Wind of change - Horizons Scholarship Program
At EFC we believe that non-governmental and non-profit organizations have a specific obligation to constantly question the means chosen to achieve their statutory ends. It is hard to come by constructive criticism in philanthropy: there is no market verification or disenchanted voters. A grateful recipient is always at hand. Yet it is precisely the financial and political independence of NGO’s that should oblige them to incessantly question how they spend their money. In any subcategory of the world of human interaction with one another or the environment, there is a scale of good that can be achieved spending one dollar. Yes, it is a subjective scale and yes, its extremities are an ideal, but this does not mean we should not always work with this scale in our minds. Constantly striving for the most good is what makes philanthropy the true “love of man”.
With this in mind, for the past six months we have been working intensely on changes in our flagship scholarship program. The direct pretext for the new Horizons Scholarship Program comes from the recent education reform in Poland, which extends the duration of high school to 4 years from the previous 3. But changes in the socio-economical situation over the past decade in the Polish hinterland are the background of this endeavour. The essence of Horizons is our belief that as an educational foundation, EFC is obliged to approach education as broadly as possible. This approach can be split into three general categories: 1. An education that is relevant to the challenges of the new century; 2. An upbringing that promotes critical thinking and social engagement; 3. A formation based around the undervalued question of what is a good life.
In order to facilitate this change, we collaborated closely with other non-profit organizations: Fundacja Centrum im. Bronisława Geremka, Forum For Dialogue, Association 61 (administrator of MamPrawoWiedziec.pl), Fundacja Rodziny Staraków / Spectra Art Space and Fundacja Szkoła z Klasą. STOCZNIA (the Center for Social Innovation and Research) moderated the process, conducting a series of workshops together with EFC, its board members and experts.
In effect, we developed new criteria for choosing the schools with which we work, as well as new forms of supporting scholars during their four years with the EFC Foundation. Horizons puts an empashis on providing the scholars with an opportunity to work closely and individually with their coordinators and mentors. A space for integration and growth through volunteer work and other forms of social engagement are a crucial part of the program. During winter and summer holidays our scholars will participate in sports, workshops and cultural activities. We will intensify our cooperation with schools, dormitories and local non-profit organisations to provide students with the best opportunities possible.
We have built a program that enables kids to achieve enduring foundations - a strong sense of self and identity, an open mind and social empathy. The Horizons Scholarship Program still provides complex financial and material aid and it will continue to create the best possible conditions for learning. However, we also wish to teach our scholars how to be active members of their local communities, engaged citizens, compassionate patriots and conscious Europeans. Achieving balance between education, personal growth and social awareness is the only way to have an impact on the modern world.
Up till now, the program supported 667 high school students - 272 current scholars and 395 graduates, 118 of whom are members of the Alumni EFC Association. We will continue to manage the Horizons Scholarship Program in partnership with the Starak Family Foundation, which finances, within their own scholarship program, 120 Horizons scholars.