In July 2012, volunteers from China, France, Germany, Kenya, Korea, Macedonia and Switzerland spent three weeks at the Kaya Kinondo, a Mijikendas sacred forest. The volunteers were engaged in several activities such as tree planting, information sharing and discussion on World Heritage with school children, cultural experience, awareness creation, enterprise development informations and forest and site conservation.

The project aims at enabling the participants to appreciate and learn more about the local cultures and the significance of the forest towards nurturing the culture of the community and the role played by the forest in bringing the people together; enhancing the involvement of the local people towards the conservation of the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forest.

The Kayas provide focal points for Mijikenda cultural and spiritual values, practices and basic identity. They are regarded as the ancestral homes of the different Mijikenda peoples. Since their abandonment as places of settlement, Kayas have been transferred from the domestic aspect of the Mijikenda landscape to its spiritual sphere. As a part of this process, certain restrictions were placed on access and the utilisation of natural forest resource. The Kayas are now the repositories of spiritual beliefs of the Mijikenda and are seen as the sacred abode of their ancestors.

The Mijikenda Kaya Forests consist of several separate forest sites spread over some 200 km along the coast containing the remains of numerous fortified villages, known as kayas, of the Mijikenda people. The kayas, created as of the 16th century but abandoned by the 1940s, are now regarded as the abodes of ancestors and are revered as sacred sites and, as such, are maintained as by councils of elders. The site is inscribed as bearing unique testimony to a cultural tradition and for its direct link to a living tradition.

In 2008, as a response to a growing interest of young people to take concrete action and to play an active role in the promotion and preservation of World Heritage as volunteers, CCIVS and UNESCO initiated the World Heritage Volunteers project, using the character of "Patrimonito".

The WHV campaign aims at raising awareness about the necessity to protect, preserve and promote cultural and natural heritage in general and the inscribed or potential World Heritage sites in particular.

The project furthermore aims at demonstrating the value of non-formal education as an approach to disseminate the values and expertise developed at the inter-governmental level to a large public and to young people in particular.

It aims at exploring opportunities for a dynamic dialogue between the heritage and education experts involved in the promotion and protection of the sites and the volunteers and youth groups developing concrete World Heritage projects.


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