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.