At the just concluded Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual baby mountain gorilla naming and conservation ceremony, Amahoro Tours and Red Rocks Cultural Centre founder Greg Bakunzi was among the 19 namers – a star-studded list that also included Howard Buffett, the son of American billionaire investor Warren Buffett, as well as acclaimed Nigerian movie star Patience Ozokwor (commonly known as Mama G).
Bakunzi became the first tour operator in Rwanda to be given the chance to name a baby gorilla, an honor that is usually reserved for international celebrities and conservationists.
“Mr. Bakunzi has been a tour operator in Rwanda for very many years, during which he has made immense contributions towards community development and sustainable tourism,” the day’s emcee introduced the Amahoro Tours founder as he stepped forward to give a name to an 11-month-old mountain gorilla.
Bakunzi named the baby mountain gorilla Tembera U Rwanda (meaning visit and explore Rwanda) amidst cheers from an 80,000+ audience, which also included Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
“Many people come to Rwanda to see mountain gorillas. I named the gorilla Tembera U Rwanda because I want people to come to Rwanda to see more than just gorillas; I want them to stay longer and also experience our unique culture and history,” Bakunzi said after the ceremony.
Ever since he founded his flagship tour company Amahoro Tours in 2002, coming up with different life-changing initiatives that help improve the quality of life for the locals around the Volcanoes National Park – home to the mountain gorillas – has been Bakunzi’s modus operandi.
One such initiative is the Red Rocks Self-Help Scheme, which aims to lift Rwandan jobless women and youth from extreme poverty by availing them goats, sheep and pigs that they can raise in their homesteads and subsequently earn some income.
Through the Red Rocks Self Help Scheme, the center also trains the youth – at no cost – in key areas of the hospitality industry. Many of the youth have been trained at the center to be waiters, chefs, waitresses and tour guides.
“Our mission is to equip the youth with the skills they need to enhance their employability,” says Bakunzi. “But we also teach rural women and youth how to speak English, which we do with the help of volunteers, in order to help them easily communicate with English-speaking tourists.”
Another initiative of the Red Rocks Cultural Centre that has helped empower local communities is its Eco-Tourism Homestay Program, which ensures that locals earn a living by hosting some tourists as guests in their homes.
Such initiatives have helped bring together community, conservation, and tourism for sustainable development.
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