A note from Azizi Life:
We are thrilled to have been chosen by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to facilitate the gift shop, artisan demonstrations, and artisan Experience days at the new Ellen DeGeneres Campus, which opened on February 1st!
Read all about it in this guest post from our friends at the Fossey Fund.
The Ellen Campus has opened just outside Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and we are thrilled to be partnering with Azizi Life to open a gift shop on the site, where we offer beautiful, sustainable, locally-made goods to all Ellen Campus visitors.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is the world’s largest and longest-running organization dedicated entirely to gorilla conservation. Our work combines daily, boots-on-the-ground protection and study of individual gorillas with people-centered programs aimed at training the next generation of African conservationists and addressing the basic needs of the people who share the gorillas’ forest home through food and water security, livelihood, and education programs.
Azizi Life’s mission to partner with rural Rwandan artisans as they craft a better life aligns perfectly with our work to help the people who live near the gorilla habitat.
“Our Ellen Campus provides a space to engage the many stakeholders in conservation—not just scientists, but also community members and tourists,” says Dr. Tara Stoinski, the Fossey Fund’s president and chief scientific officer. “Our partnership with Azizi Life gives tourists yet another reason to visit us, and their purchases at our gift shop will help improve the lives of the people they encounter while visiting Rwanda.”
Our multi-acre, eco-friendly facility adjacent to Volcanoes National Park (home to more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas) includes three main buildings—the Sandy and Harold Price Research Center, the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery, and the Rob and Melani Walton Education Center—as well as housing for visiting students and researchers. We’ve created an extensive ‘living laboratory’ on the former agricultural site through the planting of more than 250,000 native plants and the inclusion of green roofs, water harvesting and a constructed wetland for wastewater treatment.
The Ellen Campus is designed to support Rwanda’s ecotourism sector. Managed by the Rwandan government, tourism to see the gorillas plays a critical role in providing revenue for the park as well as supporting local communities through employment and revenue sharing. Tourists who visit us can immerse themselves in an interactive, educational exhibit located in the Cindy Broder Conservation Gallery. Designed to tell the story of mountain gorilla research and conservation from Fossey’s time to modern-day, it includes original, never before displayed artifacts from Dian Fossey’s almost two decades of living amongst the gorillas, stunning visual effects through a 360-degree immersive experience, as well as augmented and virtual reality and numerous edutainment opportunities to learn more about the science and the people behind the conservation success of mountain gorillas. Visitors can also walk along the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Interpretative Trail, which aims to educate visitors about the critically important biodiversity of the region.
After their tour, guests can purchase coffee and a snack at the Gorilla Café, and then visit our shop to purchase Azizi Life items, such as handmade baskets featuring gorilla noseprints—individual gorillas can be identified by their unique noseprints, and the talented artisans at Azizi Life have woven images of these prints into their traditional Rwandan baskets. Artisans will also be on hand to offer demonstrations of their work. For guests who would like to experience a taste of local life, Azizi Life’s new artisan partners are hosting cultural Experience days on their farms. Artisans welcome guests into their homes, invite them to participate in a morning of family chores, share a home-cooked lunch, and teach their guests a local skill like weaving, cooking, or building. It’s a wonderful way to experience the hospitality and traditions that make Rwanda a unique and beautiful country.
When you are in Rwanda, we invite you to join us at the Ellen Campus to learn more about the importance of protecting endangered mountain gorillas and their habitat, and to support local artisans through a purchase at the gift shop.
The Ellen Campus is open to visitors starting February 1, 2022. For more information or to book a private tour, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund visit gorillafund.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @savinggorillas.