Olentangy Valley News

Sale gives Rwandan gorillas, people a helping hand

Part of Holidays in Powell, sale will raise money for Partners in Conservation

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Charlene Jendry first went to study mountain gorillas in the rain forest of Rwanda 25 years ago.

As she looked for ways to protect and preserve the critically endangered species, it became clear to her that the best path was to help the locals.

"The best way to take care of animals is to respectfully take care of the needs of the people," she said.

She became a founding member of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium-sponsored Partners in Conservation, which helps to provide work and a living wage for local Rwandans who work as gorilla trackers and as part of anti-poaching patrols and surveillance teams. The program also sponsors an orphanage and seven schools.

It also helps 400 local artists and craftsmen by selling their works around the world -- and for the first time next week, in downtown Powell.

Partners in Conservation will team up with the Powell Liberty Historical Society and the Powell Area Garden Club to sell handcrafted jewelry, baskets, fabric animals and Christmas ornaments from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 1 at the historic Martin-Perry House, 103 E. Olentangy St.

The sale will take place during the Holidays in Powell event, set from noon to 5:30 p.m. The annual celebration, which includes a visit from Santa Claus, starts at 12:30 p.m. at the city's Municipal Building, 47 Hall St. A tree-lighting ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m.

Jendry said the program helps to provide an economic alternative for Rwandans so they don't have to forage in the rain forest for resources such as food and firewood, which can damage the environment and encroach on gorilla habitats.

She said the art pieces on sale next week speak for themselves.

"Our goal is that people will see them and buy them because of their beauty and craftsmanship, and then learn that their purchase is helping families and the gorillas," she said.

The mountain gorilla is one of the most endangered species on Earth. Scientists estimate there are fewer than 900 gorillas in the wild today in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But Jendry said programs such as hers are making a difference. It even sponsors local veterinarians to help the gorilla population, which is particularly susceptible to influenza.

"The populations are still so small, but these programs are reaping results," she said.

The sale also will give residents a chance to tour the Martin-Perry House, said historical society member Carole Wilhelm.

"You can see the house and at the same time pick up a nice gift that's not something bought at the store," she said.

Restored in 1990, the house is fully furnished and features a variety of historical memorabilia from Powell and Liberty Township, as well as a small library where residents can conduct research on local history and their own family tree.

Partners in Conservation was founded in 1991 and is fully funded by the Columbus Zoo.

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