26 June 2020RWANDA – As part of its ongoing support of the five villages surrounding Bisate Lodge, on 19 June Wilderness Safaris Rwanda conducted a third distribution of essential supplies to 634 people and 158 families. Valued at over USD2 000, 3.5 tons of dry goods were handed over to grateful community members at Bisate Primary School. The company also covered the health insurance of 244 community members, ensuring vital access to reliable medical care during this time.“Once again, we are extremely grateful for the in-kind contributions from our Bisate guests who have made these donations possible over the past three months. From a list compiled by the village leaders and the Executive Secretary of Kinigi, we have now contributed over 10 tons of essential supplies, valued at USD7 000, to the residents of Bisate Village. We were also thrilled to be able to further support the community this month by paying their Mutuelle de Santé community-based public health insurance. This is paid annually in June, and is vital to ensure medical cover for those most in need”, notes 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. As restrictions begin to ease in Rwanda, a number of individuals have had the opportunity to go back to earning a living, thus making it possible for Wilderness Safaris to support other families who do not yet have the same opportunities.Eased restrictions also meant that Ingrid was able to travel from Kigali to join the team at Bisate for the handover: “It was a humbling experience, and the people were extremely grateful. Seeing this made us realise how vital our support has been for the communities, and how important it is to continue this outreach until tourism starts again in Rwanda. The village leaders also expressed their gratitude for the assistance they have received and the way people’s lives have changed since we started operating Bisate”, she adds.This forms part of Wilderness Safaris’ commitment to community empowerment and its ongoing partnership with the Tuzamurane Cooperative, which was formed in 2016 during the construction of Bisate Lodge. The Cooperative helped formalise the close partnership between Bisate and the community, and currently comprises 236 members who are involved in a variety of Bisate projects, including indigenous tree propagation and planting, supply of fresh goods, casual labour and construction work.“Since the lockdown and other travel restrictions were put in place, revenue for the Tuzamurane Cooperative has diminished, and therefore our help to cover the public health insurance for all the 236 members was very necessary – and appreciated. We also extended our contribution to cover health care for four teenage mothers and their babies, who are not part of the Cooperative and are struggling to provide for their daily needs”, says Ingrid.In addition to these COVID-relief efforts, Bisate supports the community throughout the year, including providing employment and upskilling of villagers, with more than 60% of Bisate’s permanently employed staff coming from the surrounding area. Even with the current challenges, all Wilderness Safaris Rwanda employees still receive a monthly salary and secondary benefits, including private health insurance for themselves and for their family members. This contribution has positively impacted the individuals, their families and by extension, the greater Bisate community.“We will continue to do what we can to assist our staff and partner communities in order to minimise the challenges brought about by COVID-19, and look forward to the day when we can welcome back our guests to our beautiful lodge”, Ingrid concludes.ENDS.