Picture a group of young people led by a highly trained and Certified Interpretive Guide. They’re looking for birds, monitoring endemic species in one of the most significant rainforests in East Africa. Imagine this is your group – twenty-five enthusiastic young people who want to learn more about their environment and hundreds more waiting behind them in area schools. Now imagine the tools you have at hand – just two binoculars and one well-worn field guide. For the entire group.
Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a group of thoughtful, committed citizens of Rwanda. These young men work as guides in Nyungwe National Park, an incredibly diverse and beautiful forest that provides 70 percent of Rwanda’s water supply. They are also working tirelessly to develop a conservation ethic among the people of Rwanda to ensure that the country has a healthy environment in the future.
The Biodiversity Conservation, Hygiene, Sanitation and Environmental Management Cooperative (BIOCOOP) is committed to building an economically stable nation through projects related to natural resources management, biodiversity conservation, and environmental protection. To accomplish this mission, the group has initiated a number of projects that are showing results in greening primary and secondary schools, creating jobs for youth, training youth in entrepreneurship, business development and projects management, ecosystem regeneration, establishing environmental clubs, and creating a tree nursery.
The president of BIOCOOP is Ange Imanishimwe, a passionate young man with a B.S. in Biology and a Certified Interpretive Guide, who believes that working with youth is the key to a sound economic and environmental future for Rwanda. The BIOCOOP has identified projects that will train and employ young people, helping them contribute to sustainable development of the country. Additional projects target community members around the park and throughout the country to raise awareness and promote positive actions related to conservation and environmental issues.
I continue to be inspired by the people of Rwanda and throughout East Africa. They exemplify Margaret Mead’s quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” In some of the poorest countries on the planet, they have not lost hope of building a better future by sharing their vision and attempting to create new social norms. But they need your help to make their efforts sustainable. Each project identified by BIOCOOP has a specific budget to support stated goals and objectives. I encourage you to visit their website and learn more about the specific ways in which you can become a part of their projects.
In the meantime, if you have an extra set of binoculars you’d like to donate or any textbooks related to conservation, environmental management, hygiene, sanitation, or other environmental issues that could find a new home in the BIOCOOP’s community library project, you can send them to us and we’ll see that they get to these thoughtful, committed citizens of Rwanda. You can make a difference by helping them to do so.
Send binoculars and books to Heartfelt Associates – Rwanda BIOCOOP, 1105 Harris Drive, Fort Collins CO 80524.