Virunga’s widows of Fallen Rangers gather outside the completed sewing cooperative with park staff and GEO’s Eva Danulat.
Post and photos by Kate Malone
After several years of planning and building, Virunga’s Sewing Workshop for the Widows of the Fallen Rangers has opened. The workshop was created to help widows regain a sense of control over their lives after suffering the devastating loss of their ranger husbands. These women have faced challenges that most people can’t even imagine, yet as you can see from the images that follow, they are doing so with grace and determination.
The much anticipated grand opening of the Widows Workshop was organized with the help of the Mikeno Lodge team in Rumangabo and special guests. Deputy Director and Southern Sector Warden, Innocent Mburanumwe opened the ceremony along with Eva Danulat from GEO Rainforest Conservation.
Eva Danalut of Geo Rainforest Conservation cuts the inaugural ribbon. Unfortunately, representatives from Rainforest Rescue, the other key donor, were unable to attend.
Innocent opened by thanking the widows for their role in protecting Viirunga National Park. Innocent also asked everyone in attendance to observe a minute of silence to honor all of the park’s Fallen Rangers. Although this moment brought tears to the eyes of the widows and others, sadness gave way to a deep sense of pride and appreciation.
Deputy Director and Southern Sector Warden, Innocent Mburanumwe, explains that each star represents a ranger killed in the line of duty — 153 in total.
A beautiful sampling of napkins made by the widows that are for sale at Mikeno Lodge.
The ultimate goal of the Widows Sewing Workshop is to help support these women to get beyond bare subsistence. Equally important is to foster a sense of community and strengthen their optimism for what the future holds.
Meet some of Virunga’s widows:
Fifi Sekibibi – Rumangabo (Ranger husband: Emmanuel Masira, Children: 2)
Jeannette Iyaremye – Rumangabo (Ranger husband: Bitgetsimana Gasusa, Children: 4)
Domitila Nyirahabimana – Bikenke (Ranger husband: Ngundaguhaye Mberabago, Children: 3)
Valerie Kawa Katungu – Kiwanja (Ranger husband: Michel Seminane Rafasha Imani, Children: 6)
Sakina Salambongo Masika – Kiwanja (Ranger husband: Ngomeza Kimbere, Children: 6)
Anna Zaninka – Rumangabo (Ranger husband: Habimana Bujari, Children: 4)
Marie Bendanduyuka – Rumangabo (Ranger husband: Semiteja Safari, Children: 5)
Noella Wimena – Rumangabo (Ranger husband: Habimana Ndibwami, Children: 5)
We would like to thank our partners GEO Rainforest Conservation (www.regenwald.de) and Rainforest Rescue (www.rainforest-rescue.org) who have been very supportive along the way. The realization of this project would not have been possible without their help.