- We believe that communities prosper through preservation and renewal of their historic sites.
- We believe that by bringing people of different cultures together to restore these historic sites, we can help communities in developing countries achieve economic benefits.
- We believe that rebuilding, renewing and protecting cultural heritage advances sustainable development, provides opportunities for cross-cultural understanding and helps communities proudly celebrate their unique place in the world.
- We believe in the value of work as the universal language that connects an individual’s commitment to a group effort, benefiting the larger community.
How We Fulfill Our Mission
We use national and international volunteer tourism as the catalyst for our mission to help communities around the world protect their cultural heritage sites and prosper through preservation and renewal of their history.
When you join a Restoration Works International project, you can be assured that at least 90% of your donation stays in-country, circulating within the local economy. More than 70% of your fee goes directly to the project, paying for costs that include local staff wages, building materials, and supplies and more.
1998: A Man, A Monk & A Mongolian Temple
A serendipitous series of events involving a man, a monk and a Mongolian temple led to the 1998 founding of Cultural Restoration Tourism Project (CRTP), the precursor to Restoration Works International.
Founder Mark Hintzke had an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin, a Master of Science degree from the Institute for Environmental Studies (UW-Madison) as well as 20 years of construction experience, several of which involved restoration work. His interests included development issues, environmental ethics and endangered cultures. His master’s thesis was a study of Buddhist ethics and how they can be applied to development practices.
At the same time, an elderly monk in Baldan Baraivan, Mongolia, was searching for the means to restore his centuries-old temple, formerly one of the country’s most important. Mutual acquaintances brought Mark and the monk together. Mark developed CRTP’s model based largely on funding through volunteer tourism.
1999: First Volunteer Tour to Mongolia
CRTP started to run programs in Mongolia restoring the Baldan Baraivan Monastery, an ancient Buddhist temple, in 1999. Over the next seven years CRTP welcomed more than 300 volunteers, who worked alongside the 40-person Mongolian staff.
“We made one more stop at the ger of the old lama. As I reached to touch his hands in a farewell gesture he began to cry. His tears fell upon my hands softly, and I sat still for a moment. My interpreter told me that the lama’s tears were tears of joy, now that he was confident that he would gaze upon the restored temple one day.“ – “Journey to Baldan Baraivan” by Mark Hintzke
2005: New Project in Nepal
CRTP staff was invited to travel to Nepal in 2003 to assist on the restoration of the Chhairo Gompa, a Buddhist monastery in the Lower Mustang region. The first volunteer group arrived in 2005. Over more than a decade, hundreds of volunteers spent their holidays working alongside the local crew to restore the gompa to a fully-operational monastery, the community’s most important cultural place.
2007: CRTP Becomes Restoration Works International
CRTP began operating under a new name, Restoration Works International, in 2007. The name reflected our belief in the power of working together for cross-cultural exchange and the economic and cultural benefits of preserving and renewing historic structures. At the same time, our founder Mark Hintzke passed the torch on to other directors. He continues to be involved with RWI, participating in tours, speaking engagements, and promotion.
2015: A Decade in Nepal Draws to a Close
After more than ten years in the community of Chhairo, Nepal, RWI took its last tour in fall 2015 and funded the final phase of our commitment: the kitchen/visitor block at the gompa. We anticipate the property will officially be turned over from the Nepali families who had administered it through the generations to the Chhairo community in late 2016 or early 2017.
2016: A new country, a new community!
In 2016, RWI began evaluating potential heritage sites all over the world for our next project. An RWI board member and volunteer took an exploratory trip to India in the fall to evaluate a promising project in Udaipur.
2017: Bichli Haveli Project begins
In July 2017, we took the first tour to our new site in India: the Bichli Haveli Project. Over the next three years, we will restore a 140-year-old stone haveli (townhouse) with our partners the Mahim Singh Mehta family.
Carl Kopman is a retired school teacher living in Berkeley, California. He has been involved with RWI since 2005 when he happened upon the group’s restoration project at the Balden Baraivan Monastery in Mongolia. So moved by his experience there, he became an active participant in the restoration work being done at the Chhairo Gompa in Nepal. He spends his time enjoying his grandchildren, gardening, hiking, and renovating an old house on the banks of a wild river in Panama. He is currently working on a collection of his poems and short stories.
Melanie is a cultural heritage specialist living in Washington, DC, and the executive director of the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions. She holds an MA in historic preservation from Goucher College, where she is now an adjunct associate professor in the MA in Historic Preservation program. She spent her teenage and early university years in South Africa, later lived in France and California, and often travels overseas. She joined the board after volunteering in 2014 with RWI in Nepal, where she was convinced of the meaningfulness of the organization’s work.
Donald recently retired from his career as a lawyer in the Bay Area, where he specialized in rent control and landlord-tenant law. Growing up overseas, he caught the travel bug early and plans to spend much of his retirement seeing the world. He first became involved with RWI in 2007.
Gretchen is CEO and founder of Asia City Media Group, the region’s leading city lifestyle media company. She has lived in Asia since 1989, opening ACMG offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok, and overseeing operations in Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur. Currently based in Bangkok, Gretchen travels frequently in Asia, and enjoys biking and trekking in the Himalayas. Before joining the board, Gretchen volunteered on RWI programs in Mongolia and Nepal. She is currently pursuing a MA in Historic Preservation Planning at Cornell University.
Peter Wowkowych, AIA
Peter is an architect living in Santa Monica, California. He is the in-house architect for Sony Pictures Entertainment. Peter holds a BArch degree from the University of Notre Dame and a MArch degree from Southern California Institute of Architecture. A native New Yorker, Peter now embraces his Southern California lifestyle as an endurance athlete, yoga practitioner and still finds time to escape to his art studio to paint.
Leslie is a heritage conservationist, based in Baltimore, Maryland. She holds an MA in historic preservation from Goucher College, a BA in Art from Brown University, and a second MA in Conflict Resolution from Antioch University. Originally from Boston, she lived in France for a year and a half studying Gothic architecture and for a summer, took part in a university-sponsored community development project in Mexico. Since then, Leslie has spent nearly thirty years living in Africa (Benin, Madagascar, and Ethiopia) and traveling extensively in Africa and Europe. Over the past three years, she has assisted with the establishment of the Master of Science in Heritage Conservation at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development, Addis Ababa University. As a board member, her goal is to promote student involvement in RWI programs.