Funds Sources: Heritage Campaign
Project Name: We Make a Future Home
Link: Facebook Fundraiser
Starting Date: March 2021
Project Status: In Development
Total Project Budget: $100,000 (incl. non-RUF sources)
The New Horizons Foundation invites you to contribute to an educational program through which children and young people can learn that what they have in their village has immense value and that it can be used in the context of sustainable tourism (ecotourism) enjoying global growth again Romania is one of the few countries that still has traditional landscapes inhabited
The first blended learning program in Romania (although we did not see anything like this one internationally) prepares youth for serving the economic revival of their communities through heritage-related entrepreneurship. 500 Youth/year educated to care for and capitalize, in sustainable ways, the ecological and cultural assets of their communities. 50 communities – which will benefit from the community-based learning projects implemented by youth, but will also learn to trust more young people, and empower them 1.000 tourists – who will have the opportunity to learn about the treasures of these communities directly from youth living there and why not, thinking of investing in these communities.
According to Eurostat, the number of young Romanians (aged between 15 and 29) has fallen dramatically, down 28 percent from 4.86 million in 2008 to 3.52 million in 2016. This situation is even more dramatic in the Romanian countryside. The definitive rural exodus towards France, Italy, Spain has deprived the villages of an important segment of their population, the most active, able to work. (Török, 2014).
The decline of the Romanian population in rural areas is a problem that can be solved if the economic development of these regions is pursued, and if we create an environment appealing enough for young people, to make them stay at home, feel proud of their roots, and willing to invest in their communities.
Ecotourism (https://www.eco-romania.ro/en/eco-destinations/) has become a solution for a Romanian rural revival, and young people have proved they have to and can be part of this revival. However, to capitalize on this, youth must be educated in soft skills, as well as the technical skills that make eco-tourism possible. Moreover, youth must be made aware, educated to care for their heritage (cultural and natural) and see it as intrinsically worthwhile and not just a means of production.
Currently, there are several great initiatives that offer children education related to heritage as Scoala de la Piscu, Moara de Hartie, but they are serving the locals or the ones that can afford to travel to them. New Horizons deployed in over 30 communities across 7 counties a well-grounded educational model of extracurricular clubs – called GreenIMPACT – where 15-25 children and youth are „learning by doing” about the potential of their communities and become gradually aware and proud of their heritage, acting as promoters and entrepreneurs in eco-tourism. The program reached more than 1.000 youth over the last 3 years. Still, there are many more to reach and guide and the existing programs fail to serve the ones that live in communities where there is no adult to engage them in a heritage education program.
1. Creating and developing a blended learning program - https://edulab.noi-orizonturi.ro - that offers youth (13-21 years old) an optimal learning journey for them to become aware < knowledgeable < proud < active promoters < entrepreneurs of local heritage. The program includes a mix of online learning (asynchronous courses + webinars + team tutoring) with offline practice (interviews with grandparents, visits to museums, etc), online project design, and offline project implementation. Up to now, the program covers 3 learning paths: Traditional Folk Costumes, developed with La Blouse Roumaine, traditional Local Products, developed with ADEPT Foundation and 4-H America, and Touristic Trails, developed with Centrul Schubzs and Mioritics Foundation. We aim to add 3 more learning paths, on local Architecture and Traditional crafts for house restoring in partnership with Romanian Architects Order, and Nature Heritage with Centrul Schubzs and Mioritics Foundation. The online training is built on the openlearning.org LMS - as this one(shorturl.at/pyB46), the management of the classes is done on Google Classroom, and for webinars, we are using Zoom platform.
2. Reaching out to youth, registering, guide them throughout the learning journey. They have an e-community guide, specialists as teachers for each Learning Path, and a design thinking tutor to help them plan the project. At the local level, they have an adult (any kind) to support them with exploring the community and implementing the project. We already run out the learning journey with the piloting cohort: 190 registered, 100 finished the online training, 50 summiting community-based projects. In April we will start with the second cohort and then in Autumn 2021, the third cohort.
3. Creating and developing a national online marketplace for youth projects. Some of them have digital treasure hunts like this one, in Panaci, Suceava (shorturl.at/nuxQR), others have products as souvenirs, others created virtual museums as this one, in Picior de Munte, Dimbovita (shorturl.at/bwDEV), others have services as "sezatori". This online marketplace will give youth a "stage" where they can exhibit their projects/results, giving them an extra layer of being real, being relevant, and at the same time, will offer potential tourists a platform where they can reach experiences created by youth. In this marketplace, youth all over Romania can see each other projects, can inspire others but they also can find proper digital tools to create experiences for tourists (as a digital tool for creating a local trail to explore the local heritage).
The "school" we are creating is supporting the youth born and raised in a rural area, to extend their horizons, to really understand the value of their local heritage, and imagine and practice appropriate ways to monetize them. For example, being online, we could invite Andra Clitan, a successful Romanian entrepreneur that creates and sell products that represent a "fusion between Romanian traditional costumes and different cultures from all over the world". Youth could meet her, in person, learn her vision, her experience and understand that what they consider now obsolete is extremely valuable.
The innovation of this program is that is making the most of the online with offline learning and empowers youth to not have just plans/pitches but also to put them in practice. In this way, they truly develop key skills for 21 Century: communication and social skills, sense of entrepreneurship, critical thinking, creativity but also true understanding and appreciation of their history, heritage in a way that preserve and cherish it for future generations. They will gain specific technical skills as they will act to create products and services based on the local heritage that is valuable on the market.
The overarching solution is to capacitate youth from the eco touristic areas to become agents of change, understanding the value of the local assets and the importance of using them economically (to generate income for the community) in a sustainable way, proud of their roots, capable and willing to get involved in the development of their communities. We are addressing youth (13-21 years old) that live in ecotouristic areas. They have little to no access to tailored learning activities related to heritage and ecotourism (actually to no extracurricular activities). In their gymnasium schools, most of their teachers are commuting and left no time/space for extracurricular activities and in their high-schools, all of the rural teenagers are communing, depending on the bus timetable, living them with no option for staying to extracurricular activities. Still, these youth are active, interested in finding options for their future, and willing to pay extra effort, extra time to learn, develop and bring a contribution to their community. During the 3 years of regular Green IMPACT clubs and most recently, during COVID-19 pandemic, with #edulab for ecotourism, we reached to young persons that learned how to look at and appreciate the local heritage. Some of them already brought amazing benefits for their communities: Digital Treasure Hunts for tourists, to discover local heritage (shorturl.at/hyH35), Creating souvenirs based on local heritage symbols (shorturl.at/bwHOW), unveiling forgotten treasures (shorturl.at/izBX3) or convincing authorities to promote local heritage (shorturl.at/nBKN7). Throughout the project, we are aiming at bringing 500 youth/year in awareness educational program related to heritage and ecotourism and supporting 100 to develop and implement community-based projects that value the local heritage (as the ones mentioned in the above links).
To be available soon.