing trip to London including visits to the Olympic Park and Rwanda House.
Charity work and Rwandan – English school links:
Engalynx and Rwanda Aid charities were represented and a cheque for £2004.27 was presented to Rwanda Aid. Both charities support sustainable development in Rwandan schools. An impressive piece of international liaison between Mururu School (King Edward VI School’s partner school) and Rwanda Aid enabled children in Bury St Edmunds to see video footage of Mururu school showing a “virtual tour” of their school, a personal address from the Headteacher and a group “hello” to King Edward VI School students. We hope to send King Edward VI staff and students out to Rwanda to work alongside Rwandan students in sports leadership, dance, music, drama and art projects as well as literacy and maths.
English and PE lessons
PE lessons focussed around how the government in Rwanda is using sport to develop solidarity, reconciliation and relationships. Three hundred and fifty students fourteen year old (year 9) students developing poetry styles in English lessons through the stimulus of the film “Hotel Rwanda” and the Olympic Values
Other events included film screenings, African drum workshops, displays of Rwandan arts and crafts, assemblies tracing the recent history, and focussing on the current status of Rwanda as a beacon of good practice in Africa.