3 March 2009
Din l-Art Helwa stepped up its spend on restoration projects for built heritage to a total of Euros 131,395 in 2008, an increase of 21% over the previous year, no easy task for the heritage organisation as all funds are raised entirely through volunteer activity, and the generosity of individual donations, memberships and corporate sponsorships.
During the recent Annual General Meeting of the association on 28 February 2009, Secretary General Edward Xuereb gave an account of the numerous projects which have been ongoing during the past year, many of which will be brought to fruition during 2009 especially when additional funding becomes available.
Through the generosity of direct sponsorships from groups such as Playmobil, M Demajo Group and Toly Products, the upgrading and ongoing maintenance, and the refurbishment of the interior of the Red Tower continue to be progressed. The Delimara Lighthouse is almost complete thanks to a previous donation from the Malta Maritime Authority but landscaping of its difficult surrounding area remains a challenge. The complex task of reinstating St. Anthony’s Battery in Qala, Gozo has progressed steadily despite the physical difficulties connected with its isolated location with funds being made available to the organisation by MEPA in a joint venture with the local council and this project is 40% complete.
Despite income from properties and from local fund raising activities decreasing slightly by 5% in 2008, significant funding has been dedicated during 2008 to the restoration of the recently acquired extension to Din l-Art Helwa’s headquarters in Melita Street, Valletta, where the corner premises in Old Bakery street adjoining the current offices have been acquired. This corner had suffered extensive war damage and dilapidation over many decades. With dedicated funding from the generous legacy of one of Din L-Art Helwa’s members, Carmen Micallef Buhagiar, this extension will provide the much needed reception area, extra office space, and meeting rooms as well as restoring dignity to an important corner of our capital city.
Din l-Art Helwa’s work also consists in setting up partnerships with corporations, banks, businesses and local councils to oversee projects that otherwise would not be possible. Such projects include the restoration of the Tal Hniena Church in Qrendi for which the Bank of Valletta has pledged funding to carry out the first phase while the Russian Embassy has provided Din l-Art Helwa with funds for its restoration work at the Msida Bastion Garden of Rest of the imposing 19th C Von Sclippenbach Memorial.
Travellers returning from overseas will enjoy seeing restorers at work on the 16th Century altar painting from the Santa Maria Church of Bir Miftuh in Gudja, the 15th Century chapel managed by Din l-Art Helwa. This restoration work is actually being carried out at in a dedicated area at the Malta Airport Arrival lounge and is being done by Sante Guido and Giuseppe Mantella from the Restauro Opere d’Arte with the financial assistance of the Malta International Airport. Furthermore, the Central Bank of Malta is underwriting the restoration of a group of niche statues in Valletta that are in dire need of salvaging and work is expected to commence soon.
Other important projects where significant developments are taking place through Din l-Art Helwa’s involvement is the restoration of the all important and unique Church of Our Lady of Victories in Valletta where work to secure the frescoes provides a huge challenge due to the vast investments necessary. The project of restoration of the external masonry and numerous studies of this earliest church in Valletta had been made possible by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Another project being spearheaded by Din l-Art Helwa is the conservation with Heritage Malta of the archaeological site and catacombs at Abbatija tad Dejr in Rabat.
Other than dedication to built heritage, much time and energy has been devoted by Din l-Art Helwa this year to the establishment of the Majjestral Park together with Nature Trust and the Gaia Foundation. Landscaping, reinstating of rubble walls, clearing of the numerous rubbish dumps continue, and guided educational walks are already taking place regularly. 2000 trees are due to be planted within the coming weeks and Government has presented the three NGOs with a sum of Euros 116, 468 as part of its contribution while other commercial entities such as HSBC and The Body Shop Foundation have pledged sponsorships over the next three years. Thanks to funds from the Tanner Trust, a land rover was purchased by Din l-Art Helwa for a ranger to patrol the Foresta 2000 site at Mellieha and prevent vandalism.
Martin Galea, Executive President of Din l-Art Helwa thanked all the numerous individuals, corporate sponsors who have made all this work possible, but said funds continue to be necessary if the volunteer organisation is to continue its important work, not just in restoration of built heritage, but in the field of the environment and education. The organisation called on the generosity of its members and the public at large to enable it to continue with its mission and to remember that this is entirely self funded. The momentum gained in environmental awareness should not be slowed down even in the face of the current economic situation, the spirit of volunteering remains the keystone that make its mission possible. He thanked all those numerous individual volunteers who continue to be forthcoming with their dedication to the organisation and who remain motivated in the furthering of the numerous tasks always at hand in the field of heritage and nature conservation.