Tuesday 27 August 2013

Exploring Bulgaria

One of the most rewarding aspects of our work is to meet new people and explore the work of potential new partners.  It's not something we do lightly - we usually rely on recommendations or good reputation - but it's always a privilege to go somewhere new and to hear new stories.

So it was great to have the invitation from the Trussell Trust, known for their co-ordination of Food Banks all over the UK, to visit the work they support in Bulgaria with children and young people. 

Bulgaria is a fascinating country with a very mixed history.  It wasn't long ago that it was a communist country with secret police, but the political consequences are still being played out.  Even now, the average wage is no more than £300 a month, with high living costs; even for those who have a job, life is not easy.

However, there is a group of people in Bulgaria (and a few other European countries) who are victims of prejudice and exploitation, many of whom experience living conditions similar to Sub-Saharan Africa:  the Roma people, or as some call them 'gypsies'.

NB Roma are originally from Northern India, but were confused with Egyptians ('Gyptians' became 'gypsies').

Downtown in Stara Zsagora, 3 hours outside of the capital Sofia
The view from the top of the Roma community

The situation is complex, the needs are stark, and solutions are rare...  Issues such as trafficking, sex work, high disease prevalence, abandoned or orphaned children, low education standards, and incredibly poor living conditions are all too common.  Trussell Trust supports the Foundation for Social Change Inclusion (FSCI) and World Without Borders, both of whom are starting to contribute to lasting change, and who are addressing the difficult issues of inclusion, integration, and disenfranchisement.  

There are shards of light, rays of hope.  A new model of empowering young people leaving institutions or the care system.  Inspiring members of the community, like Gancho and Milena who set up WWB-they gained degrees and PhDs, but with a sense of 'mission' to invest and develop Roma communities.  Early work with children to inspire hope and achievement, and liaison with local authorities and schools to make sure that every child matters. 

Gancho and Milena, founders of World Without Borders

It's heartening to meet people who give tirelessly for what they are doing, and have a big vision for local communities and the country as a whole.  We're looking forward to developing relationships with Trussell, FSCI and WWB, and hope that in the future we can introduce schools, young people and others to a great country and some big issues that are right on our (European) doorstep.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hello, Bunzil as you can see I have mastered the art of this fangled machine, with a bit of help from bubba. I don't quite know why he has flung himself over the sofa groaning. I am getting better by the minute. The house seems a bit empty without you, so Ned and Kev have moved in, it will be hard for them when you get back. Debby's arriving at the weekend for some shopping, and I forgot Annabelle's birthday. Hope you and Paige are managing well, love from the Maw house, also Ned and Kev send their regards, Turbo too.