Thursday, December 20, 2012

Join Us in Launching IMPACT Rwanda

Please help support New Horizons Foundation and the local church in Rwanda to IMPACT the lives of neighborhood children across the country…with the pilot program launch in our neighborhood and surrounding community in Kigali, Rwanda.  We are seeking to raise $45,000 in order to launch this program in March.  Donations can be made online - just indicate it is for Rwanda (and not their Romania program). Many blessings, Jennifer

IMPACT (Involvement, Motivation, Participation, Action, Community, Teens) Program:

“To develop responsibility, young people need to have responsibility. To learn to care, they need to perform caring acts.”
Thomas Lickona, Developmental Psychologist and
Professor of Education at SUNY

Imagine a country devastated by the loss of one million people in 1994. Imagine being a youth growing up in post-genocide Rwanda. Imagine trying to rebuild a country from scratch. Imagine 67% of the population being under the age of 25, but the majority being unemployed. Imagine the trust issues and suspicion involved in working with people who still hold bitterness over the deaths of their families. Now imagine…
A youth movement that truly involves young people in real social change.  Imagine youth lobbying their city government to successfully shut down drug laundering businesses in their city. Imagine youth petitioning their mayor and gaining 1,500 signatures to get speed bumps installed on a busy city thoroughfare to protect innocent lives.  Imagine youth getting the first ecological outhouse installed in a key area of a National Park. Imagine youth raising money to buy a milk cow for an orphanage so it can be more self-sustaining. Now consider that through these projects youth learn important life skills like project management, problem solving, teamwork and computer skills.  Can you imagine this next generation of youth becoming change agents, problem solvers, expressing compassionate competence and entrepreneurial energies for the public good?  If you can imagine this, then you have just imagined the tangible achievements of IMPACT Clubs, but we need your help to launch this in Rwanda.

We began this conversation because we know so many youth in our neighborhood who are without hope and without the practical skills needed to further their education and earn a decent living. Seeking a funding partner, Jennifer brought this idea to a very large-NGO. They are so excited that they are seeking funding to launch it in 30 of their areas of development, impacting close to 1000 youth. Unfortunately, the two larger communities in which we know youth are not in those areas of development. We hope to see both happen. We are in conversation with the Pentecostal church in these two communities to partner with them so that this program can take root among youth we know personally. A Rwandan pastor and friend of ours has been spearheading this partnership. The trainers are ready to come. Yet in order to launch this program and impact 275 youth in our local community, we are seeking to raise an initial $43,500 to launch this program in 11 neighborhoods and impact 275 youth.  That is $13/month or $160/year per young person and the tangible projects they create will impact their entire community.

We don’t believe in reinventing the wheel. If something is proven and tested, then let’s see it work in areas where the need is greatest. This is our fourth year in Rwanda. We have built many friendships with the youth in our village, but we have to ask what will be sustaining when we are not here? Many of these young men and women are the “sandwich generation.” They have been lost under the educational transition from French to English and by rapid rebuilding of the educational system that will greatly benefit today’s 3-5 year olds, but not the 12-18 year olds. Over 40% of those under 25 are unemployed and less than 20% are finishing secondary school. We see a huge desire in them to improve their lot in life and yet the opportunities just aren’t there. We desire to see these innovative and impactful clubs started throughout Rwanda, in partnership with the local church. IMPACT, a model developed on the ground in Romania by my friends, Dana and Brandi Bates, is now not only the largest youth community service movement in Romania, but is recognized globally as a best practice by international youth experts

The IMPACT Program is a powerful vehicle of holistic social change; it is based on a field-tested curriculum and has four broad learning pillars.  The pillars come with a corresponding set of curricula: active citizenship, employability, social entrepreneurship and leadership.  Youth come to know firsthand that they can make a difference and be part of positive change.  The IMPACT model empowers youth to learn how to envision social change, brainstorm together and then write and implement strategic community service projects.  Projects that not only transform youth and their communities, but give them concrete employable skills. The development of moral capacity in the youth served by IMPACT is singularly preeminent, interwoven through the 4 pillars above.  Behind all of this are over 100 field-tested education modules, curricula developed and fine-tuned both on the ground and in consultation with global experts since 2002.  

