Volunteering with Red Rocks Backpackers

I recently spoke to Greg from Red Rocks Backpackers in Ruhengeri about the many exciting projects they’re currently running, and opportunities to get involved.


Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Greg Bakunzi and I’m Rwanda and over the past 20 years, I have gained experience working as a Rwandan tour organizer and guide for various international tour operators. I am a co-founder and president of the Ruhengeri Community Eco-Tourism Association, a local association of people collaborating to enhance tourism development in Rwanda.

In August 2015, my name was added to the A- Team for Wildlife ‘Wall of Fame’ for my contribution during their Giving Grid Fundraiser. A-Team is an organization that fights to save endangered species of animals.

In 2017, I was privileged to be among 19 people who participated in Rwanda’s flagship tourism and conservation event (Kwita Izina ceremony), an annual ceremony for naming mountain gorilla infants born in the past year and is based on a traditional Rwandan naming ceremony for humans. Typically, this honor is for individuals with verified track records in conservation and tourism, be it locally or globally. Recently, I was appointed by African Tourism Board to be in their steering committee representing the interest of African members on the platform.

Can you tell use about Red Rocks Backpackers?

Red Rocks is a spacious and friendly backpacker hostel, campsite, and cultural center situated in a scenic valley surrounded by rolling hills with a spectacular view of Volcanoes National Park. It’s also a social enterprise that believes in responsible tourism that directly serves local people, providing them with opportunity and empower them by sharing their unique culture.

At Red Rocks Backpackers, every wall is covered with colorful​ artwork by talented artists and we offer a wide range of facilities. Our accommodation caters to visitors of all ages with fully stocked bar, different games, fire pit etc. Along with our sister tour company, Amahoro Tours, we provide various expedition and exploration packages that focus on indigenous wildlife and aspects of Rwandese, Ugandan and Congolese culture, and we also offer domestic tours of Rwanda, one-day tours, romantic getaways, nature walks, bonfire nights, as well as  team building activities.

What are some recommendations for fun things to see and do in Ruhengeri?

The incredible things to see in Musanze start with some of the things offered at Red Rocks like our cultural entertainment tour, banana beer making workshop, and loads of amazing walks and hiking. You should also see the Musanze Caves, Ruhondo and Burera Twin Lakes, Imbabazi (the former orphanage and that’s now a museum), Mugongo Caves, scenic walks around the volcanoes, the Diane Fossey hiking track and cultural tour, the  Karisoke Research Center, Lava Bike Tours, and so much more! There so many amazing things you have to see and do in Musanze!

What is the Red Rocks Initiatives for Sustainable Development?

Red Rocks Initiative for Sustainable Development is an African non-governmental organization that was established in 2017 with the overall mission of enhancing sustainable development in the Virunga Mountains region in East Africa. The organization believes in community-driven sustainable development, that supports locally-led environmental conservation and sustainable tourism initiatives which provides viable livelihoods for local communities that lift underserved communities out of poverty and instill in them a sense of purpose and pride. (http://redrocksinitiative.org/) It was founded on idea that tourism and conservation has the power to lift underserved communities around the protected areas.


What opportunities do you have for volunteers to get involved?

We have so many volunteer opportunities where they get involved in different activities that make the difference to the organization with no cost, which includes the following programs:

1-Music Licensing Program

  • Research: Calling music licensing companies worldwide to find out the process of what it takes to get in their database and get representation for Red Rocks musicians and Researching options for making money (ringtones, radio and music ads, TV commercials)
  • Logistics: Help the musicians record music and get registered into the licensing databases
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines and uploading updates on our new initiatives website

 2-International Artist Program

  • Research: Contacting art galleries with artists with themes of wildlife and social causes to see if they’d have our artwork there, as well as exhibit their artwork in Rwanda
  • Logistics: Finds artists and galleries that contribute their art to wildlife sanctuaries and social causes and invite them
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines and uploading updates on our new initiatives website

3.Reforesting/Tree Planting

  • Research: Contacting various tree planting and reforestation companies to inquire about collaborating
  • Logistics: Work with various tree planting and reforestation companies to collaborate on projects, help in assembling teams on the ground for tree planting as well as writing up instructions for making “seed balls” as part of our conservation education program
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines, create signs to go up in national parks, re carry in/carry out and recycling and nature facts and uploading updates on our new initiatives website

4-Youth Conservation Education

  • Research: Interview educators and primatologists and scientists to get input to add to our program, and best practices and contact fabric suppliers worldwide to ask for donations of fabric that local women will use to make costumes for the drama piece of our program
  • Logistics: Coordinate with schools/youth/families to make them aware and invite and Coordinate the advertising of the program to attract people to it
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines and create written materials for program like primate and nature facts and branding our initiative by saying it was developed with

5-Water Project

  • Research: Contact various water companies worldwide to see if they will assist with project
  • Logistics: Follow up with interested water companies and arrange conference calls and arrange support on the ground
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines and create instructional signs to go up nearby and uploading updates on our website input from “Rwandan vets and scientists, etc.”

6-Training and Development

  • Research: Look for volunteer teachers, trainers and online courses
  • Logistics: Create instructional materials, coordinate a night or day to have trainings at Red Rocks
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines and uploading updates on our new initiatives website as well as advertising our class offerings via partner websites, email blasts, and various interviews/advertisements

7-Women-led Initiatives

  • Research: Find women’s organizations and businesses in general focused on women, research social causes and wildlife causes started by women and Look at professors and trainers that focus on women,
  • Logistics: Contact people and organizations to see if they’d volunteer their time to do projects or train women at Red Rocks
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines and contacting universities and women’s organizations to advertise on their networks and uploading updates on our website

8-Conservation Talks

  • Research: Research free online webinars on conservation topics-both human and wildlife and Research on competitor’s programs to compare
  • Logistics: Work to get the project coordinated on the ground at Red Rocks-video, tv, people, reservations, etc. and arrange that pricing are set
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines, send them out to various websites that might be interested in posting it and upload the updates on our website

9-Field Research

  • Research: Researching scientists in ecology, botany, soil experts, researchers, various fields
  • Logistics: Contacting various scientist to invite to research center of Red Rocks and helping Red Rocks upgrade its center
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines once the center is upgraded, creating instructional signs to go up nearby research center and uploading updates on our website

10-Volunteer Network

  • Research: Get university students and other volunteers through the channels that Red Rocks suggests
  • Logistics: Invite them to volunteer then organize a database or spreadsheet of all the names, contact info and Interest
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines and Advertise via university networks and Facebook

11-Red Rocks Products

  • Research: Research stores in the US, Europe, Africa, Asia, worldwide-to see what it takes to sell our items to their stores and Research best commission splits for new products
  • Logistics: Contact stores, get information, draw up agreements for shipping orders and work to get Red Rocks labels (called Sweet Impact) to be put on product,
  • Marketing: Contacting local newspaper, radio and magazines, working with stores to advertise and uploading updates on our website

    Who can potential volunteers contact for more information?

The  potential volunteers could be contacting Red Rocks Communication Officer Mr. Mabris Rwaka  for more information on info@redrocksrwanda.com or info@redrocksinitaive.org.

What do you hope for the future of the Red Rocks Initiative for
Sustainable Development?

I hope the future of Red Rocks Initiative for Sustainable Development is to be an exemplary leading organization which enhance sustainable development in African region and beyond while supporting community-based environmental conservation and sustainable tourism programs that improved community livelihood through Environmental Conservation

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