Dona Douglas, our esteemed Director of Data and Donor Information at the Fossey Fund, embarked on a journey to Rwanda earlier this year, marking a significant moment in her six-year tenure with our organization. Her visit was not just a mere adventure but a profound encounter with Rwanda’s natural beauty and the Fossey Fund’s vital conservation efforts. Here, she shares her firsthand narrative of this life-altering expedition, which deepened her dedication to gorilla conservation.

The Journey: Anticipation and Arrival

The excitement was palpable as Dona eagerly awaited her trip to Rwanda. Despite a hiccup with Atlanta traffic almost causing her to miss her flight, she successfully made her way to Kigali alongside her colleagues. Landing in Kigali after a twenty-three-hour journey, Dona brimmed with anticipation for the adventures that lay ahead. After a much-needed meal at a local eatery and a restful night’s sleep, the true exploration commenced.

Exploring Rwanda’s History and Resilience

Dona’s journey began with a poignant visit to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, where she gained profound insights into Rwanda’s tumultuous past. Witnessing the resilience of the Rwandan people in the face of unimaginable tragedy left an indelible mark on her. Despite the painful history, Dona was inspired by Rwanda’s collective efforts towards reconciliation and nation-building.

Venturing into the Heart of Rwanda’s Beauty

The scenic drive to Musanze offered Dona glimpses of Rwanda’s breathtaking landscapes. En route to Volcanoes National Park, where the Fossey Fund’s Ellen Campus is nestled, she marveled at the verdant hills and lush vegetation that characterize Rwanda’s countryside. The sight of majestic volcanoes looming in the distance heightened her anticipation for the adventures awaiting her.

Immersed in Conservation Efforts at Ellen Campus Dona’s visit to the Ellen Campus was a surreal experience, having been involved in its planning from afar. As she explored the campus, which houses essential facilities like the Education Center and Research Center, Dona felt a sense of pride in contributing to its development. Stepping into the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery, she was transported back in time, breathing in the essence of Dian Fossey’s legacy.

Rwandan Culture and Craftsmanship

Dona’s immersion in Rwandan culture extended to a visit to Kinigi village, where she engaged with local artisans supported by the Fossey Fund. Donning traditional attire and sharing a meal with the community, she forged connections transcending cultural boundaries. Witnessing the artisans’ craftsmanship firsthand left Dona in awe of Rwanda’s rich heritage.

Empowering Communities Through Cooperative Initiatives

A highlight of Dona’s journey was witnessing the transformative impact of community initiatives supported by the Fossey Fund. Visiting a cooperative involved in mushroom cultivation, she witnessed firsthand the tangible benefits of sustainable livelihood projects. Dona’s heart swelled with pride as she listened to community members share their success stories.

Encounter with Mountain Gorillas

The pinnacle of Dona’s Rwanda Visit was undoubtedly her encounter with the mountain gorillas. Guided by experienced trackers, she embarked on a trek through the dense forest in search of these magnificent creatures. Amidst challenging terrain, Dona’s awe only deepened as she came face to face with the gentle giants in their natural habitat. The profound connection forged in that moment affirmed Dona’s unwavering commitment to gorilla conservation.

Reflecting on her journey, Dona acknowledges that words alone cannot capture the depth of emotions stirred by her Rwandan adventure. Yet, her experience reaffirmed her role as a conservationist and the vital importance of the Fossey Fund’s mission in safeguarding Rwanda’s precious wildlife heritage.

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