THE STORY OF JACKIE M. GATERA OF ‘LA BAMBOU GORILLA LODGE’
(Posted 01st September 2013)
(Jacky, seen here with Mt. Sabinyo in the background)
Recent trips to the Land of a Thousand Hills once again brought me face to face with the many developments which have marked Rwanda’s march towards economic progress over the past years. New hotels and resorts have sprung up across the country, new tourism attractions have been developed and launched and notably it was the Rwandans themselves driving this agenda and tapping into a fast growing market to create wealth, prosperity and jobs.
Mrs. Jacky Gatera caught my eye when spending time in Musanze, formerly known as Ruhengeri, the launch pad for tracking the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys which can be found in the forests of the 5 volcanoes making up the magnificent backdrop in the distance beyond the town. She was introduced to me by another tourism icon, New Dawn Associates’ Anny Batamuliza, during the course of a familiarization tour by the Ereka Group, which NDA is part of, for East African tour and safari operators and the media.
Jacky, like many others, returned to her motherland in 1994 and, before becoming an entrepreneur, worked with such companies as Total Fuel, BTC, ACDI and even Rwanda Telecom. As president of the Women’s Association she engaged the group in making furniture to give members an opportunity to earn incomes for their families.
Jacky’s dream though was to start her own business and what better sector of the economy to choose than tourism, which has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years.
In May 2009 did Jacky start her project in earnest, using savings as well as loan capital to embark on the construction of the ‘Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge’. When she had completed the construction in June 2010, she was able to offer 9 twin and double rooms and one family cottage, set in what I would call an ‘organically grown garden’ where local shrubs and flowers attract many bird species, giving their bird song performance to the guests at dawn and throughout the day. Jacky manages the lodge herself, together with her staff, most of them recruited from the Musanze area. She also acts as a tour guide when requested to take her guests to the other parks of Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest and Akagera, or to Congo Nile trail which hugs the scenic shores of Lake Kivu as it makes its way up and down the hills from Cyangugu via Kibuye to Gisenyi.
One percent of the revenue the lodge makes goes to the Women’s Association according to Jacky who when asked said this regular donation is ‘to help the women of Rwanda, the children of Rwanda, help families and help my country Rwanda’.
That spirit also is manifested in her private life where, married with four kids of her own, she adopted another three orphans, to bring them up, educate them and give them a chance for a good life ahead of them.
Jacky has joined the ranks of the likes of Rosette Rugamba, Rica Rwigamba, Gaudence Rusingizandekwe of Hotel Muhabura, Mme. Odette of Paradis Malahide, managerial cadres risen through the ranks like Evelyn Karamagi and many unnamed others, who have and continue to make an impact on Rwanda’s tourism industry. They are the best examples of the equality which the New Rwanda has brought to her women folks and of how a country does develop faster and further when equal opportunities are availed. Tales from Rwanda, truthfully told. Until we meet again during one of my future trips to ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’.