By Joseph Ondiek
Community development is a key plank in Red Rock Cultural Center efforts to link Tourism, conservation and sustainable development, the tagline of the center’s mission.
Since its inception in 2011, Red Rocks Rwanda continues to formulate different programmes closely linked with tourism and community development. Located in Musanze district where tourism is quite vibrant, the programmes clearly demonstrate how tourism can be used as one tool to bring sustainable development within the communities surrounding tourist attractions.
Jeanne Uwingabiye is a 35 year old woman. She has two children still in their primary school. Her husband passed away five years ago, leaving her with the sole responsibility to look after the children.
Uwingabiye has no education background at all. She dropped out of school when she was still just a child. She didn’t receive any form of inheritance from her husband when he passed on. But she is determined to ensure that her children don’t suffer the same fate, and that’s why every morning she heads to Red Rocks Rwanda to try her fortunes at the opportunities she might find there.
She knows how to weave baskets and make the traditional beer, and she demonstrates her skills to tourists who visit the center, at a fee that she uses to buy her family the basic needs and educate the children.
“I’m happy that I can be able to use my skills to make handcrafts that are marketed and sold at Red Rocks. This is better than just sitting at home the whole day, begging for food from people who don’t have it in the first place. Despite being a widow, I’m now fiercely independent, and I’m able to educate my children through the work of my hands,” she says.
Belta Ntawangakaje, 74, is a mother of seven children, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Her husband passed on five years ago, leaving her to fend for some of her children and grandchildren who’ve been left orphans.
A member of Amaboko y’Imigisha Cooperative, they do handcrafts work like weaving, making jewelry and pottery. But since Hands of Hope was established by Red Rocks, she says her life has improved tremendously.
“Before we used to depend on odd occasional tourists who happened to visit our homesteads or the cooperative to purchase our products, and this was quite rare. But now, with Hands of Hope, we bring in our products and tourists who visit the center purchase them and Red Rocks gives us the proceeds,” she says.
But that is not the end. She adds that often, Red Rocks invites them when there are tourists who want to have local experience like making banana beer and they show them how to.
“We help them make local beer and they give us money in the process. It’s also a good way we bond since through this they get to know our traditional culture,” she adds.
Theophile Kamana, heads of special programmes at Red Rock says their latest programme initiated at the center is the bakery that they established in December 2017. Here, local women are trained how to make bakery products like bread and cakes, and some of them are employed in the bakery.
“They can use the skills they acquire here to look for employment or start their own businesses. We have a trained baker who trains these women the art of making bakery products and we also have a shop where those who can make the products can sell them,” says Kamana.
Some of the women, like Emma Mutoni, 29 and a mother three expressed her hopes that the skills she is gaining from the bakery project is going to make her to become self-reliant in the future.
Joseph Ondiek @theinspirerpubl
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