10 July 2018

EVS "Volunteers 4 Tolerance ", 15.05.2018-14.06.2018, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

The EVS "Volunteers 4 Tolerance " which took place in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, from 15th of May to 14th of June involved 28 volunteers from Armenia, Georgia, Italy, Romania, Spain and Turkey and was hosted by our partners from Alternativi International.
One of our volunteers, Andrei Florin Cristea, shared with us a few thoughts about his experience:

"We participated in a one-month EVS in Bulgaria (Blagoevgrad) in which our focus was on the topic of Hate Speech. We tried to raise awareness, among local youth, about what are the consequences of this behavior and we offered them different tools and methods to fight against it. Over the month we had the chance to work in teams and learn more in depth what words such as racism, prejudice, stereotype and discrimination means. The deeper understanding of those key words permitted us to prepare in a professional and interesting way the public actions and the outdoor activities in the local high schools of Blagoevgrad."

After two weeks into the project, we were divided in two big groups. A part of us were involved in the public action team, with the job of informing students, using presentations and role-playing games, about what Hate Speech is and how to combat it. The other part had the duty to entertain scholars in the schoolyard by playing together games that had as a basis the principle of inclusion. This balance between introduction to the topic of Hate Speech and the outdoor activities proved to be a very good strategy and everyone was pleased by this combination."

The Romanian team: Ana Molnar, Noemi Reman and Andrei Florin Cristea

The members of my team were two beautiful girls, Ana and Noemi, and I am glad that I got to be with them and represent Romania together because they are amazing, and we created a lot of memories that will stay with us forever.

I would start with Noemi because she was the first one that I met. It was the 14th of June, day of departure, a sunny day in Bucharest, when I first met Noemi. I was waiting for her at Springtime, in Victoria Square, the meeting place decided by the sending organization. I would never forget the first time that I saw here because her pink luggage was bigger than her and I knew that I had to help her with it. After talking with the coordinator of the sending organization about the administrative aspect, we headed towards the bus station to take to bus to Sofia and then another bus to Blagoevgrad. During the trip we have talked a lot, and I started to know her better. I was happy when she told me that she is Hungarian as well and that she is living near my hometown. I got to know her very well during this month and I was very happy when she started to open herself with the whole group and show her true nature, lovely and full of energy. Her best moment was during the intercultural night when she showed us a typical Hungarian-Romanian dance and she received a standing ovation. She was very helpful and the fact that she was always smiling made me feel very comfortable around her.

Ana was the opposite of Noemi. I met her only in the 2nd day of the project because she came with her brother’s personal car in Bulgaria. I did not enjoy her presence the first hours but then I started to figure out that her personality and nature is defined by sarcasm. During this one-month EVS she was the one who had the courage to complain regarding the lack of facilities in the apartments, especially in the one she was living. In the end everything sorted out for the better, but everyone will remember her as the one who had the courage to say, in a funny and sarcastic way everything that was wrong in the project, and because of her courage, the project improved day by day.

We divided equally our duties and even though we were living in three different apartments we were very close and always tried to hang out together. I think we all improved our social skills, because we were put in the position of talking in front of the groups and high school classes, especially Noemi who was part of the Public Action team and, objectively speaking, she did a really great job.
First days together

"I did not have a good feeling about this project when I arrived, but this feeling disappeared completely after a couple of days, when I understood that I am surrounded by open minded and incredible personalities from which I can learn a lot. Another beneficial aspect of this project was that in just one month it managed to destroy completely the stereotypes that I had about Bulgaria and the other countries involved in this project. I did not expect to find a family in Blagoevgrad, and because of this, the last day of the project was kind of a torture, because saying goodbye to people is never easy, especially if you shared incredible memories with them."

“The best way to know a culture is to talk with people from that culture and to live it in first person”

The volunteers

"In conclusion, I would like to say that I had a great time and made a lot of friends. I am grateful for this opportunity and I urge others to take part in EVS programs because there are only positive aspects. Bulgaria has a lot to offer. Besides being the land of roses, this country can easily amaze you with its landscapes, delicious food and hospitality of its inhabitants. If you ever consider going in an EVS in Bulgaria, go with an open heart, do not let stereotypes stop your adventurous soul and most importantly, be curious about other cultures and enjoy every second."

Ana Molnar, another volunteer, shared with us that "when i first arrived in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria it was a pleasent surprise because it was nicer then i was expecting. During the project i have learnt more about the No Hate Speech Movement and ways to combat hate speech online but also offline.
The others volunteer were great and they gave me the oportunity not only to discover Bulgaria but also the countries they came from (Italy, Spain, Turkey, Armenia and Georgia).
This project was a oportunity for all of us. We all discover that we can do more than we thought we could, one of the persons of the team is now sure that she is capabile to move and work in another country.
To me, the program gave more confidance in my person. And i am sure that the same it happened to the others persons from my team. We all lost preconceptions that we had before coming to this EVS. After this experience i am considering going on a long term EVS."
Group photo