A group of 20 volunteers will accompany President Beata Umugwangwali to oversee the installation of 20 computers in a
computer lab/internet cafe.The computers were donated by Wentworth/Douglass Hospital in Dover, NH in 2011, reformatted by Beata’s brother,
Fidele (oversees the network for the hospital) before being sent to Rwanda in luggage of friends of the “family” of Friends of Butare.
A contribution of $1500/volunteer will cover ground costs. Some sightseeing is included, except for the gorillas.
Accommodations: Motel du Mont Huye
The motel consists of 20 rooms, only 18 of which have a double bed. Mosquito nets come with the room, but mozzies were never a problem during the 2007 or 2008 build. The shower and toilet are in a separate room, and a wash basin and mirror are in the same room with the bed. There is a closet and a small dresser in each room.
The hotel is located about 100 yards off the main road through Butare. There is a Persian-owned grocery store just a few steps down the main road that offers plenty of things to augment the diet provided by the Hotel Mont Huye. The central market is just past the main intersection in town which is located just a few steps from the main road.
Hot water is solar heated so
visitors need advance notice that “navy” or “African” showers are the
order of the day. First you fill the bucket in the shower with
hot/warm water and pour as much water over your head as you need
to get wet. Then you shampoo/soap up and, when ready, rinse off by
pouring the rest of the bucket of water over your head.
Food is served to the group in
a central location (all 3 meals each day). The food is basic but
quite edible, and the group leaders will be working with the owner,
our sponsor in Butare, Vincent Semuhungu, to provide food more
suitable to a western diet.
Breakfast 7 to 7:45 AM
Lunch 12:00 to 1 PM
Dinner 7:00 PM
Drinks .. alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served in a
central courtyard which became the “Pau hana” (stop work in Hawaiian)
gathering spot for the volunteers on a daily basis. Sometimes we
had the space to ourselves; other times we shared the space with
local visitors. The beer comes in very large bottles and has a
level of alcohol higher than what is available in the US. All
alcoholic beverages must be paid for by the volunteers.
Internet / Cell phone access
Internet access is available via DSL in the hotel office for a
Cell phone service is available through AT&T provided international
access had been acquired before departure from the US. Excursions
when we’re not working!
Transportation is provided by FOB,
and most everything is within walking distance (except the gorillas),
but if you want transport, it is available at the main road. Bicycles
carry passengers, motor scooters carry passengers, VW mini buses
carry people further distances, and a very large bus provides
transportation to and from Kigali.
Each volunteer is asked to contribute $1500 wich also covers the
cost of accommodations for the two weeks. A deposit of $500 towards
the full cost is required at the time you commit to the project.
The work day
The work day starts with breakfast
at 7 AM, followed by a 10-minute walk to the school where work will
start at 8 AM. Lunch break is from 11:30 til 1 PM, and pau hana (stop
work in Hawaiian) is at 4 PM. Dinner is served at 7 PM in the central
What to bring
The climate is very pleasant. Butare is located at 5800′ in elevation;
so the days and nights are cool. Humidity averages 95%, and the
temperature ranges from a high of 75 to a low of 54. Season to season
temperatures vary about 5 degrees. Very much like Hawaii.
Bring work clothes that you don’t mind getting painted and you
might want to consider leaving the clothes when you leave. Many
people bring 2 sets of clothes .. they work in one and sleep in
the clean set. Others put on the same dirty clothes every day!
Up to you.
Laundry? The old fashioned “scrub in a bucket and hang outside
on a line” is all that’s available so it might take more than a
day to dry your clothes. I was asked if I wanted anything ironed,
but I didn’t exercise that option so I have no opinion on the
quality offered. The laundry work was of high quality considering
the lack of machinery. No, I didn’t see a single Laundromat the
entire time I was in Butare.
The mountain gorillas spend
most of their time in the hagenia woodlands and bamboo forests.
During the rainy season when new bamboo shoots are growing, the
gorillas spend more time foraging in the bamboo forests (base
altitude). The climb to the natural habitat of bamboo forest and
hagenia woodlands offers fantastic views and is quite strenuous.
The slowest walker is usually put at the front of the queue to
set the pace, and stops are frequent to give everyone a chance to
catch their breath.
Hire a porter. They work for tips only, and they will carry
camera equipment, bottled water, etc., leaving your hands free
to pull yourself up the hill. And, they’re there to pull you up the
hill too if you need them! Or to keep you from falling
down the hill!
The Parc National des Volcans (PNV) was Dian Fossey’s base a
long time ago (She died on the 26th of December 1985), and it is
at the Karisoke Research Center that during 18 years she carried
out her study on mountain gorillas.
Security: Two armed security guards accompany each group ..
one at the beginning of the queue and another at the end of the
How far is the walk? It depends upon where the gorillas are,
but trackers go out at dawn to locate the family, and the trackers
are in radio communication with each group; so the walk is as short
as possible, but you should plan to walk up to 2 hours in each
direction. Only one hour visitation is allowed, and visitors must
keep 7m away from the gorillas at all times.
Go to this
website for more information.
There are four gorilla groups habituated for tourism.
- Susa group has 35 individuals
- Amahoro group has 11 individuals
- Sabyinyo A group has 13 individuals
- Sabyinyo B group has 4 individuals
- Group 13 has 7 individuals
Only 8 people/day are allowed to visit each family so permits
must be obtained as early as possible. Please indicate your desire
to add this excursion on at the time you commit to the trip.
The cost of the gorilla excursion is in addition to the cost of
the project but will be all-inclusive; i.e., hotel the night before,
the private mini bus to PNV and return. Plan on $ 600 per person.
Cameras: No flash is allowed
The gorillas are found at 8,000′ .. high elevation .. so take your
time, drink lots of water, and stop when you need to.