It all began with a few soccer balls! In the fall of 2008, Swinton Griffith, a junior at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, flew to Nairobi with a black duffle bag loaded with soccer balls. As part of a safari designed by Tom LaRock and Safari Professionals, Swinton shared those soccer balls as he toured schools in Kenya and Rwanda on behalf of the East African Children’s Education Fund (EACEF), a non-profit organization founded by Westminster students. The goal of EACEF is to enhance the educational opportunities in impoverished and underperforming East African schools through facility construction and improvement, educational programming and community empowerment initiatives.
Upon his return to Atlanta, Swinton embarked on an ambitious plan to help the Bisate School in Kinigi, Rwanda. The Bisate School, attended by 1,800 primary and secondary students is located outside Ruhengeri, Rwanda near the Volcanoes National Park, home of the endangered mountain gorillas. Swinton initiated a partnership with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) to provide infrastructure and programming support to the Bisate School. The Bisate Project was launched as a jointly designed project with all funding for the $250,000 initiative being supplied by EACEF. DFGFI staff, based at the Karisoke Research Center in Ruhengeri, carries out on-site development and oversight of the project.
In May, 2009, EACEF staff members laid the cornerstone for a new six-classroom structure built to UNICEF specifications. In January 2010, the first phase of the Bisate Project was completed at a cost of just over $115,000. On January 14, 2010, the new building was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alecia Lilly, an acclaimed primatologist who ran the African operations of DFGFI. Dr. Lilly worked tirelessly to bring the needs of humans and wildlife closer together and this building will serve as a testament to her legacy and impact on the Bisate community. The structure was named “Umurage” Building, meaning legacy in the Kinya-rwanda language of Rwanda.
The second phase is currently underway and will completely restore and renovate seven additional primary classrooms as well as construct the first library for the Bisate School and its community. Phase 3 will include the construction of a secondary school building. To date Swinton and EACEF have raised $150,000 for the Bisate School.
Safari Professionals was pleased to design and conduct the safari for Swinton and his family that is leaving a lasting impact on thousands of children in the Bisate community in Rwanda. To learn more about the Bisate Project and how you may help, please contact us.