In June 2012, a Canadian tourist, Shelley Buss, visited the Red Rocks Intercultural Exchange and Backpackers’ Campsite in Nyakinama village, Musanze district.
She was immediately inspired by what she saw. Of particular interest to her was the women community conservation programme. Women from the community engaged in commercial farming and basket-weaving at Red Rocks, selling their products to visiting tourists.
She expressed her life-long desire to be part of a development project in a developing country like Rwanda, adding that she would be more than glad and willing to help fund such a project financially.
The person to who she expressed this desire was Greg Bakunzi, the Operations Manager and co-founder of Red Rocks. It was a timely accident of fate; in as much as Shelley was eager for an opportunity to help give back to the local community, Greg, on the other hand, was praying to God to grant him a savior for the project before it collapsed. That savior came in the name of Shelley Buss, and for this, Greg feels forever indebted to her.
She returned to Rwanda in August, this time with her mom, who had been moved by Shelly’s touching stories from Rwanda. This time, Shelley devoted most of her time to sitting down with and talking to the women in the community, trying to understand better their daily lives, their emotional, economic and social struggles.
Greg describes her as “a visionary woman who shared a lot in common with the local community.”
Currently in Canada, Shelley is aiding the women conservation project by scouting for new markets for their handcrafts. She describes Community-based tourism as “a tool for peace and dialogue among civilisations.”