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The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in discovering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.

Volume 4 Issue 4 Highlights


Supply Chain

Revisiting Cultural Heritage Preservation & Restoration And VolunTourism

On 20 May 2008, I had the chance to speak with Mark Hintzke, Founder of Cultural Restoration Tourism Project, and Jamie Donahoe and Judith Broeker, Co-Founders of Heritage Conservation Network, during the weekly episode of The VolunTourist Webcast. Each of these folks is committed to supporting communities around the world in preserving and restoring cultural landmarks and treasures for future generations. Their passion is infectious; so much so, that I thought it would be good to revisit the subject in this issue's Supply Chain.

If you are unfamiliar with cultural preservation & restoration and the importance of heritage conservation, then take some time to peruse the respective backgrounds, philosophies, and unique itineraries available through these two organizations. VolunTourists repeatedly share the importance of learning new things and interacting with cultures; these two entities offer a backdrop for you to receive an ample supply of both.

Cultural Restoration Tourism Project

Brief Background

Cultural Restoration Tourism Project (CRTP) was founded in 1998 by Mark Hintzke. At this time he had nearly twenty years of construction experience, an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin, a Master of Science degree from the Institute for Environmental Studies (UW-Madison) as well as several years of restoration experience. After having worked with a variety of non-profit organizations, Mark was deeply aware of the classic model of non-profit funding – endlessly searching for grants. He developed CRTP’s model, volunteer-vacation participation, and was quickly approached by the Baldan Baraivan community in Mongolia.

In 1999 CRTP started to run programs in Mongolia restoring an ancient Buddhist temple. It began small: Mark, two western volunteer-staff, 13 Mongolian staff and 15 volunteer-vacation participants. Over the next seven years CRTP served over 300 volunteer-vacation participants. By the seventh year the western volunteer-staff numbered 10 and the Mongolian staff up to 40.

In 2003, CRTP was invited to come to Nepal to assist on the restoration of an ancient temple in the Lower Mustang region. CRTP has been operating volunteer tours at the Chairro Gompa in Nepal since that time. The funding model has proven to be successful.


The mission of CRTP is to help communities around the world restore artifacts of cultural importance and to promote responsible tourism through the advancement and use of volunteer tourism.

There is growing concern over the destruction of cultural heritage around the world and also about the possible negative affects of tourism in developing countries. CRTP actively addresses these two major global issues with an innovative approach to both. Around the world communities are losing precious relics and cultural identity. To compound this situation, modern tourism often exploits these areas. Tourism is the largest industry in the world, yet seldom, if ever, is it used in a constructive manner. According to the World Tourism Organization less than ten percent of all tourist dollars make it into the hands of local communities.

CRTP addresses both problems with innovative programs like our ongoing project in Nepal. CRTP is currently enacting the restoration of a Buddhist monastery in the Lower Mustang Region of Nepal. The Chiarro Gompa restoration is carried out utilizing labor and funds donated by volunteer tourists. The number of potential restoration projects around the world is virtually limitless and the number of tourists available to participate continually grows.

To further our commitment to serve various communities we have begun discussions about possible projects in other international countries. It is our belief that the preservation of culture and artifacts is important to maintain diversity and identity on an ever-shrinking planet.

By inviting volunteer tourists to participate in these community restorations we bridge cultural gaps. This allows for a deeper understanding of a culture from both sides.

The Experience

The Cultural Restoration Tourism Project is a unique non-profit organization established to provide communities around the world with a chance to restore cultural artifacts that are in danger of extinction. What really makes us different is that we give people like you, from any background, the opportunity to participate in the restoration process. Our participants spend their vacations putting their hearts and hands to work on something truly meaningful. They return from their experience invigorated, knowing that they have had a real impact on the community they chose to visit. Our opportunities allow travelers to get a true experience of the culture, its people and its traditions.

Programs hosted by the Cultural Restoration Tourism Project are always community initiated. We help
communities who want to help themselves, but do not have the resources to do it on their own. The restoration efforts aid communities in their sustainable development both environmentally and economically. The restored buildings will not become museums, but functional cultural centers within the communities. CRTP facilitates the coming together of local specialists within the host country to ensure the success of our programs.

Sample Itinerary

All of our tours are based on twelve-day schedules, although it is possible to extend this schedule if you would like. Below is a sample itinerary based on our project in Nepal.

Day 1 - Afternoon flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Dinner in Pokhara and overnight. (Transportation, meals and lodging included.)

Day 2 - Breakfast then morning flight to Jomsom. Tea and treats in Jomsom while you acclimate to the altitude. 11:00 am- Two-hour easy walk to Chairro visiting the town of Marpha along the way. Tour of worksight and orientation. (Accommodations in local village of Marpha and meals provided.)

Day 3 thru 5 - 8 am, Morning work projects. Work alongside the local crew, working with traditional tools and techniques. Noon, Lunch with the crew. One more hour of work and then afternoons are free for more work or to visit local communities. (Accommodations and meals provided.)

Day 6 and 7 - Site seeing of other local gompas. The Chairro area is rich in history of unique gompas and sacred sites. Guided tours of these sites will be conducted on Saturday and Sunday. All sites are an easy to moderate trek, participation in these visits is optional. (Accommodations and meals provided.)

Day 8 thru 10 - 8 am, Morning work projects. Work alongside the local crew, working with traditional tools and techniques. Lunch with the crew. Afternoons are free for more work or to visit local communities. (Accommodations and meals provided.)
Day 11 - A morning farewell celebration at the restoration site. After lunch we walk back to Jomsom for an overnight stay at a guesthouse. (Accommodations and meals provided.)

