The association was set up in 1993. By 2007 it ran various cultural and cultural education projects mainly for pupils. The major partner was the French association Les Amis de Târgovişte in Verneuil sur Avre, who assisted our NGO with various resources (including volunteers). Pupils from Targoviste went to France and their French peers came to Targoviste. Since 2007 the association has been undertaking EDC/HRE and school development projects as well as projects on education of values and local development. We closely work with schools, local in-service teacher training centre, county centre for educational resources, and other NGOs. Deliberating in a Democracy Programme (DID) was a US Department of Education funded partnership between high schools in Dambovita county and Washington D.C. area within an international network aiming to increase the knowledge, ability and dispositions of teachers and students to effectively participate in deliberations related to democratic principles as applied in their countries (USA and nine former communist countries). Over 200 teachers have engaged more than 4000 high school students in authentic civic deliberations while learning democratic principles (the rule of law; responsibility; transparency; economic freedom; human rights; etc.) and participating in lessons on democracy. Romanian and American students had studied some controversial issues (euthanasia, cloning, freedom of speech, compulsory voting, national service, globalization and fair trade, violent video games, recycling etc.) and subsequently they shared opinions and specific experiences on a special platform and via Skype. Teachers visited the partner’s site and participated in various training events in Romania and other countries (in order to become able to use the method – structured academic controversy and to understand some specific legal, cultural etc. aspects of the deliberation issues). Our association developed a collection of good practice (http://www.ccd-dambovita.ro/biblioteca/doc/Ghid_bune_practici_DID.pdf ) which depicts the challenges that enriched the teachers and our team.
Between 2008 and 2009 the Friendship Ambassadors Association developed a really innovative project based on the Council of Europe’s tool for quality assurance of EDC in schools. The project was supported by the Council of Europe and the US Embassy in Bucharest. Eight middle and secondary schools in Dambovita county were challenged to integrate their EDC policy and development plans in the whole development process of their institution, to introduce democratic practices (mainly responsibility) in various procedures (such as need analysis, analysing their community’s resources and interests, giving feedback to their students/parents/etc.), to enhance their team building capacity, and to develop criteria to evaluate the quality of some EDC components. The project was really complex and enabled the participants to develop another good practice guide (http://www.ccd-dambovita.ro/biblioteca/doc/Ghid_asigurarea_calitatii.pdf ).
In 2012 we ran a seven-month project inspired by a British Council’s initiative. The project Creativity Map of Dambovita County – a tool for cultural and entrepreneurial education of high school students brought together 20 students, 44 artists and entrepreneurs, and some trainers. The students interviewed the small business owners and wrote some stories depicting what they understood about those professional and personal experiences. At the end of the project the students presented a performance created by themselves to the public in Targoviste and to the visitors of the Romanian Peasant Museum in Bucharest. They wanted to share the feelings and perceptions generated by this special experience with the adults (parents, teachers, business people) and other youngsters. Starting from the common experience of consumers, they turned to the conditions of creative people. We also put together most of the elements of the projects in a book (http://hartacreativitatii.wordpress.com/rezultate/ ).
From 2011 to 2013 our association was in charge of training some teachers, principles, and other NGO activists about the role of voluntary service in a democratic society and for a meaningful education. The Comenius Regio project Voluntary Service for a Better Life gave us the chance to exchange experience with schools and authorities of a small Hungarian town – Martfu. Teachers in Targoviste visited our partners, participated in some ordinary school events and could understand the cultural dimension of this phenomenon – volunteering. Our trainer organised workshops on the EU policies and procedures, community partnerships (with companies, authorities etc.), specific interactive methods, national regulations, and evaluation of competences acquired through the voluntary service. All materials and events of the project are available at http://voluntariatcomeniusregio.wordpress.com .
In 2014 we participated in several initiatives related to training facilitators to engage in continuing education programs in schools, as well as to develop centers for continuing education. In these efforts we partnered with KREA (a pilot center for continuing education at School no.8 in Târgoviște). Although we are still waiting for the final results, this effort is part of the strategic plan of the Association. We place a strong emphasis in initiating and developing activities and programs, which will result in creating learning communities within and among diverse social environments and contexts (associations, state institutions, citizen groups, business partners, etc.).
In 2014 we also organized original activities, which engaged students from four local schools, during a week-long program entitled “School redefined/Scoala altfel”. The participants demonstrated great interest in the personal development workshops, as well as in meeting with entrepreneurs, human rights activists, actors, professors, journalists, as shown in the articles we published at https://ambasadoriiprietenieitargoviste.wordpress.com. This positive feedback inspired us to develop “The success which inspires”, a program designed to take place over one school year. The funding we received from Dâmbovița County Council for this project enabled us to organize a field excursion in Sibiu-Sighișoara-Viscri area, during the week-long event “School redefined/Scoala altfel 2015”, and a few other activities while visiting several institutions and organizations in Bucharest: The National Village Museum, The National Romanian Peasant Museum, The Alternative University, and The Color Studio. By participating in these experiences the students were able to visualize and reflect on what success looks like in various fields: tourism, entrepreneurship, culture, art and education. A few of these experiences greatly expanded the students’ knowledge and pushed them beyond their comfort zone. We are planning a follow-up project, which will offer a coherent environment where students will be able to innovate and create new and daring projects in work areas they are passionate in pursuing in their adult life (see more details on our website).
At the end of 2017 the association and Mihai Viteazul middle school in Targoviste organised a one week science exhibition which was visited by over 1200 people, mostly pupils who enjoyed the experiments that showed them various physical phenomena (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tnxPE7BBJ4 ). The project was funded by Dambovita County Council.
Between April 2018 and March 2019 we ran a project on lobby and advocacy aiming to preserve the old building and historical monuments in Targoviste city (https://lobbyandadvocacy.weebly.com/en.html ). By June 90 high school and university students were trained in order to undertake lobby and advocacy actions. In the next three months they searched for approaches used in other towns, the legal provisions in the field, the duties of various public bodies and NGOs etc. They also developed suggestions to the owners of the old building, letters/petitions to the authorities, questionnaires for specific public. They organised a flash mob, several public presentations (including exhibitions) of the problem (to teachers and students), guided tours in the old part of the town. They took photos (some were depicted on playing cards that were disseminated in our town, others were used for banners etc. posted in crowded areas of Targoviste) and made short videos for the project site, too. We also outlined a public policy on how various actors (owners, authorities, university, schools, architects, developers etc.) could cooperate in order to save the historical buildings and link them with the town development.
At the end of 2020 we started an Erasmus+ project (Am I European?) aiming to identify how the participating communities (including students, teachers, parents, etc.) describe the European identity. Teachers will be trained in order to support their students in researching, analysing controversial issues, understanding how people get their opinions, negotiating various joint actions etc. Our partners are schools and NGOs from Gaesti, Vacaresti (Dambovita county), Turkey, Spain and Wales. The project is coordinated by International Links (Global) Ltd.
In January 2021 the association started the Erasmus+ Project Inclusive Digital Environments to Enable High-quality Education for Disadvantaged and Disabled Learners (INCLUDEME) as local partner of the Advanced Technology Systems. Our role will be to pilot the applications developed by the experts from Targoviste, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus.