Earlier in August, after a month-long ‘Go Fund Me’ campaign, Classic Africa Safaris (CAS) delivered dry goods and supplies to the 464 registered gorilla trekking porters who assist tourists as they track the endangered mountain gorillas on the slopes of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was suspended and the porters’ primary means of income disappeared.
The campaign aimed to supply maize meal, rice, beans, sugar, salt, bar soap and cooking oil to the unemployed porters in Bwindi. With the cessation of tourism, the porters struggle to sustain their families. Along with the support of CAS’s North American travel trade partners and past safari goers, the campaign raised over US$12,000. Additionally, CAS covered the costs of the vehicle, driver and logistical staff on the reconnaissance trip to Bwindi and on the four-day food delivery mission. Mahogany Springs Lodge accommodated the CAS team free of charge during the supply delivery.
“We saw a need and set out to support our community here in Uganda in an unparalleled time,” said Phil Ward, co-director at CAS. “It was a massive undertaking, but with the help of generous folks from around the world, we’ve made a truly significant impact.”
Many of CAS’s partner companies in North America reached out to their extensive list of travelers and made appeals for support. Several past visitors to Uganda, eager to help, wrote in with the name of their porter and personal notes about how crucial they were to their gorilla trekking experience.
“My heart breaks for all my staff, guides and porters worldwide right now,” said Cathy Ann Taylor, owner of Cattara, a California-based travel company and partner of CAS. “This is a much-needed fundraising project and we are so happy to be a part of it.”
With the assistance of a wholesaler in the town of Kabale, the CAS team sourced the goods and repackaged them into individual 10 & 5kg portions to maintain sanitary protocols and ease distribution to the registered porters. The goods were distributed at each of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Bwindi headquarters with the assistance of the five Bwindi Porters Associations and the UWA.
“Since COVID-19 started here, we have not been working and therefore times are hard,” said Aggrey, a registered Bwindi porter. “We have seen this food now and we are very happy and thank you all very much."