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Croatian School of Outward Bound
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  06/6/2007 | Education | Unrated
Outward Bound school opens in Croatia

by Julienne Eden Bui

Dr. Stanimir Vuk-Pavlovi is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and Director of the Stem Cell Laboratory, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Rochester, Minnesota, USA. In addition, he is the founder of Know Thyself!, Croatian School of Outward Bound" and chairs its International Board. Inside took the opportunity recently to do an exclusive interview Dr. Vuk-Pavlovic during one of his frequent trips between the United States and the Republic of Croatia.

You seem to spend more time in Croatia than in Rochester. Why is that?

For the past two years I have been working on the establishment of Know Thyself!, Croatian School of Outward Bound". This has been my recent, and most likely my last, passion - as it could well consume all my energy for the rest of my life.

Inside: What exactly is Outward Bound?

Kurt Hahn, who escaped German anti-Semitism before WWII, founded Outward Bound (OB) in 1941 to provide opportunities to young people to "know themselves" and become responsible members of the community. He defined its goals as "assisting people in discovering and developing their potential as individuals to care for themselves, others, and their social and natural environment". The method to achieve this is to overcome challenges in nature under new circumstances. Mr. Hahn summarized the OB philosophy best: "We are all better than we know; if only we can be brought to realize this, we will never again be prepared to settle for anything less."

How many Outward Bound schools are in operation today and what have they done so far?

At the moment, there are 42 schools in 32 countries on all continents, and several others on the drawing board. Post-Communist countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria are operating such schools already. Last year, OB has provided opportunities for over two hundred thousand people all over the world. OB offers its participants mental and physical challenges in team and individual settings so that they can develop greater independence and leadership skills through problem-solving exercises, post-exercise review and individual reflection, community living and involvement, giving and receiving feedback, group work, and independent action.

Why Outward Bound in Croatia?

The impetus to start the Croatian School of Outward Bound came primarily from the existential situation of the veterans of the Croatian Homeland War 1991-1995. Since the end of the war, one veteran on average takes his own life every week. This statistic reflects not only the tragedy of these people and their families - typical, sadly, for veterans of most wars - but also of our failure to help them find a meaningful role in society after the trauma of war. The Croatian School of Outward Bound is developing procedures to involve veterans in our programs. They will have a special role in raising support for the more traditional target populations for Outward Bound, such as school-age youth. We will show them that the Croatian School needs them and, hopefully, others will follow.

Why the unusual name, Know Thyself! Croatian School of Outward Bound?

Yes, the name is unusual. The term "outward bound" does not have a direct translation in the Croatian language, so we chose a term that most accurately describes the intent of Outward Bound. We settled on the Socratic saying "Know Thyself!"

What methods does a typical OB course employ?

The Outward Bound approach places groups of people into adventurous situations where they are challenged to complete the adventure relying on the resources of the group. This may include problem solving and teamwork, rock climbing, rope-climbing exercises, service projects, expeditions, orientation and survival skills. However, the essence of the program is ongoing supervised analysis of individual and group behavior to foster the building of confidence, self-esteem and trust in one's individual and social worth.The lack of self-esteem is often the root cause of unacceptable behavior on the one hand, and suicidal behavior on the other. The psychological aspect of OB programs is the most important aspect.

Who will implement the programs at the Croatian School?

So far, we have seven instructors educated in the OB system. These "charter members" are all experienced mountain guides, mountain rescuers, expedition leaders, rock and ice climbers, scuba diving instructors, lifeguard instructors, etc. In other words, this is a world-class team. We are actively looking for others who will undergo instructor training. Our instructors guide and mentor on the basis of the OB experience, and embody all the OB qualities: self-reliance, adaptability, responsibility, confidence and integrity. Above all, their priority is student safety.

Outward Bound is a global system. Are there any specificities of the Croatian School?

Yes and no. In accordance with OB educational principles, the Croatian School promotes courage, confidence, cooperation, honesty, compassion, and collaboration. It is an educational and sports organization dedicated to people with special physical, mental, and emotional needs. It is open to the general population (school-age children, adults, ...) and educates on the basis of the OB motto To serve, to strive and not to yield!. This is common to all OB schools. Specific to Croatia is our wish to be good citizens of Perui and Lika, the site of our instructional activities, and most important, to make a contribution to the wellbeing of our veterans and other segments of the population that might benefit from our programs. We also intend to offer special programs to Croat youth living abroad, give them the opportunity to brush up on the language, find new friends, and strengthen their love for and ties to their ancestral homeland.

What is the organizational scope of the Croatian School?

Since May 2006, the Croatian School has been an entry-level member of Outward Bound International. It is a philanthropic and non-profit organization with the administrative office in Zagreb and the education center at Malo Polje, near Perui. The International Board oversees its activities and helps provide funding. The Executive Staff in Zagreb handles the design and overseeing of the programs. Croatians have had mixed experiences with foreign, non-governmental organizations.

Why should we welcome Outward Bound, another such organization, in Croatia?

