New Horizons Foundation

The mission of New Horizons Foundation, which was founded in 2000 in Romania’s Jiu Valley, is to inspire youth to lead and to produce social change. We do this by innovating and sustaining models of experiential education which empower youth to develop themselves, their communities, and the world in which they live!


Through our programs, young people between the ages of 11 and 19 are becoming more involved, more responsible, and more courageous. They are developing values, attitudes, and abilities which can truly help them for the rest of their lives.


All of New Horizons Foundation’s programs help youth develop personally and prepare them for life, regardless of the profession they’ll choose as adults. We promote experiential learning through all our programs, encouraging young people to DO what they dream of: to put their ideas into practice, and not just remain at the level of theory.

Our Work in Romania

At the national level, New Horizons Foundation has developed two educational programs which develop and transform Romanian youth: IMPACT (learning through community service) and VIAȚA (learning through adventure).

In order to reach these youth, we work directly with teachers, as well as priests, youth workers, and other educators.  For this reason, we have developed two programs specifically for educators: Architects of Education, a professional formation program for teachers who want to use experiential learning methods in the classroom, and Community Schools, a network of schools which are integrated in and collaborating with their communities all across Romania. 

Even as we’ve spread across the country, we stay closely connected to our roots in the Jiu Valley, leading community development efforts there through a range of outdoor education projects which benefit local disadvantaged youth and the entire community.

International Reach

In 2008, the IMPACT program spread to its first foreign location with the opening of clubs in Honduras.  Since then, it has expanded into over 20 countries across Europe and Central America.  In 2015, a sister program called SKYE was developed (Skills and Knowledge for Youth Economic Empowerment) which quickly also spread into multiple countries around Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.  Currently, there are over 250 IMPACT and SKYE clubs outside of Romania, benefiting approximately 5,000 additional youth.

New Horizons Foundation also hosts an annual study abroad and internship program for foreign college students through the Romania Semester, which is run in partnership with Northwestern College (Orange City, Iowa, USA).  The fall semester abroad offers a unique experience to university students to spend four months studying in post-communist Romania.  While living in the Jiu Valley, where NHF was founded, these college students study with local professors and experience Romanian culture, history, and language, while also learning about sustainable community development and participating in New Horizons Foundation programs.

Damian Oprea, 16 years old

 VIAȚA participant

VIAȚA Program

“It was an unforgettable experience – you have fun and learn at the same time.  This camp helps you to conquer your fears, like fear of heights or lack of trust in your team, and teaches you to build personal relationships with other young people, something uncommon in Romania in this era of technology.” 

Seda Shahmuradyan, age 20

SKYE club member in Armenia

SKYE International

“It is really very hard for me to imagine a more rewarding or exciting opportunity than the chance to be a member of the SKYE program. I am doing good for others and for my community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride and identity. This has helped me to see myself as a leader, build upon skills I already had, and use them to benefit the greater community.”

Bryent Slagter, Northwestern College

Romania Semester alumnus

The Romania Semester

“My time in Romania has had a profound impact on the way I live my life today.  I was loved and encouraged, in creative ways, by the people I met there. This sent me on a new track of loving people and thinking outside of the customary box. I learned that kind words and persistent invitations make people feel loved more than gifts or material possessions. In the end, love comes down to the time we spend with people. Romania has changed me more than I can know or describe.”

