Romanian children cheer each other on in games during an IMPACT Program gathering.
Sometimes finding job opportunities across the world requires personal connections, but having lifelong passion and connections with a particular region definitely helps too.
Both led Kelly Organ ’12 to become the program coordinator of international development and capacity building for New Horizons Foundation (NHF) in Lupeni, Romania. Organ has been interested in Eastern Europe since a very young age and was able to study in Romania as a junior at Calvin through a Northwestern College study abroad program.
While abroad in Romania she got acquainted with the leaders of NHF, who later offered her and her husband, Jack, positions with the organization.
As partner missionaries for Christian Reformed World Missions, Organ took on NHF’s IMPACT project in January 2013, which stands for Involvement, Motivation, Participation, Action, Community, Teens. Jack became the assistant director for NHF’s summer camp, and the two also became leaders of an IMPACT group.
The IMPACT Program is an afterschool program that uses experiential education methods like adventure education and service learning to help youth develop character and competencies to change their communities.
“Groups of about 15-20 kids are led by two or three leaders and they meet once a week for a couple hours and play games, read various folk tales, watch films and discuss the moral lessons that are present in those narratives,” Organ said. “Then the kids look for needs in their community, and using a methodology based somewhat on asset-based community development and service learning principles, they develop projects to meet needs in their community.”
Some of these projects include trash pick-ups, raising money to combat cancer, organizing music festivals or advocating the local government to regulate shops that sell illegal drugs to youth.
Organ also connects NHF with organizations in 12 other countries, which will expand to 16 by fall 2016. She creates the educational materials and curriculum for IMPACT clubs and equips leaders from these organizations with the resources from the IMPACT program, which they adapt to their own context.
Worldview enhanced at Calvin
Her work in Romania correlates greatly with many of her experiences and involvements at Calvin. Organ spent two internships with the CRC Office of Social Justice, was a coordinator of community partnership with the service-learning center, served as a Barnabas, volunteered at Supper House, and wrote for Chimes. She also lived on the grassroots floor of Van Reken residence hall.
As an international relations major with a congregational ministries minor, Organ loved learning how to think systematically about the world and the way it works. Her congregational and ministry studies minor was also formative in cultivating her commitment to the church, both as an institution and a body of believers.
“Calvin prepared me to do my job well. I have excellent writing skills that have come in handy so many times, and critical thinking skills that are incredibly useful,” Organ said. “My independence and the drive for excellence that I discovered at Calvin gave me a love for learning and exploring.”
Organ and her husband will be in Romania at least through 2017 and she hopes the program will eventually expand with long-term, multi-faceted research. She also hopes someday to go to graduate school and learn about such research. Until then, she and Jack enjoy running and hiking in the local mountains, engaging in local agriculture and living sustainably with the resources available.
“There are daily questions of living as a privileged person in a community that has great need,” Organ said. “It’s a really important challenge that I hope I never walk away from. I hope I always live in a place where questions [are presented] of what it means to love your neighbor well, when you and your neighbor are in such different circumstances. It can be exhausting, but it also does a lot of important things to your heart.”