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Experience rich heritage and local culture on the Bwindi Community and Philanthropy Tour16 Sep 2022

The mist-shrouded Bwindi National Park is regarded as one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet and home to one of the rarest animals on Earth: the Silverback Mountain Gorilla. Setting off gorilla trekking, and finally looking into the expressive dark eyes of one these majestic giants is a genuinely unforgettable encounter. As well as the exclusive opportunity to get up close and personal with the elusive mountain gorillas of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, guests at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp can learn more about the local area and culture on a Community and Philanthropy tour.

Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp is committed to supporting the local community and preserving the heritage of this history-rich area, protecting the nature and culture of Bwindi. At the heart of the camp’s philanthropy initiatives is involvement in various projects – the camp supports Bwindi Community Hospital, and Ebenezer Nursery and Primary School, and has initiated the Bwindi Women Bike Enterprise.

Embark on the half day (3-4 hour) Bwindi Community and Philanthropy tour and take a walk through a local tea farming project, meeting the tea pickers and learning how to pluck leaves along the way before visiting the Bwindi Women’s Bicycle Enterprise and the Bead Making Project. Then meet the Batwa People, learn about their culture and listen to stories, before visiting the Ebeneezer Nursery and Primary School and Bwindi Community Hospital and Nursing School.

Bwindi Women’s Bicycle Enterprise
The Bike Shop Program empowers local communities through mobility: health care workers can see more patients, students can make the journey to school, middle- to low-income workers can get to work in an affordable manner, and families can carry more goods to and from home. The Bwindi Women Bicycle Enterprise employs six local women living in communities around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park who have gone through an extensive training program to learn business skills and how to be bike mechanics. Guests at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp have joined us in supporting restock shipments on a regular basis to the bike shop.

Batwa Development Program
The Batwa people are the oldest inhabitants of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. More than 4,000 years ago the Egyptians described them as short-statured people living near the ‘Mountains of the Moon’, extolling their skills as dancers and storytellers. For millennia, the Batwa pygmies were hunter-gatherers living in harmony with the forest and the mountain gorillas. In 1992, the Batwa were evicted from the forest when Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was designated as a World Heritage Site to protect the endangered mountain gorillas. The Batwa Development Program, overseen by the Batwa themselves, has helped to address this injustice through the provision of education, land acquisition, food security and sustainable income. The Batwa Experience was created as a tool to preserve their customs and traditions and to teach their youth about their heritage. Guests have the privilege of witnessing their musical goddess-visitation-inspired performances, learning about the Batwa’s rich culture and listening to their animated stories of old.

Ebenezer Nursery and Primary School
The challenge of meeting the educational needs of a growing community and establishing a new school is daunting for any community – and even more so in one of the most remote corners of Uganda. The Bwindi Ebenezer Primary School currently serves 124 pupils providing learning opportunities for children living in communities around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Sanctuary Retreats, with the help of our guests, supports the building of classrooms and the administrative building, as well as providing resources vital to the student’s education. Guests can learn how the local community has partnered with Sanctuary Retreats to provide a safe learning environment while also gaining a glimpse into the challenges faced all too often by rural African communities.

Bwindi Community Hospital
Obtaining quality health care in sub-Saharan Africa is a challenge, particularly in remote regions. To address the health needs of the Batwa pygmies and the surrounding tribal groups, the Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH), was started in 2005 by an American couple. BCH has grown to become an internationally acclaimed, full-service hospital and is a teaching institution for medical students, residents, and researchers from around the world. The hospital has grown to a 112-bed facility providing health care for 40,000 patients annuals. The dedicated staff also send outreach teams to surrounding villages to ensure all people have access to health care and health education. BCH’s community/public health efforts have resulted in vast improvements in maternal and child health, prevention of diarrheal diseases and malaria, and advancement in nutrition. Gorilla Forest Camp and its guests have been instrumental in the provision of pediatric, maternal health, HIV, and surgical services at BCH.

Uganda Nursing School Bwindi
Nurses are the backbone of health care delivery and health education around the world. Through the generous donations of two Gorilla Forest Camp guests, and the support of Rotary International, Uganda Nursing School Bwindi (UNSB) has become a highly acclaimed nursing school which produces a compassionate and dedicated cadre of nurses. UNSB has grown to a student body of over 400 and has achieved both national and international praise. UNSB has a special emphasis on community health and preventive medicine as well as ultrasonography.