European Voluntary Service 2007-BG-09 project

Project type: Long-term
Location: Vidin (Bulgaria)
Host organsition: Free Youth Centre
Partnership: The host project is open to working with any partner
Target group: Roma children and youth
Main themes for the activities: Anti-discrimination, minorities

Description of the organisation's volunteer policy

Foreign volunteers are a valuable resource in our activities with the two main target groups - children and youth at risk and youth leaders. Because of the fact that the work with the first target group is concentrated mainly in the Roma neighbourhood of Vidin, where the volunteers are cordial welcome in this local community, and this is an important motivation for the children to take part in our activities. In a society which is split up in Roma people (Gypsies) and Bulgarian, the volunteers turn up as mediators and compensate in certain degree the mistrust, which traditionally exists toward outside intervention in the neighbourhood. The volunteers bring tolerance and relations without any prejudice, because often they come from countries where the Roma community is insignificant and it doesn't have the same negative social image, or from high developed countries with high level accepting the diversity.

Working with the youth leaders, the volunteers help them to increase their motivation and interest for participating. They are a positive example for the use of volunteering, which still arouse negative associations in our country. With their tolerance to the diversity, they are a model to be followed and it's valuable especially in the so-called "elite" schools, where Roma children very rarely study and the attitude to them is negative. The Free Youth Centre often recruits volunteers from these schools.

FYC relays on the foreign volunteers for transfer of new ideas and know-how for the direct work with the target groups, for creating European model of professional relations, for improving the management and developing of the human resource of the organization (for example, improving the language skills), etc.

Last but not least, participation of the foreign volunteers creates the feeling of the change, gives new meaning of the word "foreigner", and realizes the European idea and development of the new European identity. For most of the children and the youth we work with, the foreign volunteers are the only "European ambassadors" they are in contact.

FYC works with the volunteers from EVS programme from the very beginning after it was established in Bulgaria. Till now 11 foreign volunteers had worked for our organization - 3 from US Peace Corps and 8 from EVS ( from Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Italy and Latvia). Nearly all of them have contributed a lot of the development of our organization, which motivates us to apply again for volunteers.

Project environment

The town of Vidin is a regional centre situated in Northwest of Bulgaria, on the bank of the Danube. The town was established 2000 years ago. Vidin is a typical example for "post industrial" town, which has lost over 20 000 citizens because of the economical difficulties caused of the stage from planned to market economy. Now about 50 000 thousand citizens have been living in Vidin. About 15% of them are with Roma origin, the others are ethnical Bulgarians. The Vidin region produces only 1.17% of the Bulgarian GDP and the registered unemployed is over 16% (10.2 % country average). Some economic revival has been expected with the beginning of the construction of the bridge Vidin - Calafat, which is the biggest infrastructural project in the region - 236 MEUR.

Vidin is a town with relatively big Roma community, which is more than 7 000 citizens. Most of them live in an isolated neighbourhood "Nov pat", which is about 2 km away from the town. The volunteers and the other staff use the public transport, unless when the FYC manages to organize the transport. The neighbourhood consists mainly of Roma people, Bulgarians living there are an exception. People there speak only Roma language but nearly all of them can speak Bulgarian as well. The FYC has created a centre for social and educational support, which is in the yard of the local school. The centre is well equipped and furnished and it includes 3 premises - a sitting room, a classroom and a room for creative activities. It will be the main work place for the volunteers but some of the activities will be carried out in the town (for example outreach work with the begging children) or in the FYC office, which is also in the town.


The activities the volunteers will take part in are directed mainly towards giving of social and educational services to children with unequal position. In this way the volunteers will have the opportunity to get into the social practice of the municipality, using contemporary methods for case management. At the same time the volunteers will obtain knowledge and skills in the sphere of informal education as well as approaches and methods for work with children with educational problems. Last but not least they'll gain some specific experience working for an NGO, because as a part of the team they'll be included in the process of taking decisions, planning of projects, organizing of the activities, their evaluation and report, etc.

With a view to more effective participation of the volunteers in the activities, which depends of his language competence and preparation, the optimal time for volunteer service should be one year. It's possible the time to be less than a year but not less than 6 months.

The volunteer is a team member of the Centre for Social and Educational Assistance. Their activities will be at least two from the listed below:
- Giving day care to the children in the Centre;
- Street work with the begging children and with the school dropouts;
- Organizing or assisting in implementation of different forms of formal and informal education - clubs, projects, interactive games, etc.;
- Organizing and motivating young people for volunteer work with the children.
Some examples of typical activities for the volunteer:
- Giving day care to the children in the Centre - the volunteer follows the children's safety and organizes their stay to be interesting and useful for them. He/she collaborates with the specialists from the team;
- Street work with the begging children and with the dropouts - the volunteer is a part of a team which visits the children and works with them (in the street, in the neighbourhood, at home). He/she organizes different activities with the children and directs them to the Centre;
- Organizing or assisting in implementation of different forms of formal and informal education - clubs, projects, interactive games, etc. - according to his/her abilities and interest, the volunteer works as a leader or assists in some creative and artistic activities (for example: dance club, music or theatre club, projects, etc.);
- Organizing and motivating young people for volunteer work with the children - the work includes recruiting volunteers from the local high schools. The volunteers has to organize and supervise the work of the volunteers with Roma children. They have to help in solving conflict situations, fair report of the volunteer participation, etc.

After team discussion, the volunteers can offer and execute their own ideas as well. Their ideas should contribute for the objectives of the activities. For example, a volunteer with drama abilities can organize a theatre club, if they have sports interests they can run a sport team, etc. The FYC encourage the volunteers to decide in which area they'll be the most useful and where they can contribute for their personal realization as well.

Volunteer profiles and recruitment process

It's very important the volunteer to be well motivated of the social work with children in unequal position. They have to be sensitive to the children's problems, to understand them, respect and support them. All qualification and experience in social and educational sphere are welcome as well as talents in art and sport sphere, which will be useful for the work with the children.

Another important requirement is the volunteer to be tolerant, to respect the diversity and other's opinion and to be able to work in a team. They need to have good communicative skills and to speak a language, which will allow them to communicate with the staff (i.e. English or Russian) for a start, before they acquire the Bulgarian language preparation.

Selection procedure includes presenting a Motivation letter and CV with a photo. The volunteer has to explain why they apply for this position, what's their qualification, skills and experience. It's very important the applicant to indicate the level of the foreign languages they speak as well as computer skills. The candidatures will be evaluated by a committee of staff members and foreign volunteers working for the organization. The committee recommends the candidate with the highest evaluation to the chairman of the FYC.

For partners sending organizations we would prefer these, which develop youth volunteering and have direct impressions of the potential candidate.

Special needs, prevention, safety and protection

The character of the work we offer is not suitable for volunteers with special needs.

The volunteer will have self-contained one room apartment in the town. They'll have an assistant ,who will be responsible for adaptation, she will help them in solving every day life problems and will provide the necessary safety. In the orientation period they'll present all the potential risks of the environment and their prevention. They'll get information and directions about the job and their stay in Vidin. The organization will provide Bulgarian lessons for the volunteer if they need it. In the beginning in the volunteer service as well as late in the evening (if it's necessary) there will be a member of the team who will accompany the volunteer to and from the Roma neighbourhood. In the outreach work in the street they'll be a part of a mobile team, including at least one more member, who will be a specialist from the FYC staff.