Day 12 - Morning flight back to Katmandhu.

Contact Information

Mark A. Hintzke
Managing Director
Cultural Restoration Tourism Project
PO Box 6803, Albany, CA 94706
(415) 563-7221

Heritage Conservation Network

Brief Background

Heritage Conservation Network (HCN) was founded in 2001 by Judith Broeker and Jamie Donahoe, two women with an inexplicable fondness for old buildings. They combined their backgrounds in historic preservation with their love for travel and their deep desire to save the world’s architectural heritage to form a non-profit organization dedicated to doing just that.

HCN organizes an annual series of hands-on building conservation workshops at historic sites around the world. These workshops provide meaningful, hands-on opportunities to preserve buildings and other aspects of cultural heritage. HCN volunteers have replastered, repointed, repaired and rebuilt elements of historic buildings in the United States, Mexico, Ghana, Italy, Slovenia, Albania and more. Project sites have ranged from 16th century buildings to a 1915 garden. Some projects are World Heritage Sites, others focus on small communities eager to save their past.

Yet HCN workshops do more than just protect the past. They build communities, restore housing, and promote economic sustainability, all through the ecologically “green” approach of historic preservation. From our first workshop offerings in 2002 we have facilitated 28 workshops in 7 countries, with an additional 7 projects in the planning stages, all offering a remarkable experience in cultural interaction.


HCN’s mission is to support community-based heritage conservation projects by providing technical assistance, training, and volunteers to preservation projects. Our long-term goal is to effect change through the power of historic preservation. This mission resonates strongly with communities around the world – evidenced by the fact that we receive many more requests each year for workshops than we are able to accommodate.

Cultural heritage defines a people and makes them unique. In this fast changing world, distinctions between cultures are being blurred, but historic architecture is one factor that continues to distinguish one city or region from another. HCN has seen that preservation of historic architecture not only preserves the cultural traditions that created it, but also builds pride in one’s heritage and helps communities thrive.

Through preservation, HCN is able to address social issues such as job creation, safe housing, sustainable economic development, and environmental issues. The benefits our workshops bring to the communities where they occur are surprisingly varied. HCN workshops provide hands-on skills training and on-site experience for local youth and adults; generate community and outside interest in cultural heritage, supporting heritage tourism and contributing to a sustainable economy; and spur ongoing restoration and maintenance of historic structures, which in turn creates jobs.

People who voluntour with HCN benefit too, of course. There’s great satisfaction to be gained from trying one’s hand at something new and seeing immediate results from your efforts. Participants also have the opportunity to experience and absorb the local culture. With a mix of people from different backgrounds, nationalities and interests working together, each workshop generates an environment of international cooperation and understanding at the project site.

The Experience

An HCN workshop is more than a vacation, it’s an adventure you’ll remember always. Each workshop is led by a technical expert who teaches and guides volunteers as they work. For that reason, no previous preservation experience is required, though people who have worked in the building trades are always welcome! Many people who work in the conservation field join our efforts in order to gain a different type of experience; it also gives them the opportunity to use their own expertise to help others.

As volunteers quickly discover, workshops are much more than just work. They include field trips to local historic sites in order to provide a greater sense of the history of the area; they involve getting to know the local residents by sharing meals and stories; and they always include enjoying the unique cuisine of each region. It is not uncommon, however, for people to become so immersed in their work and inspired by the progress they are making that it’s hard to get them away from the project work site.

Sample Itinerary

Each workshop is unique but they all have a similar structure. Your week will begin with a get-together and meal on the day you arrive. This is your first chance to meet the other intrepid travelers you will be working and touring with during the workshop. The meal is followed by a site orientation, including an overview of the history and a description of what the project entails.

After breakfast and coffee the next morning, the actual work starts with a demonstration of the particular skills needed to begin the planned conservation work. As work progresses, there are usually several activities underway, and participants may choose depending on their specific interests and abilities. More coffee, cooperation and the exchange of ideas keeps the day lively. Work takes place Monday through Friday with time taken out for a half- or full-day field trip to tour historic sites in the area. If participants attend a workshop for two weeks, the weekend is also available for sight seeing.

As anyone who has worked on historic buildings knows, surprises are to be expected. The building’s secrets, uncovered during the course of the workshop, often provide interesting discoveries and may alter the planned schedule of work. The agenda sent to participants before the workshop will very likely see some changes.

Sample Schedule for Albania

Day 1 (Saturday): Arrive in Tirane, Albania; meet workshop volunteers at hotel.

Day 2: Tour downtown Tirane in morning; leave for Gjirokastra at 12:30.

Day 3: Morning tour of Gjirokastra, including work site; afternoon meeting with local partners and begin hands-on work at site.

Day 4: Hands-on work to preserve and restore masonry house; late afternoon tour of Gjirokastra castle.

Day 5: Hands-on work continues.

Day 6: Fieldtrip to archaeological site of Butrint National Park.

Day 7: Continue work on masonry house; community dinner with local residents.

Day 8 – 9: Fieldtrip to various historic sites - Kisha e Laboves se Kryqit church; monasteries of the Bektashi Sect and the Byzantin Monastery of Mesopotam; the Tekke of Melan; and exploration of the Kardhiq-Zhulat region of southern Albania, the site of a major road used by Roman armies to travel from the coast to interior Albania and Macedonia.

Day 10 – 14: Hands-on work continues with two half-day fieldtrips.

Day 15: Return to Tirane and depart Albania.

Contact Information

Heritage Conservation Network
1557 North Street
Boulder, CO 80304 USA
Phone/Fax: +1 303 444 0128

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