Can you imagine losing family and friends in a brutal genocide, attending school without the financial and moral support of your family, continuing to support your younger brothers and sisters in school while you work as a park guide two or three hours distant from your home? Over the last two years, we’ve been working with Rwandan national park guides who really want to continue their education and to improve professionally in spite of the challenges they face in doing so. They are given few tools to do their jobs other than their uniforms. That makes it challenging to continue professional development and growth that helps them provide the kind of quality effort that they desire.
Their modest pay and family obligations often make computer technology inaccessible. An annual salary of about $3,000 leaves little or no disposable income, and yet, these guides have great hope for the future. I recently asked our park guides if and why a laptop would make a big difference in their lives.
“Since the world is becoming a small dot, it is of utmost importance to have a computer in order to access to Internet which helps us to improve our knowledge by doing research as well exchanging experience with other people.” Gilbert
“I want to start a masters’ program . . . if possible you can help me to achieve my dreams.” Cesar
“Seeking a personal computer to help . . . advertising of our National Park and connect people . . . by the inspiration and appreciation of all travelers.” Eric
“. . . I would say that as a guide who is always serving others in a very sensitive and fragile field; we should be supported and equipped with knowledge, skills, and equipments; if not we will keep on serving without those, but just with our heart. Musafiri B. Christian
We want to help 25 Rwandan guides and reception staff at Nyungwe National Park to realize their dreams by acquiring a laptop for each of them. We hope to help them bridge the digital divide. It will require $400 per machine to pay for the computer, add necessary software and pay for secure delivery to Rwanda. These young men and women help protect primates, endemic birds, and parklands in this most densely populated nation on Earth. At the same time, they are helping to rebuild their country’s economy and lessen dependence on foreign aid through providing quality tourism experiences. They work with local communities to minimize depreciative behavior and exploitation of forest resources by providing opportunities for more appropriate activities.
Tobias Merriman, our son and a computer network professional at Southern Illinois University, has volunteered to load each machine with licensed software that gives them full “office” and Internet browser capabilities. We will use DHL or UPS to deliver the machines securely to the guides and they will provide photos and thank you letters to us that we will share with donors.
This effort is not tax-deductible for we do not have a charity in the middle. We have spent our lives working for nonprofits, but now work as consultants with organizations that make a difference in conservation and helping communities around the world. We take no administrative funds from this and will not spend any of the money on anything other than the computers, software and shipping to the guides. Our website http://heartfeltassociates.com will report on progress and share photos of the guides. We will personally donate two or more computers as our income this spring allows. And we will carefully manage delivery of the machines so they end up in the hands of guides, not postal handlers or bureaucrats along the way. We want to help individuals. And we want to share their stories with you.
If you wish to make a contribution to this effort, go to indiegogo.com and give a contribution of any amount comfortable for you. The website takes 4% of the total campaign for their services. We have 45 days to raise $10,000 (25 times $400 = computer cost, software, and DHL or UPS) under the agreement with Indiegogo. If we do not realize our objective of $10,000, they still provide the amount raised and we will use that to assist the most deserving individuals based upon their applications for a laptop.
Many foundations and government programs provide assistance to African governments and agencies in protecting wildlife and supporting communities struggling with hunger, AIDS and malaria. We think that’s great, but we want to help some of the individuals we know personally who will put this technology to work improving their lives and their efforts to conserve and promote the national parks in Rwanda. Won’t you help us with a gift of some size reasonable for you?
Thanks for helping make a difference! We have been blessed with great support in our lives – paying it forward feels right. Visit our donor campaign page – Help Bridge the Digital Divide In Rwanda – HERE!
Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu