The Malta Independent 20 October 2020, Tuesday

Din l-Art Helwa – here’s to another 55 years

Tuesday, 28 July 2020, 09:26 Last update: about 4 months ago

Yet the organisation faces its biggest challenge ever: Surviving the COVID19 pandemic.

This month Din l-Art Helwa, national trust of Malta, marks its 55th anniversary saying it is "still alive and kicking" despite the difficulties it faces brought about by the COVID19 pandemic. Simone Mizzi, former president and current secretary general, speaks about the great potential of Din l-Art Helwa heritage sites, but also about the challenges facing the organisation.

Founded in 1965 by Judge Maurice Caruana Curran and a group of visionary like-minded lovers of Malta, the organisation is still made up of committed and passionate volunteers who have spearheaded the protection of Malta and Gozo's vast architectural and natural heritage ever since.  It has done this entirely with the financial support of its members, its committed volunteers and with the generosity of many corporate sponsors and benefactors. Mizzi, says: "From those of us at Din l-Art Helwa who now hold the baton, we can truly say 'thank you to all who have supported us over 55 years  - we all agree Malta has been worth the good fight".

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"Din l-Art Helwa's lobbying arm continues to use its voice with the authorities and rallies others to speak out against the destruction of our cultural landscape, the unique built heritage of our towns and villages, the coastline and what is left of our wild open spaces. We are dismayed to see so much destruction of village cores and the eating up of green areas and we continue to do our utmost to protect them," says Mizzi.

"Din l-Art Helwa, through the power of example of its restoration programmes, has saved no less than 41 historic monuments, sites and landmarks over these years, almost one a year: important national treasures such as the Red Tower in Mellieha, Our Lady of Victory church in Valletta, the beautiful chapels of Bir Miftuh and Hal Millieri, the Delimara Lighthouse, the seven Mattia Preti paintings in Sarria Church, and yes, even a cemetery or two with historic gardens such as the ones you can enjoy at the Msida Bastion and the wilderness at the Majjistral Park. Lovingly looked after by generation after generation of Din l-Art Helwa volunteers," continued Mizzi, "these sites are there to remind us that we have managed to do a great deal, but that there is still so much to do, perhaps even more now than in those pioneering days of the 60s. Making the sites relevant and exciting to the people of today while saving others are the next steps."

"It is ironic, that perhaps the biggest challenge to Din l-Art Helwa has come during this 55th year, with COVID19 dealing a severe blow to our ability to raise recurrent income," says Mizzi. With the bulk of revenue coming from visitors' donations and fund-raising events, our income has gone down to zero since March and now our well-planned reserves are drying out too. With our sites closed to the public and with public uncertainty on fund-raising gatherings, we have to depend on sporadic but generous donations of friends and supporters.  We have also welcomed various government support initiatives for VOs, but it is providing extremely difficult to raise funds to meet the salaries of our dedicated small complement of staff, repairs and maintenance costs, utilities and insurances for the 19 heritage sites we manage on behalf of the state or Church. We are working hard to get our main sites reopened, but the exercise of kitting them out for COVID regulations has proved very costly. Our Lady of Victory church has resumed its role as a most requested venue for marriage ceremonies. The Msida Bastion is already welcoming visitors for its popular Night Time Summer Tours and has proved a unique site for weddings, while the Red Tower in Mellieha, Wignacourt Tower in St Paul's Bay and Torri Xutu at Wied iz-Zurrieq are all raring to go. Din l-Art Helwa's most popular sites command fantastic sea views and tranquil locations, free from traffic and construction. These are perfect for corporate events, small family parties, while rooftops make perfect marriage proposal venues, fashion shoots and prenup videos at sunset.  The Red Tower is the most "selfied" spot in Malta according to Trip Advisor. All sites are observing the health guidelines for museums and cultural sites.

Thankfully our current restoration projects, such as the White Tower have huge potential, continues Mizzi. This will soon open its doors as a marine biodiversity information centre and hostel, and with its massive parade ground and dominating views should prove extremely popular for outdoor events. The Delimara Lighthouse makes a perfect spot for two families to self-isolate with its two lighthouse keeper apartments. Other new projects in the pipeline such as the restoration of the chapel of San Mikiel Sancir and the Australian Bungalow are sustainably supported by specific funds from the corporate entities that we collaborate with. However, these funds are earmarked solely for these projects and do not cover ongoing costs.  It is for the latter that we need help and appeal to the public to assist, otherwise by October, our well protected reserves will dry out. 

"In the last years," continued Mizzi, "we had almost 100,000 visitors at our sites. This figure is going to be hard to reach and we need to survive till visitors return and fund-raising initiatives can resume momentum. Dubbed as we are, as the conscience of the nation, we appeal to the public to help us perpetuate our ideals so our mission can continue."  She says the public can help in many ways:  

-  For only a year, you can become a member of Din l-Art Helwa and for €200 a Life member. If you have not renewed your subscription to Din l-Art Helwa this year, please do so now. 

- You can simply enrol one other member of your family and friends as a gift. Talk to them about Din l-Art Helwa and its work. Ask them to join us and become guardians of our heritage too.

- If you are a business or event organisor, think about incentive events at Din l-Art Helwa sites. Send an email on [email protected] for any assistance.

- Enrol as a volunteer - all hands help.

 

Help us keep Din L-Art Helwa going another 55 years and more!  Visit the DLH website for more information and specifically https://dinlarthelwa.org/product/donation/  

Here are the essential details: You can send a cheque to Din l-Art Helwa at 133 Melita Street, Valletta VLT 1123 or if you wish to donate via the bank, here are our details:

HSBC Account No. 033-181181-001; IBAN: MT76 MMEB 4433 6000 0000 3318 1181 001
Swift: MMEB MTMT

BOV Account No. 40021787427; IBAN: MT51VALL2201300000004002178742

APS IBAN: MT02APSB77024000892010892010012

Or simply press the donate button on our Website:  https://dinlarthelwa.org/product/donation/  

 


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