Prof. Elena Isayev enjoying her shopping experience at Souk el Hima, HHIC

SPNL holds soft opening of Homat el Hima International Center in the presence of Leeds Academics

Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) announced on February 24, the opening of Homat el Hima International Center (HHIC) at West Bekaa Country Club (WBCC) in Kherbet Qanafar, West Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

SPNL had the opportunity to softly open its newly established HHIC in the presence of academics from the University of Leeds (UK), among international researchers, who have chosen WBCC as a venue for their international workshop titled “Heritage for Global Challenges”.

As part of one of the Praxis serious events, this workshop comes last after two learning sessions to cover one of four focal themes: Heritage. AHRC-GCRF researchers and global partner organizations from the UK and the Global South has gathered in West Bekaa to discuss the synergies and thematic focal points among their projects and how it relates to global challenges. They have examined how the environmental, cultural, digital and virtual aspects of heritage research affects development, in positive and negative terms. Ultimately, this nexus meeting aimed at exploring future steps needed in terms of policy and heritage research. Here you can find more about Praxis: Arts and Humanities for Global Development, a project based at the University of Leeds and funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Workshop attendees gathered for a picture upon the openning of HHIC

During the opening ceremony at HHIC, and after welcome notes by Prof. Stuart Taberner and Dr. Ian Stanton, Mr. Asaad Serhal gave an inspiring speech highlighting SPNL journey throughout 40 years of nature conservation and community engagement in protected areas. The journey, which has taken Hima Revival as a station since 2004, has captured the attention and enthusiasm of the workshop attendees. Even through a glance, learning about the Hima approach to community based protected areas has resonantly matched their motives in conserving cultural heritage as part of global development. Appreciating the role SPNL plays in supporting the livelihoods of local Hima communities, workshop attendees were captured hurrying, whenever got the chance, to Souk el Hima, to choose locally made products (wine, mouneh, accessories, cosmetics etc..), which perfectly reflect the Lebanese identity, for themselves and their families.

Celebrating the successful opening of HHIC

After two fruitful days of presentations, roundtable discussions and negotiations, researchers were eager to explore the surrounding Hima villages, hike along significant landmarks and enjoy the Lebanese cuisine. Members of local Hima communities prepared unique dishes to the West Bekaa region to provide guests with an authentic experience. In fact, there is no better capture than cheerful faces to reflect the reward effect good food brings after hard work. Undoubtfully, the most influential activity of the day was tree planting at Ain Zebde municipality, as part of “A Tree for Your Beloved” campaign, launched earlier by SPNL and Air France-KLM. It had been very impactful on the participants getting certified for planting cedar trees in Lebanon and dedicating them to their mothers, children, old friends and loved ones. In this sequence, their donations were highly appreciated by the involved stakeholders.

Mr. James Bridge planting two cedar trees for his beloved daughters Caitlin and Anna at Ain Zebde Municipality

SPNL aims at activating the role of HHIC through hosting future events, training the youth of Homat al Hima programme, supporting eco-tourism with WBCC and selling local products through Souk el Hima. Upcoming at HHIC and WBCC is the regional workshop co-organized by SPNL and the International Union for Conservation of Nature-Regional Office for West Asia (IUCN ROWA) on energizing the Hima Revival to create a route for growth and impact for nature and people. Stay tuned!

In closing, the pleasure, appreciation and respect that West Bekaa Himas, HHIC, WBCC and SPNL left on the group of workshop attendees have been more like fuel to the spirits at these critical times. Being able to leave an impact emphasizes the blend of culture and character that the Lebanese has always got and will always remain attractive to people of the east and the west.

Special thanks are due to Dr. Deena Dajani, for her utmost help and support to SPNL, HHIC and West Bekaa Hima communities throughout the course of this workshop.

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