EVS in New Horizons Foundation Romania

About New Horizons Foundation

New Horizons Foundation – established in 2000 – is a non profit organization from Lupeni, Hunedoara County, Romania. The foundation addresses youth (12-18 years old) and its motto is developing caring citizens who feel empowered to act. In this view, New Horizons aims to develop youth’s vocational skills, civic competencies, responsibility and concern for the communities where they live. The areas of activity of New Horizons Foundation are: non formal education in schools, service learning, adventure education, vocational activities, and protection of the environment. The foundation developed so far two major projects: VIATA (adventure education program) and IMPACT (service learning youth clubs).

The VIATA program uses adventure education to promote among youth positive values, self confidence and team work. Through adventure education, the participants to VIATA are offered challenging activities (rock climbing, hiking, exploration of caves, and classes of outdoor orientation) meant to provide practical learning, positive values and behaviors. In 2002, the New Horizons Foundation, through the VIATA program, has been nominated within the Civil Society Gala as the initiator of one of the best three programs for youth from Romania.

The IMPACT program develops the service learning component of New Horizons’ activity. Service learning is a tool by which young people learn how to write and implement community service projects. The main objectives of service learning are the following: (1) to encourage youth to meet the community needs through service projects, (2) to provide the youth with practical abilities, necessary in implementing community projects: (3) to promote values and norms that are concordant with the civic attitudes and mutual respect. This way, service learning contributes to involving youth in community issues, providing youth with practical abilities and developing the qualities required by a democratic environment.

The IMPACT program consists of youth initiative clubs, in which the pleasant activities from the adventure education are innovatively combined with the requirements of service learning. The IMPACT model is simple and easily replicable. Members of each club meet twice a week. The activities have three components: an entertaining activity (a game), followed by a discussion of the game results; a story and the discussion of its meanings; a training (on issues like the improvement of communication, project management, Excel applications) needed for writing community service projects. These projects must be written, implemented and evaluated in three months.

There is a special focus on vocational and social capital development in the IMPACT clubs. Every club consists of 15 members and 4 youth leaders who are trained to facilitate the IMPACT meetings. New Horizons has prepared a manual for the IMPACT leaders, as well as a set of three trainings to assist them in coordinating the club activities. Besides the manual and the trainings, the leaders can use a database with games, stories and trainings, and a curriculum. The target group is youth 12-18 years old.

New Horizons Foundation currently hosts 29 service learning clubs for youth in the following counties: Hunedoara, Timiş, Dolj, Mehedinţi, Ialomiţa, Constanţa, Iaşi, Neamţ and Bucharest. 18 of these clubs have been founded starting 2005, as part of the project “Strengthening Community-Based Initiatives for Preventing HIV and Family Violence in Romania”, carried out in partnership with the Romanian Orthodox Church, International Orthodox Christian Charities, The Ministry of Education and Research and financed by USAID. In 2006, New Horizons Foundation has received the diploma of excellence from the National Authority for Youth, as recognition of the merits of the IMPACT program.

Members of each club are trained by the club leaders in the effective conception and implementation of community based projects. Starting 2003, there have been about 120 projects implemented by the IMPACT clubs. Beneficiaries of part of these projects have been children from disadvantaged families, families with low incomes, and old people from asylums. The projects address various issues: charity campaigns during which the clubs offer help to vulnerable groups, information campaigns on issues of preventing domestic violence and preventing HIV infestation, special community events occasioned by festive days (1st of June, 8th of March, Christmas, Easter), environment protection initiatives etc.

The IMPACT clubs are considered by Cathryn Thorup, specialist in service learning, as an example of best practice community service learning for youth involvement. (http://www.noi-orizonturi.ro/new-horizons/about_us/recomendations.asp?page=5).

The effects of VIATA and IMPACT programs on youth have been the subject of a research carried out by the program director of New Horizons, Ms. Diana Certan, in collaboration with Conf. Univ. Dr. Gabriel Badescu, the chair of Political Science Department of Babes Bolyai University Cluj. Research revealed the potential of these programs to increase the interpersonal trust of participants and to stimulate their involvement in community issues.

Another component of New Horizons activity is the organization of internship programs and off campus programs for students from United States colleges (Gordon College, Calvin College, and Northwestern College). The programs last for a semester (3 months). Each year, New Horizons Foundation hosts about 10 students from the above referred to colleges.

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