For the first time American couple Joe Mc Donald and his wife Mary Ann Mc Donald stepped on Rwandan soil with intension to visit the famous Rwandan Mountain Gorillas. The trip left a lasting memory and enthusiasm that the set a target of visiting Rwanda for 75 more times.
After twelve years of visiting Rwanda, spending from the savings and bringing along some of the friends to witness the beauty of the country of a thousand hills, the couple finally met their goal this December 3, 2012, on their 75th trip to the Virunga mountain gorillas in Kinigi sector, Musanze district in the northern province of Rwanda.
The couple didn’t only meet their goal but also become the first group of foreign vistors to visit the gorillas more times, spend more money (estimated at $1million- Rwf640.000.000) and to a larger extent, they couple has always brought some friends along with them to have a similar experience.
Now in the late 60, Joe Mc Donald and his wife Mary Ann Mc Donald, residents of the state of Pennsylvania , still feel strong and energized for having met their goal in life and feel relatively connected to the people of Rwanda as the second home.
During their trips to Rwanda, the couple also has been collecting photos of Gorillas for their company- Mc Donald wildlife Photography. The couople says that they have chosen Rwanda among all African countries because they have always felt secure and welcomed at all times.
A research report codenamed “‘Global States of Mind’ released by Gallup on October 31, 2012, indicated that Rwanda ranked top of the list of African countries where citizens are least likely to feel safe according to a research report conducted and
Rwanda scored 92% followed by Georgia 91%, and Qatar 91%, while in Africa Niger was the second ranked country at 84 per cent.
As a way of appreciating their contribution to Rwanda economy- of which tourism remains the largest foreign earner, the Rwandan community in Musanze district threw a bash party for the couple. Mc Donald and his wife Mary Ann were dressed in Rwandan traditional attire and joined by the community to celebrate this achievement.
Though in the late years, the couple said that they would not stop visiting their Rwandan home, and they would like to meet a new target of visiting Rwanda at least 100 times before they get very older. The couple says that they are motivated by the fact that they get new ideas each time the visit Rwanda.
Joe Mc Donald, 60, says: I find Rwanda and the people to be very welcoming and very peaceful. Even when we visit other countries in the region, we find it hard not to visit Rwanda, because we consider this as our second home”
The testimony of the American couple has however left a lasting impression for Rwandans who deal in the tourism sector. One, Paul Muvunyi, a manager at Mountain View Lodge- where the couple likes to stay, says that: This is a lesson that all service providers to always give clients the best customer care. This is because most of the clients will always be attracted to visit the country if they get value for their money spent while here”
The Virunga National Park official, Prosper Uwingeri hailed the American couple for their unfailing love for Rwanda and noted that such thanksgiving ceremonies are organized to recognize the contribution of pertinent tourists who have played a significant role in the community around the park.
The ceremony was also attended by the Mayor of Musanze district, Winifrida Mpembyemungu who also reechoed the importance of the community in working hard to promote tourist activities in the country. She said that the example of Joe Mc Donald and his wife Mary Ann, was exemplary to the Rwandan community.