I have some very exceptional friends, so when Dina--who supports our beach cleanup and helps organize my yoga class--said she was competing in a new monthly quiz night, I was not surprised. Our surfer friend who often comes to Robertsport on the weekends was leading Dina's team and had decided to give the winnings--if they won, of course--to Robertsport Community Works. And you know what? They won!
Special thanks to the team leader and his team (you know who you are), who raised $250 for the NGO!
What are we using the money for? Well, Benjamin and other young men from the village have been working informally with us to create a rainforest walk through the Robertsport old-growth coastal rainforest. It's a protected area, an Important Bird Area (not my capitals) and a RAMSAR site (important wetlands--not my acronym), so there's plenty to see.
There's also saw grass, which is just like it sounds. Nate pointed it out on an early walk and I scoffed. How sharp could it be? Bleeding ankles and forearms later, I repented being so blithe. Now, the guides have strict instructions to avoid saw grass at all costs. It does not make for a pleasant tourist experience.
Anyway, this $250 will pay for the start-up of the project, which is just what we need. We've advertised for a volunteer to come and help us set the walks up, but we don't have the cash stipend the two highly qualified candidates would've needed to stay for a couple of months. After all, airfare here is a hefty $2,500, more or less.
So, here's what's on our project list as we get started:
- Birds of West Africa and Mammals of West and Central Africa: These classic and rather expensive guide books will help Benjamin and the other guides identify the birds they know and learn their western names, as well as what they eat, where they like to perch and other fun stuff. I'd love a similar book for trees...
- Eco-Tourism Guide t-shirts for the guides to wear when they're leading a walk: This will help them look professional, although I'm sure they'll want ID cards too. All our project staff ask us for ID cards.
- Cash to develop and draft a map and species list of likely will-sees--trees, birds, insects and maybe lizards. We'd like to have the map onto and to add photos to it on Google.
- Guide training: Ben and the others know the forest like the back of their hand, but that doesn't mean their ready to lead inquisitive tourists on a two-hour hike. Guide training will include first-aid, guest relations, when to share information and how to best pace the group.
- Promotional photos and brochures: It would be great to have photos to share with Liberian tourism and conservation sites online, as well as a simple brochure to advertise the walks and encourage people to join on walks.