03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Dreaming of Senkwekwe

I don't have many heroes. Safari, a dedicated and compassionate ranger in Virunga National Park, inspires me to this day. When I heard of his murder in the line of duty, my heart broke at the selfish brutality, and I could not help but be affected by his gentle strength and courage. I felt as if I had lost a friend, out there protecting the jewel that is Virunga, not only for me but for future generations.

Tragically, sometimes the efforts of rangers aren't enough.

In July 2007, Senkwekwe, a majestic silverback mountain gorilla and four members of his family were killed by rebel militias in the besieged Congolese park. Ndeze, a two-month-old baby, was found clinging to her murdered mother's breast. She was so young, it was a miracle she survived.

Through the park's blog, I've come to learn about the amazing work the rangers do. Some, like Safari, have made the ultimate sacrifice, but the team keeps soldiering on. The future is hopeful -- through the blog you can meet the babies born to the wild gorilla families that
are monitored by conservationists. Nothing excites this community more than the birth of a critically endangered mountain gorilla!

The gorilla orphans, Ndeze and Ndakasi -- now best friends -- were just moved to the Senkwekwe Centre, a plot of lush forest which is named after Ndeze's murdered father. It's a place where the girls can live a healthy, happy and safe life, far from the dust and pollution
of the city. It will also be a place where local children -- the future guardians of Virunga -- can learn about the gorillas and the forests that it will one day be their responsibility to protect. The Virunga team is still working to raise funds to complete the perimeter wall, visitation platforms, educational center and veterinary facilities.

Why support the efforts of a stranger half way around the world? Because with a little help, and a little hope, they can keep fighting the good fight -- for all of us who share this earth.

All donations go directly and entirely to the Senkwekwe Centre, and every dollar donated by December 24th will be matched by the United Nations Foundation.