BISATE, Rwanda, April 2020/ — April 2020 – As part of its ongoing commitment to community empowerment, Wilderness Safaris Rwanda will be distributing essential food parcels containing maize meal, beans and soap to 565 members from the five villages surrounding Bisate Lodge for the next three months. The company is also doing everything it can to ensure that Bisate staff still receive a salary during this uncertain time, especially considering that as many as 10 people are dependent on one salaried family member.
“We are committed to doing all we can to assist both our staff and partner communities, in order to minimise the challenges brought about by COVID-19. All our Rwandan employees are still employed and receiving medical aid covering themselves, their spouse and children, plus benefits like pensions, etc. In addition, more than three tons of maize meal, beans and soap – valued at some RWF1 828 000 (USD2 000), will be distributed to our community families each month. In the event that the situation carries on for longer than expected, we hope to be able to increase the number of families that we’re currently supporting through in-kind support and guest donations”, says Ingrid Baas, Wilderness Safaris Rwanda Operations Manager.
Many of the villagers around Bisate are subsistence farmers who rely on their jobs at the lodges and other companies in the area for extra income; many also sell their baskets and wood carvings to visitors. Showcasing its commitment to working closely with local communities, Wilderness Safaris Rwanda began by obtaining information from the village leaders on the 157 households (some 565 people) who are in dire need of support.
With further assistance from the leaders, Aline Umutoni – Community and Children in the Wilderness Coordinator for Rwanda – and Bisate employees gathered at Bisate Primary School the day before the first handover to prepare the parcels for each family. 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.
On the day of distribution, 17 April, all individuals washed their hands at the Tippy Taps upon entering the school grounds, and the villagers adhered to social distancing instructions and remained one metre apart while waiting their turn. The team worked tirelessly to ensure that all families received the correct supplies.
Upon receiving the parcels, the villagers expressed their profound gratitude, thanking Bisate Lodge and its guests for their continued support. “We thought they might forget about us, but they have kept on thinking about us. We are together in this”, says Gilbert, one of Bisate Lodge’s neighbours.
“Our heartfelt thanks go to our Bisate guests who donated funds so that we can make projects like this become a reality. It is in difficult times like these that we need to come together with solutions to ensure a sustainable future for ecotourism. While the conservation value of people travelling to our camps becomes all the more clear, Wilderness Safaris Rwanda will continue to make a positive difference; working closely with community leaders to assist our neighbouring communities during this challenging time”, concludes Ingrid.