We already have the trainers, the facilitators and the youth eager to participate. What we need is the funding. World Vision has expressed significant interest in taking this country-wide and has requested three years of funding from its headquarters, but this initial launch will need to be self-funded.
We look forward to partnering with you to impact the youth in our neighborhood and throughout Rwanda.

Please consider investing in a portion of the following:

Training Costs       $15,000 (covers translation/airfare/honorarium/meals and lodging for ten days for trainers)
Administrative/Salaries $23,000 (provides jobs for 12 people – 11 local facilitators and 1 regional coordinator)
Grants for Community Project Grants $5,500 (students can apply for a grant to accomplish their community project)
An online donation can be made at New Horizons Foundation. Just indicate that it is for Rwanda.

The New Horizons Foundation was founded by Dana and Brandi Bates in 2000, to promote top quality experiential education models that advance life skills among youth as a means for sustainable development.  Experiential education is about learning by doing, learning through a problem solving approach to education.  In addition to the IMPACT program, since 2000 NHF has operated the first and only adventure camp in Romania, VIATAVIATA utilizes the non-formal educational methodology of adventure education and service learning to develop youth.  VIATA has served over 5000 youth in the 10 years it has operated.  NHF recently celebrated 10 years of sustainable development work in Romania; there currently are over 20 fulltime Romanian staff and 3 American volunteers working with the Foundation in various capacities, as well as one staff member stateside.  There is much more information on the programs, awards and focus of New Horizons on the website:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Update on the Sewing Coop

The poor are always prophetic. As true prophets always point out, they reveal God's design. That is why we should take time to listen to them. And that means staying near them, because they speak quietly and infrequently; they are afraid to speak out, they lack confidence in themselves because they have been broken and oppressed. But if we listen to them, they will bring us back to the essential.”

Jean Varnier

My neighbors are poor. Very poor. The homes that buttress mine are built of mud and tin. There is usually one outhouse with three holes in the ground for 10-12 homes. The paths in between the homes are strewn with litter and washed out maize bags full of mud and trash that are used for stairs. Children play with whatever they find on the street. Their diet consists primarily of potatoes, beans and a green leafy vegetable that grows everywhere. I employee two of the women from this neighborhood. They now earn double the average wage and have the chance to learn English. Their children are now in school. Every week I have someone knocking on my door asking for a job. I so wish I had a multitude of jobs to offer. There are no unemployment benefits here. You don't work; you don't eat. But I can't, which was one of the impetuses behind enrolling 11 of the moms in sewing school for six weeks and partnering with Noonday Collection to purchase products they make. We are now less than three months away from graduation and I am in awe of what these women have accomplished and humbled by what they are teaching me.

We started the process of becoming a cooperative, but the way it works here is that you actually have to have be in operation before you are approved as a cooperative. One of the steps in becoming official is to elect leaders - president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Since our first step in meeting with the local chief last month to tell him we wanted to become a cooperative, I have not done anything except facilitate the gathering of the women and the relationship between them and Noonday. They have ownership. Today I hosted them all in my home once again to discuss who should lead. This is what I heard from the women prior to a vote:

Alleluia! Amen! - This is their official opening.

A leader must know her workers.

A leader must start work early. If she says to her employees to be there by 8 am, then she must be there by 7:30 am.

A leader must be sharp and know her product well.

A leader must give of herself.

A leader must serve.

After this discussion of the traits of leadership, they selected from among themselves in an open, democratic way. Some of it was practical, as in, the president must have a Rwandan ID card and not a Congolese (several of our women are from the DRC).

They chose all of their officers. They made a to-do list for their next step in becoming an official cooperative. And then they ended.

A woman, who was so shy the first time I met her, asked to pray. They all stood up. She prayed. There were tears. There were amens. There were alleluias.

I know their stories. These women have become my friends, good friends. These are women who have been broken. Who have been oppressed. Who had to flee from enemies and live like refugees in a foreign country. Yet, they sing and they pray with a new confidence and new hope. I took a deep breath, praying all the details of our business partnership in the States would work out, but when I opened my eyes and saw their faces and saw how far we'd come in such a short time, I knew....I knew....that my and their lives were changing for the better.