Very recently, one of our Free Sofia Tour guides Kiril Zahariev had the opportunity to participate in Balkan let’s get up!. The volunteer organization has as prime goals forging the better understanding among the youth on the Balkans and help them put in practice their own ideas with The Balkan Peninsula Project – Solidarity in ACTion. They provide a frame, in which participants can answer their own questions about their motivation and self-determined action ideas and need. It is achieved by:
20 people between 18 and 27 from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania take part annually. Within one year they participate in two seminars and an advanced training, implement their own project and receive active support. Trainers with expertise, volunteer experience and understanding for the lives of young people in the Balkans are ready to assist. Participants form project teams are encouraged to mobilize their direct environment so that a wider impact is produced.
In the first two seminars held in the gorgeous Sibiu, Romania (April 2012) and Belgrade, Serbia (May 2012) Kiril met great and inspiring people and later was lucky to win some of them as team members – Polly from Bulgaria and Suzana from Romania. Together they set up two summer schools – the first one was held from 13th to 17th of August in Comana, Romania and gave the chance to 17 young people, aged 14-16, to participate. The second one took place in Svishtov, Bulgaria (27-30 of August) and was attended by 34 students, aged 14-17.
The Balkan Peninsula has long been perceived as an unfortunate place to be born and live. The political and social turbulences seem to mark the region and create negative connotations in the minds of neutral observers. Luckily, there are enough young, ambitious and motivated people to change this perception and the societies in the peninsula for better. However, introducing new ways of thinking and acting may encounter a formidable amount of hurdles. That is why, the best way would probably be to incite cooperation among the people who share similar visions. It is a well-known fact that the societies in the Balkan Peninsula share common values and cultural heritage, but little has been made to encourage international contacts among the young generation. It may sound surprising, but there is little to be known for the neighbour, beside the stereotypes deeply rotten by the national education.
We strongly believe that Romania and Bulgaria are some of the countries in the EU with the lowest levels of participation in civil life.
This issue is particularly visible in the rural areas of these countries. We believe the main factor causing this to be the lack of education for democracy which is available in these areas. Furthermore, young people in rural areas lack exposure to other cultures and often feel alone in the problems they face; we believe this to be an issue which causes civil passivity as it fosters alienation of the rural youth.
We aim to address these inter-connected problems by creating a Bulgarian-Romanian bilateral project through which young people in rural areas can learn about and engage with key democratic concepts and processes, as well as can meet each other and become solidary in ACTion. This is the reason why we named our project ACT for democracy. And “ACT” perfectly matches for describing our goal in English but also in the Romanian slogan “să fii ACTiv e distractive” (it is entertaining to be active) and in the Bulgarian “Активен Силен Толерантен” (active, strong, tolerant).
Our project contributes to solving the problem in several ways.
Firstly, it provides education for democracy to teenagers who have been isolated from the democratic processes and who will, in the immediate future, become the active citizens of these countries. Secondly, it provides rural youth with the tools and skills necessary to identify problems and undergo constructive actions to solve them (through mini-projects). Thirdly, the projects developed by the young people is visible to their wider community and the whole village will benefit from the dissemination of the information provided in the summer school. Furthermore, our project builds a communication bridge between communities who share similar exclusion in the two countries. Last but not least, this project empowers young people to make their voices heard and become active in civil life.
The realization of the summer schools became possible with the moral and financial support of socially orientated NGOs, one of them being our Free Sofia Tour Association. The organization running the famous FST showed once again its commitment to support initiatives that establish sustainable projects for the developing of the society. Not only the finances are important but also the good will of the Free Sofia Tour to give us the chance to raise our voice and to reach the public through the present blog.
While contemplating the uploaded pictures from the summer schools, I would like just to remind you that we are open to any suggestions/comments and will be really happy to stay in touch with you through our Facebook page ACT 4 Democracy where will be uploaded any further information for what is about to happen with the project.