Organizational Scale
Currently, New Horizons Foundation works with approximately 4,000 local volunteers across Romania (over 3500 youth and 400 teachers) and with dozens of professionals in the field of education (trainers, animators, consultants, and policy-makers).  Our organization has 30 staff spread across three offices: the headquarters in Lupeni (Hunedoara), and operational offices in Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest.  In 2015, our organization had an operating budget of over 2 million RON.
Our History
Dana & Brandi Bates and a team of Romanians started New Horizons Foundation in Lupeni, a small town in the Jiu Valley.  In the previous year, they had built Romania’s first high ropes course on Straja Mountain, together with volunteers from Project Adventure USA, and had organized the first summer of VIAȚA.
In 2000, they also held the first training course for camp animators.  The training still happens annually, continuing to prepare at least 15 leaders a year to work with youth in camp settings.
The first IMPACT club is opened (under the name Kaizen), in the Bates’ apartment.
The first service-learning project was done by an IMPACT club: the creation of an ecological toilet in Romania’s Retezat National Park.  Its success helped convince us that IMPACT was a program that deserved to be replicated beyond that first pioneering club.
Fifteen IMPACT clubs were opened in the Jiu Valley through a grant from the International Youth Foundation.  The following year, IMPACT was mentioned in their publication of best practices, “What Works in Youth Engagement.”
The first IMPACT manual and curriculum for leaders were written.
The IMPACT model was replicated for the first time at the national level, as 18 new clubs were opened in 10 counties.  This replication was thanks to a partnership with the Romanian Orthodox Church and grants from the International Orthodox Christian Charities and USAID.
The IMPACT network in Romania exploded in size, growing to a number of 145 clubs across the country, thanks to grants from NOKIA and the International Youth Foundation.
2007 was also the first year of the Romania Semester, in which students from Northwestern College in the United States have the possibility to study abroad in Romania.
New Horizons Foundations opened an office in Bucharest.
Fifty new IMPACT clubs opened in Cluj county, and NHF opened another office in Cluj-Napoca.
In addition, two NHF trainers traveled to Honduras to share about the IMPACT program with partners there.  From this training, new clubs opened in Honduras and, a few years later, in the Dominican Republic.
With support from a Youth in Action grant, the team introduced the idea of social entrepreneurship into the IMPACT program.
The first pool of trainers for New Horizons Foundation was formed.  From this year forward, New Horizons Foundation began to offer trainings on experiential methods for both the IMPACT and VIAȚA programs.  NHF also began to receive government certification of its training courses in 2010.
IMPACT trainings also were held with partners in the Republic of Moldova, thus introducing IMPACT into its third international setting.
A second version of the IMPACT curriculum is developed for use by club leaders.  This curriculum is organized into four learning areas: Active Citizenship, Employability, Social Entrepreneurship, and Leadership.
A second ropes course was constructed in the town of Băile Tușnad, giving VIAȚA its second location in Romania.
The IMPACT model began to be recognized as an international best practice in youth development and plans were laid to replicate it more widely internationally through a partnership with World Vision in Armenia.  A training was also held in the United States to open IMPACT clubs there.
Together with World Vision, New Horizons Foundation developed the SKYE program, including a full curriculum and accompanying learning instruments, in order to adapt IMPACT for an older age group (youth ages 18-26).
International IMPACT clubs were opened in Albania, Haiti, Mexico, and Nicaragua through various partners.
In the town of Vulcan in the Jiu Valley, the Fără Limite (Without Limits) Climbing Gym was opened as a social project by New Horizons Foundation foreign volunteers.
The Romania Semester study abroad program was voted one of the top 10 study abroad programs in the world.
International IMPACT & SKYE clubs spread to Germany and Cambodia through partnerships with Young Life and World Vision.
NHF completed an advocacy campaign which led to the Ministry of Education modifying its implementation of the Școala Altfel program and integrating more experiential learning methods into this national initiative.
Construction began on a new ropes course in the Jiu Valley in Câmpul lui Neag, in order to replace the aging Straja location.
The Community Schools project was launched, which marked a new type of intervention for New Horizons Foundation, at the level of entire schools.  In addition, the first edition of the Architects of Education conference was held, which extended NHF’s influence to teachers (beyond those who volunteer with the IMPACT program) by offering them new instruments for their work.
International IMPACT & SKYE clubs spread to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Georgia.
International SKYE clubs are opened in Bosnia, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Nepal, and Palestine, through partnerships with World Vision.