One of the highlights of 2018 was opening GRACE’s Education and Community Center in November. This is the first facility at GRACE dedicated to our education and community initiatives. It will function as the meeting place for all our onsite education activities, most notably our local visitor program. GRACE is not open to the general public, but we host small groups twice per week so that local people can learn about wildlife conservation and see the gorillas. For most visitors, this experience is the first time they ever see gorillas, despite living next to them for their entire lives.
Over the past few years, we have invested in staff training and curriculum development for our local visitor program as well as necessary infrastructure (education trail, public toilets, large observation platform for gorilla viewing). However, all our activities had to take place outside. This meant that, due to the unpredictable weather and heavy storms in the Kasugho region, people often got wet! Now with the new Center in place, we can continue our activities rain or shine without interruption.
The Center will also serve as an office for GRACE’s four-person education team and a secure storage facility for our education materials and equipment. The educators have waited years to have a space of their own, so they are thrilled. Education Manager Honoré Mustafa said, “We are very happy to find a space where we’ll be working freely and calmly.” In addition, the space will be a meeting place to coordinate GRACE’ s community projects such as our fuel-efficient stove program. Community members have also expressed interest in organizing additional trainings, including English and French lessons, and this new space will be perfect for accommodating such activities.
The GRACE Education and Community Center was designed and built by our experienced facility team with the help of a local engineer. The project generated around 150 temporary local jobs (masons, carpenters, porters, brickmakers, sand and rock excavators, etc.). The furniture was even made by GRACE staff! The Center, like all GRACE buildings, will eventually run on solar power, once funds for solar panels are secured. We would like to thank the Disney Conservation Fund and other GRACE supporters for making this dream a reality!
View construction progress of the GRACE Education and Community Center:
About GRACE: Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center is the world’s only sanctuary for Grauer’s gorillas. The largest primate in the world, Grauer’s gorillas only live in war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Their numbers have dropped by nearly 80% in the past 20 years due to heavy poaching. They are considered one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world with only 3,800 remaining. GRACE cares for 14 orphaned gorillas rescued from poachers and works to rehabilitate them so they can return to the wild. At GRACE the gorillas live in a single gorilla group that functions as a surrogate family and spend their days in 39 acres of forest. GRACE also partners with local communities on education and conservation initiatives to protect a critical population of wild gorillas living in Tayna Nature Reserve. For more about GRACE, visit: www.gracegorillas.org.