Helping People. Saving Gorillas.
The Fossey Fund’s entire mission is encapsulated in these four words, and when we began to design and build The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, we knew our Campus needed to reflect this critical mission before the foundations were even laid.
Working with our architectural firm, MASS Build, we identified five key areas of impact that we can quantify and measure throughout the lifespan of this construction project. We call these metrics our Five Es—Economy, Environment, Equity, Education and Emotion—and each month we take a hard look at how successfully we’ve advanced them all.
The Five Es
Economy. We’re committed to investing in the communities and people surrounding our new home through job creation and local construction techniques and purchases. To date our Campus construction project has employed more than 500 local community members and added more than $5 million to the Rwandan economy.
Environment. Our construction relies on eco-friendly “local fabrication” design techniques that keep our environmental footprint small. Local fabrication is “organized around four principles,” explains project architect Theo Uwayezu. “Hire locally, source regionally, train where you can and, most importantly, think about every design decision as an opportunity to invest in the dignity of the communities we serve.”
Additionally, we are restoring land that was previously used for agricultural purposes, propagating more than 250,000 native plants in our Campus nursery for use on the Campus. And we’ll be harvesting rainwater on site for use on our Campus green roofs and a constructed wetland to treat wastewater, limiting our impact on the environment.
Equity. Our 35% female construction workforce promotes gender equity in the field of construction, and we are also striving to maintain a 35% female leadership team. We recently released a video featuring some of the women who work on the site, who have come together to form a women’s group, a female-only space where women can support one other through on-the-job training, financial decision making and other professional and personal support.
Education. Workers on site are given training in fields such as masonry and carpentry, increasing their future employment opportunities and adding to Rwanda’s skilled work force. Our hope is that 250 individuals will receive certifications in these skills as part of their involvement in the construction. We’ve hired local artisanal craftspeople so, for example, the stones on the site are cut from local volcanic rock by master stonecutters, who are teaching others on site their craft.
Emotion. We are actively improving people’s daily lives and, at the same time, increasing their understanding of the importance of conservation so that they take pride in the wild mountain gorillas of Rwanda. We offer conservation classes to the 500-plus workers at the site. “Our hope is to create ‘gorilla ambassadors’ through these classes,” explains Jean Pierre “Samedi” Mucyo, Fossey Fund’s gorilla protection and monitoring officer. “The workers who attend the lectures can take their newfound knowledge back to their families and communities, spreading our important message further.”
The Five Es framework helps us to evaluate both our successes and our areas for improvement as we work to make the Ellen Campus a place for Helping People, Helping Gorillas.
About the Campus:
The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund will be the permanent headquarters of the Fossey Fund’s activities. Its mission is to inspire and educate the next generation of conservationists in Africa and beyond. They will be trained to tackle the conservation challenges of the future and to ensure the survival of gorillas and their biodiverse forest home. The multi-acre, eco-friendly facility adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park will include laboratories, a computer lab and library, flexible office and meeting space, classrooms, an interactive educational exhibit and on-site residences for visiting students and scientists. Built with locally-sourced materials and supplies, the campus will embody the Fossey Fund’s mission to conserve and limit its impact on the environment, through rainwater harvesting, green roofs, the planting of over 250,000 native plant species and a constructed wetland to treat wastewater and promote biodiversity.