Sat in the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge has stunning views of the folding hills and rolling landscape that defines this part of Rwanda. It is considered one of the most luxurious lodges is the area, and given its proximity to the start of the gorilla trek trail, it is perfect for a gorilla safari, an experience of a lifetime that is both thrilling and humbling.
The lodge itself offers a contemporary Rwandan ambiance, and the hillside location makes it accessible to some of the nearby villages and farms. In addition to gorilla safaris, the benefits the lodge brings to the local community are immeasurable. Thousands of locals benefit from the SACOLA (Sabyinyo Community Lodge Association) and as such the lodge is very well known within the community and wider area.
The lodge recently decided to invite local children aged 10—15 years old to visit for a careers inspiration day in order to give them an insight in to the tourism industry and help them realize the different jobs that are available within the lodge. The aim was to attract 30 children and they would spend the day moving around all of the departments learning about how each operates.
When the morning arrived they had 25 participants signed up but when Yvonne the receptionist when to collect them she was greeted with 82 smiling faces all hoping to come for the experience! There is now a second careers day for the other 52 children who were desperate to come and learn.
The children were given an introduction to the lodge and information about the clients and what they expect from a stay at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. They were then taken to their first department; housekeeping. Room steward Jolie explained all of the different aspects of housekeeping and what everything in the room was and why it was needed. The hairdryers proved a huge hit and the children were “blown away” with this novel idea! Each child was wide eyed with intrigue at all of the details in the rooms and the jobs that must be done. The whole day was fully interactive with the children putting in to practice what they were learning about.
From housekeeping they moved on to garden and maintenance, security, kitchen and food and beverage. In each department the staff would explain the role and jobs that they were required to do and then the children would participate in an activity themselves. They were extremely interested in learning about how to correctly set a table in the dining room and what each item of cutlery was used for. Restaurant waiter Kanani was able to teach the children, including his own son and daughter, all about laying the table and the role of a waiter within the lodge.
In order for the children to consolidate everything they had learned they participated in a quiz at the end of the day and were treated to a lunch and cake . Each child received a certificate of participation from the lodge, new pencils and a gorilla carving.
The children gave their own feedback from the day and it would seem that they thoroughly enjoyed their time. Yvonne, the receptionist, explained that they loved it so much and that they felt like they had learned so much that she suggested it is something that should be an annual event.
This is a fantastic example of the warmth and community spirit of the Rwandan people. It is vital that local communities are involved in tourism, especially where local education and understanding plays such a crucial role in the conservation of such precious wildlife as the mountain gorillas.