For preservation workers, the stakes are high
Stories from the Field
Osmania Women's College
When India was put under lockdown on March 25, movement between states was prohibited and many WMF workers were not able to return home. Such is the case at Osmania Women’s College in Hyderabad, where 62 technicians were stranded. WMF ensured adequate provision of supplies on-site, including food. Social distancing measures were implemented, and we opened additional areas of the building to give workers more space. After being stranded on-site for more than a month, these workers were finally able to return safely home thanks to the tireless efforts of our team on the ground.
Creating opportunity for vulnerable populations in Iraq
Like in India and Myanmar—work at the Erbil Citadel in Iraq was suspended on March 11. A stay-at-home order is in effect through May 2, but this date may very well be extended in the future. WMF and the High Commission for the Erbil Citadel Revitalization employs a total of 41 people at two sites—and here, the story expands beyond economic impact and heritage conservation. Our team includes Kurds from Iran and Syria, Syrian refugees, and internally-displaced groups working together with WMF. Through our work together, they support their families, enter the marketplace, and realize an opportunity not available to others—particularly refugees—in the region. All experienced difficult and tragic situations, as well as uncertainty. The refugees and internally-displaced workers, many with their families, took dangerous risks to escape their homes. For instance, Kurdish refugee colleagues arrived from eastern Syria in 2013— abandoning their land in war to find peace, and to pursue a safer future for their families. Those from Iran left due to limited economic opportunities afforded to them. For all of these colleagues, we intend to keep our promise to their economic stability.
Workers in Mandalay pause, and a local economy is impacted
In Myanmar, work has shuttered at Shwe-nandaw Kyaung, the stunning teakwood monastery in Mandalay. On March 26, the government declared all historic sites closed to the public, which eventually halted our work. For 20 people there, what this means is their ability to work is paused—and we project they may not return until at least June. Under normal circumstances, the site is bustling: it is one of the most visited places in Myanmar, welcoming domestic and international visitors alike. The specialized work of our team helps to ensure its attraction, contributing positively to a more vibrant local economy. Our workers at Shwe-nandaw must prioritize their physical safety. But WMF and members have a role to play: not just ensuring worksite safety, but also recognizing—and alleviating—protracted economic impacts for workers and their communities.
At Angkor, work continues. How much longer is the question.
As of this week, Angkor Archeological Park remains open. There, World Monuments Fund employs 110 staff—conservators, engineers, stone carvers, and more. They now practice strict social distancing and physical security measures while working: wearing masks, washing their hands more frequently, and keeping adequate distance. No tourists means diminished income for local communities and the families of our staff. And continued conservation work does preclude workers from feeling this loss of tourism revenue. Here, the Relief Fund’s story reaches into the future. Should the park formally close and halt conservation work, our commitment to these specialized teams must be kept. Angkor remains one of WMF’s most critical projects, and the continuity of our staff is vital to this legacy.
$1,000 covers one week of technicians' salaries in Iraq.
Angkor Archaeological Park
$400 provides safe drinking containers for our workers in Cambodia.