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Since our founding in 1973, Horizons of Friendship has grown from a small group of concerned citizens from rural Ontario to the only NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) in Canada with an exclusive focus on development in Mesoamerica. As we evolve, we remain inspired by the creativity and resilience of our Central American and Mexican neighbours in the face of their struggle with poverty and injustice.

Looking Back: A Brief Overview of our History
With the new millennium came our focus on capacity building and the construction of a “learning network” aimed at helping our partners share knowledge and develop joint strategies on issues of common concern, both within and across national borders.

2000 to present

2010: Launching of regional project on intercultural bilingual education to promote rights of Indigenous peoples.

2008: Two regional projects are launched focusing on HIV/AIDS and Violence against Women.

After the earthquake in Costa Rica, Hurricane Mitch and the earthquakes in El Salvador, we built our emergency response program. Environmental concerns became a priority. We work to strengthen our partners’ capacity to meet societal needs while increasing their interconnectedness for mutual learning and support.

Guatemala, July 2004: the learning network becomes a reality. Needs identification and potential initiatives address capacity building for our partners’ networks in the ever-changing context of Mesoamerica.

1990 to 1999

The nineties are marked by an emphasis on building partner relationships with NGOs and other civil society actors in Mesoamerica. Regional meetings continue to provide a space for information sharing and debate. Capacity building is an integral part of our work through training and mutual learning on gender and the environment. Workshops on Results Based Management (RBM) improve our own and our partners’ planning and reporting. Evaluations, audits and administrative systems are part of an ongoing process.

Our Community Outreach program places a growing emphasis on direct North/South contact through partner visits to Canada and delegations to the South. These ‘personal exposure tour’ experiences serve to raise awareness of global issues and an increased understanding of Canada’s role in developing countries.

1979 to 1989


The end of the ‘80s: We’ve developed our first strategic plan and contracted personnel with experience in the South. Our fundraising and awareness raising approach is more systematic and goal-oriented. We hold our first regional consultations with partner organizations in Mesoamerica to share contextual analysis and debate programming directions. Our focus is on inter-agency relations: joint analysis, policy formation and advocacy with other Canadian NGOs working in Mesoamerica. This leads to the multi-year initiatives that support the return of Guatemalans from Mexico to their homeland.

Mid-1980s: We’ve redefined our role to contribute to the reduction of the causes of poverty and injustice in Mesoamerica. Our partnerships continue to develop into increasingly horizontal relationships between North and South. The child sponsorship program is phased-out, requiring us to seek new sources of financial support. Donor development strategies and an altered relationship with CIDA ensues – initially based largely on short-term emergency and other humanitarian initiatives, it is now focused on longer-term community development support.

Initially, we combine our child-sponsorship programs with an increasing focus on community development. We bear witness to the consequences of war, the deterioration of quality of life, increasing poverty and political conflict. From this, we recognize the need to dedicate our resources to supporting grassroots organizations in sectors such as agriculture, health, and education. We rethink our concept of community development and begin to focus on helping communities become better able to help themselves.

Begining to 1979


By 1975: We have channeled approximately $3 million to Central American projects.

1974: Hurricane Fifi. We provide funding for community reconstruction in Honduras and gain a measure of national recognition.  Our child sponsorship program increases in scope during the 1970s to include El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and our mandate broadens to include housing projects.

Our initial work focuses on child sponsorship, with a secondary emphasis on community development.

1973: Horizons becomes a registered NGO.