New Horizons for the Jiu Valley
The Jiu Valley is a beautiful part of Romania: a mountainous, coal-rich area in Hunedoara County, nestled in the southern Carpathians. For many years mining made this region incredibly prosperous, but with the decline of the coal mining industry and the collapse of communism, the area has become one of the most economically depressed parts of the country.
It was here that New Horizons Foundation was first started, with the VIAȚA camp finding its first location on Straja Mountain, which overlooks the town of Lupeni. NHF’s headquarters are still in a cement apartment building on Lupeni’s main street, and although our programs have spread nationally and internationally, we haven’t lost our connection to this local community where we first started.
Here in the Jiu Valley, our work in local community development is heavily focused on outdoor education, honoring and utilizing the rich natural resources of the area. These programs are a microcosm of the work we’re doing at a national and international level, sowing seeds of hope and empowering local communities to work together for a better future.
Fără Limite (Without Limits) is an indoor rock climbing gym for the kids and teens from the Dallas neighborhood in Vulcan, of the poorest parts of the Jiu Valley. We set out to create an environment of nonviolence and safety where children from low-income families can gather and participate in healthy recreational activities. Here, they are able to develop their character and learn valuable skills while making friendships with positive role models and leaders. We have become a second family and the children know that they are loved and valued.
The 45 members of the gym also participate in a weekly reading hour, English lessons, and other educational activities; competitions across Romania; outdoor climbing trips; and a yearly climbing camp in the Retezat mountains.
Developing active tourism
in Jiu Valley
One source of hope for the future of the Jiu Valley is in active tourism, particularly through mountain biking. The valley benefits from several ski areas which have state-of-the-art gondolas that normally remain unused during the summer.
Studies by the International Mountain Biking Association have shown that mountain biking has diversified and revived local economies, and the Jiu Valley can be among them, attracting tourists from all over Romania and Eastern Europe! We have already built Romania’s first true flow trail and plan to build several more, as well as a skills park and over 500 kilometers of well-marked cross-country biking trails.
In partnership with Northwestern College (Iowa, USA), New Horizons Foundation offers a semester-long study abroad experience for North American college students. While living in the Jiu Valley, our students study and experience Romanian culture, history, and language; Eastern Orthodoxy; sustainable development; and other subjects. All these classes are combined with a strong practical component in the form of internships and the benefits of working within one of the largest youth and education nonprofit organizations in the country. The program also includes excursions, backpacking in the Retezat mountains, and accommodation in host families in Lupeni.
NHF also hosts shorter spring and summer study abroad programs in coordination with several colleges and universities in the United States, as well as many interns throughout the year. Interns come to learn about various subjects, including but not limited to social work, psychology, teaching English, adventure education, and community development.