The decision to bring Croatia into the OB system was made after careful scrutiny. The major reason is that OB programs have been proven the most effective of all similar programs with the procedures developed and tested internationally for almost seven decades. Most importantly, the OB Executive Director supervises programs, student safety, and business practices globally. This guarantees that the Croatian School follows the highest educational, ethical and safety standards. Our school operates within a highly respected global philanthropic system and contributes to the revitalization of this type of philanthropy in Croatia. My personal belief is that doing so, we are contributing to the strengthening of Croatian civil society. I have high expectations that the Croatian diaspora will provide major support to the School.

In addition to war veterans, who else is eligible for Croatian Outward Bound programs?

We are open to individuals with special physical and emotional needs and their families, school-age youth who need guidance on ways to escape urban ills, the Croat youth living abroad, sponsors, business people, and the general population. In other words, we are open essentially to everyone on some level.

What programs are you offering?

Beginning in 2007, we will offer programs lasting three, seven, and 14 days during the summer and early fall. In keeping with the OB model, we will operate year round. However, it will depend on the success of the fund-raising drive and the date of our center opening in Malo Polje when this will happen. The unique environment of Malo Polje, Lika, the Velebit mountain range, Kruica Lake, and the local cave systems offers ample opportunity for orientation and survival in the wilderness, climbing, mountaineering, camping, mountain biking, water sports, environmental science, ... We will also offer, in collaboration with other members of the OB system, participation in international programs.

You indicated that Outward Bound Croatia is still in its infancy. What has been accomplished so far?

The wheels were set in motion in April 2005 with the visit of Messrs. Ian Wade, Executive Director, Outward Bound International, and dm Horvth-Kovcs, Director, Outward Bound Romania to Zagreb. Three months later we incorporated Know Thyself! Croatian Association for Outward Bound" as a non-profit organization located in Zagreb. We formed a local Executive Committee and also an International Board, which is comprised of prominent individuals in North America and Croatia. Both the Executive Committee and the Board are seeking new, dedicated members who will, we hope, adopt the Croatian School as their favorite charity. In April 2006, the County of Lika and Senj and the Town of Perui conferred on the School a 30-year free lease of the abandoned village school and surrounding land in Malo Polje near Perui. This is a splendid property, but it has been abandoned since the Croatian military left it after the Homeland War. Now it requires structural reinforcement and remodeling to serve the needs of our programs. It will be equipped modestly, like a simple mountain hut. The richness will come from our dedicated staff, programs, and the magnificent environment.

Fundraising for charitable causes is not widely accepted in Croatia. How did you raise funds for OB Croatia?

Significant funds are required to start a new OB school, but the social and economic situation in Croatia makes it more complex then, for example, in the affluent countries of the West. Hence, we are counting on the Croat diaspora and others of good will to lead the way. American and Canadian Croats provided the fees required to obtain Exploratory Status, the entry-level membership in Outward Bound International. The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Tourism, Communications and Development, Republic of Croatia, also helped with initial funding.

Have you run any programs so far?

In April 2006, our Romanian colleagues ran the "Training of Trainers" course for the first seven Croatian instructors. The new instructors conducted several trial programs in collaboration with Gospi High School and the Sports and Recreation Center Jarun, Zagreb. Attendees were selected from the SOS Children's Village Lekenik, Childrens Home of Zagreb, and children from Gospi and Zagreb. Perui and Lika are contributing a lot to the Croatian School.

What are you offering to your hosts?

I always emphasize that we are there to become "naturalized" in Perui. We intend to participate in local life and attract our students and their families back as tourists and visitors.We hope that our participation in a global organization will bring foreign visitors and contribute to the international and domestic promotion of Perui and Lika. Our programs will be available to the local population. Finally, we will act as a modest local economic factor.

What are the immediate goals of the Croatian School?

We are working hard in several areas: Developing programs for the summer of 2007, fundraising for the rebuilding and equipping of our center in Malo Polje, and building public awareness of Know Thyself! Croatian School of Outward Bound. This means that there will be much to do for the members of our International Board and our staff in Zagreb. We are just establishing our office in Zagreb and creating promotional materials. Among our goals is to obtain the Provisional License from Outward Bound in 2007. This intermediate level of membership will include us in the OB quality assurance system, and will speed up the building of our programs and campus. We hope to obtain the Full License by 2010 when we will offer round-the-year programs of varying complexity and accommodate some 1000 participants a year.

Your concluding message to our readers?

I invite the readers to partner with us in fulfilling the vision of Know Thyself! Croatian School of Outward Bound. Let them explore our nascent web site and contact us at We welcome contributions. Please mail your contributions to Outward Bound Croatia, Marueveka 7, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia. American and Canadian contributions are tax-deductible.

Please send the checks to Croatian Relief Services, P.O. Box 355, Fairview, NJ 07022, USA or Knights of Malta, Suite 333, 2333 Dundas St. W., Toronto, Ontario M6R 3A6, Canada. On the memo line please indicate: For Outward Bound Croatia.

Formatted for CROWN by Marko Pulji
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www.Croatia.orgThis message is intended for Croatian Associations / Institutions and their Friends in Croatia and in the World. The opinions / articles expressed on this list do not reflect personal opinions of the moderator. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, please delete or destroy all copies of this communication and please, let us know! Or simply...enjoy and spread the word and good vibrations.

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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Alen)

    u toj skoli je super probajte to ja sam bio
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