Our project in french overseas territories

CHAM started its activities overseas in 1989 when the French Ministry of Culture asked it to organise a training session for heritage volunteer projects in Reunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean. Since then the organisation is active in those distant French territories that do not necessarily have fully operational facilities to protect their historic heritage, nor established programmes for encouraging young people’s involvement and sense of responsibility for heritage conservation. Shortages in local expertise in restoration techniques, in heritage education and conservation mean that help is needed in setting up initiatives in heritage training, whilst ensuring their perpetuation using local resources.

CHAM has thus been involved in projects for the protection and enhancement of heritage sites and in heritage training in four overseas French territories. In Guadeloupe (Caribbean) CHAM set up training sessions for heritage volunteer project organisers over two years on a 17th century fort.The association was active in Mayotte (Indian Ocean) over a four-year period, running training sessions and heritage workshops on a 19th century sugar factory and a 15th century mosque. In New Caledonia (South Pacific) CHAM led training sessions for heritage volunteer project coordinators on a 19th century fort and prison, as well being involved in training teachers for heritage activities with schoolchildren.

CHAM’s strongest overseas presence is in Reunion, where it has been active for over ten years. A CHAM local office has been set up there and employs two local workers. Activities in Reunion have included long-term work-training projects with unemployed people, seasonal and weekend heritage conservation projects as well as heritage coordinator training. Through these activities, CHAM volunteers have achieved considerable conservation work on 19th century thermal baths and a sugar factory and 18th century mausoleums and tombs.

CHAM acts overseas at the request of state authorities dealing with youth, heritage and community development issues. It sees its role as that of transmitting its know-how in restoration techniques, in setting up and organising heritage conservation volunteer projects, in education and awareness-raising. It always works with local institutions and organisations, in order to ensure the projects’ local ownership and thus their sustainable impact.

To complement these overseas initiatives, CHAM has also hosted, as part of their training process, volunteers from New Caledonia, Guadeloupe and Reunion on its projects in metropolitan France.

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