Message from John Kahekwa in the field -Jan 2021 –

2020 was a very difficult year.

The good news to share is that POPOF has managed to address all sicknesses and hardships that the Kahuzi Biega National Park rangers have faced in the last ten months. These were and still are:-
1.   Ten unpaid months. 
2.   Lack of daily rations when deploying to patrols. 
3.   Lack of equipment such as rubber boots, rain jackets. 
4.   Limited fuel for trucks to allow deployment of rangers in the field for patrolling in search of infractions in the park, etc. 

The last funds for buying the rubber boots and rain jackets for rangers were donated by the POPOF UK team in 2019. Imagine one pair per person and one jacket to a person wearing these everyday and no missing days?! Both items were already torn. The funds for the last rations composed of sardines, maize flours, rice and medications were funded by our friends at Africa 2030 nine months ago under the Covid 19 crisis. 

This time the rangers of Kahuzi have suffered a lot of the daily empty stomachs and naked body but obliged to deploy in the forest in search of infractions. As a former ranger who lived in the same parade everyday in the KBNP’s yard for 23 years and who faced such difficulties, I could not resist hearing each of them crying and alarming for the starvation. 
I went and introduced myself to our partner Tanglewood in New Zealand. Papa Pierre, the owner of Tanglewood, could not resist after hearing the cries of the brave men and women who are defending and dying for the noble causes of the conservation of the last Eastern lowland Gorillas in the East of DRC. He did what he could and made transfers to allow POPOF to buy all of the rations, medications, fuel, boots and rain jackets. 

Two weeks ago, POPOF after buying all necessaries rented one truck which made two trips to transport the necessaries to the park headquarters at Tshivanga. Ms Hunt, the newcomer in the large family contributed with money which allowed us to rent the two trips done by the truck to transport items from Bukavu to Tshivanga. We were also able to rent some other vehicles for covering such a big day.

It was very nice seeing the immense joy and happiness in the eyes and hearts of the park authorities when seeing the way a local or Congolese NGO highly coming to recourse the governmental institution which is the KBNP. 
POPOF was escorted by the General of the Congolese Army and the chief park warden from Bukavu to Tshivanga. He was deeply touched when he saw POPOF remitting to him the pump of diesel in order for the KBNP authority to be filling fuel until they reach 1,000 litres for the daily patrols in the park.
Him and the KBNP chief warden felt so proud to see the rented truck doing two trips carrying food and others for the rangers use when patrolling. He gave a good speech to rangers to congratulate the partner POPOF for such great assistance. The chief warden said:
”When some people saw me signing the partnerships with POPOF, they were jealous and said it was better to sign only with big International  Organisations like WCS, KFW, GIZ. Where are they today during this hard time of financial crisis?”
He added, 
“I remember I happened to free the ecological corridor of this park a long time occupied by rich politician farmers for breeding their cattle. It was with POPOF rations, fuel, medications and fuel again which allowed us to reach the freedom of that sector”. 
POPOF took the word and said;
”On behalf of POPOF, my family, my partners and myself, I am honoured to see I can stand here between a general of the Congolese army and the KBNP chief warden for assisting the park. The KBNP is my pride, my horse of battle, my victory. I and my family and my descendants shall work for it as far as it shall keep existing.” 

I cited the names of all of you to them by citing your Congolese names and they were much more stunned. I added that as long as POPOF is the partner of the KBNP my trusted friends based overseas shall remain the friends of the KBNP.

That day for the foods and equipment from our side to the KBNP brave rangers was so bright. 

It was very nice to see how the drone which is used in the park for the first time is from POPOF-Africa 2030 since the park exists in 50 years. 

I talked to my family Odette and sons and said ‘’Be happy and be ready forever to serve the KBNP with fidelity”. 
There’s nothing we can’t we do for the park and for the communities around when we are as one!

Merci beaucoup, Koko bwenene.

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