HeritAngels: a story about climate change, people, and cultural heritage protection

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Our story begins with a dilemma: "Where does the protection of the environment meet that of Cultural Heritage?". This question led to the creation of «SimvadiZoume (HeritAngels)" a wonderful project of community engagement on the beautiful and historic small island of Kea, part of the Greek Cyclades.

The project gave the opportunity to citizens, activated via awareness and education initiatives in cooperation with cultural professionals, to take action and protect their local Monuments from threats posed by climate change.

Diadrasis* designed this project, including various awareness activities, including those in the framework of European Heritage Days. The whole story is an exploration journey which we share with you chapter by chapter.  Our “Angel” will guide you through its path, from Kea, via Athens to Brussels, and from there to the EHL awarded Archaeological site of Nemea!

Taking part in cultural life is a fundamental human right. This axiom reflects our commitment to European Heritage, where each and every one not only experiences heritage but, also actively takes part in decision-making for its protection. Aspiring to create much more “European Heritage defenders”, we are ready to write a new chapter of our story, by training and engaging youngsters -living close to the emblematic Archaeological site of Nemea- about taking climate action on heritage protection.

Will you follow us in our journey?

In a faraway land full of testimonies of the past, Greece, an Angel started a fascinating journey of #ClimateHeritageAction, encapsulating the optimistic perspective of the “European Cultural Heritage Green Paper” on climate change.

“Climate change can work as a driver to climate action and become a powerful driver for Europe’s recovery”, was stated in the paper’s early pages inspiring the Angel to deliver with Diadrasis a new project idea: “HeritAngels (SimvadiZoume)”.

"HeritAngels: active participation and cooperation of citizens and professionals for the protection of Monuments from climate change" project aimed to re-examine the relationship between climate change and heritage to sensitize and empower local communities to participate actively in heritage protection. More specifically, “HeritAngels” gave citizens the opportunity to care for and protect their local Monuments against the threats of climate change through education and cooperation with cultural professionals. To do so, the project included the following activities: 1) Research 2) Information events 3) Educational programs for children, local associations & heritage professionals 4) Voluntary actions for preventive protection of Monuments.

The concept idea was set and Angel’s journey began, disembarking from a ferry- boat on the Greek island of Kea…

Chapter 1. Educating the future!

Hope comes from the future generation therefore our Angel decided to train and engage the children of the island: 105 elementary school children learned through play- the potential effects of climate change on Monuments and were encouraged to become ”defenders” of their past!  Recording on-the-spot potential threats on a small Monument they discovered ways to minimize them and to become proactive. They send a letter to the Mayor informing the authorities about its poor state of conservation and requested its protection! Reaching out to every possible advocate, our HeritAngel even went to an isolated elementary school with only eight children and a single teacher. Despite the challenges, the joy and the enthusiasm of those children to play, communicate and participate in educational activities brought tears to our eyes. An indicator of the program's success can be found in that teacher’s words: “thank you for not forgetting those children”.


Chapter 2: And what about the adults?

Our HeritAngel, with the help of its young friends, the “defenders of Monuments”, decided to give skills and tools to the local community by implementing an intensive seminar for local associations. The participants got acquainted with methods of active participation for the protection of the Monuments from climate change. At the end of the seminar, a consultation was held between locals and the authorities aiming at selecting a Monument to design a voluntary action of prevention. And the winner was… an underrated coastal archaeological site, Agia Irini. On a Sunday rainy morning, 20 people got together to actively care for a local Monument! 11 bags of flammable material were removed as a preventive measure against fires before the summer months, with the help of the Municipality. The seed was planted…


Chapter 3: Together Stronger

For the seed to blossom, one more piece of the puzzle was missing. With the local community empowered and motivated it was the professionals’ turn to be educated in active cooperation with communities. Heritage professionals -from the private and the public sector- learned how to examine the relationship between climate threats, materials, and location and ways to involve active citizens in protecting heritage from threats related to climate change. The added value of the seminar was the support from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. The active participation of the Directorate of Conservation of Ancient and Modern Monuments in co-designing the workshop contents demonstrated the will of the State to welcome the wind of change.


Chapter 4: Say it out loud

HeritAngels reached a long list of beneficiaries, due to a plethora of awareness and dissemination activities: Online photo contests - Photo exhibitions, Social media campaigns, Informative campaigns on traditional media, and Open events. News travels faster than light, so following an invitation by the European Commission, Diadrasis & HeritAngels had a chance to share our good practices in a working group at the 2022 Awards Ceremony of the EHL in Brussels where our Managing Director presenting the project declared: “HeritAngels is not a “firework” project, but it is easily applicable to various regions and case studies”, which certainly caught the attention of the audience.  A participant who had just won the EHL award for her work at the Archaeological site of Ancient Nemea understood the relevance of HeritAngels in dealing with current challenges, and her subsequent support of our activities brings us to the closing of our story.


Chapter 5: Will it be written?

All stories come to an end, but we sure hope that our finish is just the harbinger of new beginnings. “HeritAngels” designed and successfully delivered a comprehensive project for a community-led model of heritage protection against one of the biggest challenges of our times: climate change.  We seek your support to redouble our efforts, further improve our tools and repeat part of this project aiming -this time- at the youth living near the EHL Archaeological Site of Ancient Nemea, turning them also into “European Heritage defenders”. The emblematic Archaeological Site of Ancient Nemea will become an open to all learning space for active citizenship on the diptych of Climate Change and Cultural Heritage, increasing the possibility for this journey to keep traveling, safeguarding European Heritage and its intrinsic values.

Story by Diadrasis NGO, Athens, GREECE http://www.diadrasis.org/   

European Dimension

Taking part in cultural life is a fundamental human right. This axiom reflects our commitment to European Heritage, where each and everyone not only experiences heritage but, also actively takes part in decision-making for its protection. Thus, we designed an anthropocentric project as “HeritAngels”, in order to train and foster communities in protecting their own heritage.

The emblematic Archaeological Site of Nemea, recognized by the EHL due to the modern revival of the Nemean Games, reflects fundamental European values such as equality, social inclusion, and peaceful coexistence. Building on the site’s significance, with the educational activities of HeritAngels” we want to strengthen local communities living close by, for them to become the future defenders of our European Heritage. 

Heritangels’ project is reflecting upon different and complementary European Dimensions of Cultural Heritage, namely:

  • People-centered activity (e): collaborative safeguarding of a European site and its intrinsic values turns the protection of Cultural Heritage into a learning space for active citizenship highlighting that Monuments are a resource rather than an end or a goal itself (g).
  • Collaboration on multiple levels (a): participants will work as a team and collaborate with heritage professionals and local authorities in order to design and implement voluntary actions on Monuments. 
  • Active participation, engagement, and cooperation (d): children and volunteers are called to become proactive in safeguarding the common good of cultural heritage from climate change threats. In this way, cultural heritage becomes the meeting point of inclusion of youth (i) for them to grow and gain social skills.