Friday, September 27, 2013

European Day of Languages in Sofia City Library

The European Day of Languages is celebrated every year since 2001 on the 26th of September as an initiative of the Council of Europe to promote plurilingualism in the whole Europe. There are 24 official languages of the European Union. But in general there are about 225 indigenous languages in Europe that is about 3% of the whole world languages. By celebrating this day we are promoting linguistic diversity that is a tool for achieving bigger intercultural understanding. Under these numbers are people who speaks these languages – different languages. It is worth celebrating the diversity, differences and uniqueness of every language in Europe.

This year in Sofia on 26 of September the event to celebrate the European Day of Languages was held in Sofia City Library. It was organized by the staff of the library and 4 EVS volunteers that are doing their voluntary service there.

The event was attended by number of different embassies representatives, teachers, school children, young people from Bulgaria and other European countries.

The even started with a opening word from the director of the library. Straight after that it was followed by the reading of the famous monologue "To be or not to be" from the William Shakespeare's play Hamlet in different European languages. It was presented by EVS volunteers from Hungary, Poland, Spain, Ukraine, Portugal and Lithuania in their mother tongues.
Representative from USA Embassy reading a fairytale

After that representatives from French, Norwegian, American embassies gave their share and presented some readings in their native languages. Norwegian embassy representatives really attracted children attention by playing recent days Norwegian artist Ylvis song The Fox hit that has already 59 million viewers. Some more speeches were said and for the perfect official part ending of the evening EVS volunteers from the Sofia City Library acted a short play written by Jose Manuel. Ricardo from Portugal, Jose Manuel from Spain and Agne from Lithuania by acting in Bulgarian language presented the EVS life and differences of the countries.
EVS volunteers acting

Different languages were heard, different people shared their cultures, diversity was celebrated and followed by applause's.

Thank you for our friends from Sofia City Library for the possibility to get to know other languages and celebrate this day!

Monday, September 23, 2013

No Hate Speech Movement campaign website is now in Bulgarian language

Bulgarian advocacy against hate speech online keeps moving forward. This week No Hate Speech Movement opened their webpage in Bulgarian language. Click here to check it.

The No Hate Speech Movement is a campaign against the hate speech online in all its forms, cyber-bullying and cyber-hate, that most affect young people all around the world, especially in Europe.

It is a part of the project Young People Combating Hate Speech Online“ which is held between 2012 and 2014. It is aimed towards reducing hate speech and fighting against discrimination and racism in the online world. The project gives tools and competences to young people and youth organizations that are necessary to recognize and act against abuse of human rights.

Join the movement, take part in action days, volunteer, discuss, report hate content you found in the Internet.

Take action today and enjoy Bulgarian language!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Collecting words against discrimination. Giorgia.

Lyubimets and Butmansti. In Bulgaria most of the “Syria free” refugee voices are spending their first month behind the bars of these two migrant detention centers. Despite its poor living conditions, these two institutions keep being a common starting point in the Refugee Status Determination Procedure. In Butmansti, the slow processing of asylum applications, the lack of freedom and the overcrowded spaces have triggered the last hunger strike few days ago. The situation is further aggravated by the absence of regulation regarding the limit of time refugees can be under detention in these centers, and by the fact that, according to the last declaration of the Interior Minister, more than 10 000 Syrian refugees are expected to be here by the end of the year. Bulgaria is living a refugee crisis. The country is facing a lack of resources that not only affects these pseudo-prisons, but also the Registration and Reception Centers of Banya and Sofía (RRC) -two camps where some of the asylum seekers are sent once they have asked for protection-. In a nation where the refugees have never been a priority for the government, and where the number of people seeking for asylum is increasing twice or even three times a day as a result of the Syrian war, the asylum right is in serious danger.

Giorgia in Banya RRC
This interview shows the daily life of the refugees and asylum seekers in Sofia RRC from the point of view of an EVS Italian volunteer. Her name is Giorgia and she came to Bulgaria after being working for the United Nations Agency for Refugees in New York. The project she is participating in is called “A warm welcome”, and is implemented in the Integration Center of Sofia RRC by Cooperation for Voluntary Service (CVS) and Caritas. Georgia is a foreigner between foreigners willing to be an active part in the improvement of the refugees´ situation in Bulgaria. 
How many RRC do exist in Bulgaria and who is leaving there?

In the RRC are living asylum seekers – all the people who have applied for the refugee status-. There are two different RRC in Bulgaria, one in Sofia and another one in Banya. The differences between both are huge. In Banya they don't have any association working with them, nor Integration Centre. It means, for instance, that if you are in Sofia you will receive English and Bulgarian language classes and therefore, if you get the refugee status you will have more opportunities to be integrated in the labor market than asylum seekers from Banya. Regarding the children, you can also see the difference between both. Sofia's RRC children have art classes, languages classes, we were playing a movie in the centre once a week during one month... Banya children don't have access to any of these activities. That's why I decided to organize ten days workshop for children in Banya next week, in order to make them participate in different workshops and games.

Workshop in Banya RRC
How long can asylum seekers wait to get the status in these RRC?

It depends on the case. For example, yesterday I met in RRC Sofia a family from Afghanistan who have been waiting for the status for one year. There is no limit of time, there are families that get the status in two, three months, other families in eight months and others in one year...But what is sure is that when they get the status they have only fifteen days to leave the centre and find a house...And this time is not enough. From my point of view it's completely necessary to reinforce the housing and employment support which refugees receive after getting the status.

Can they work during this time?

Asylum seekers have the right to work if for reasons beyond their control the procedure is not finished within one year of applying for the refugee status. This is according to the law, but actually they are working during the application procedure. I also think they don't know the law, the conditions. They don't even know the difference between asylum seekers and refugees. In most of the cases I have to explain them.

How are the living conditions in RRC?

Children in the Banya RRC
They are living in four or six beds' room. The families always are staying together. They have a cooker, a bathroom, a wardrobe and that's all. They can go out of the centre freely but they should come back before ten o clock, and they receive 65 levas per person per month. Even though the accommodation is paid, this amount of money is not enough taking into account they have to buy food, pay for transportation...Some NGO'S are given them some food once a week, but anyways, is still not enough.

Do they receive any education in order to facilitate their future job integration?

The Integration Centre is in charge of it, and CVS and Caritas are supporting them. Since my point of view, the CVS project I am participating in is great. It's carried out by local volunteers who go to the Integration centre twice a week to teach refugees Bulgarian and English, apart from organizing other different workshops. I think our work it's really important because gaining a good command in Bulgarian and in English is something essential for the integration of the refugees in the Bulgarian society. Apart from this, the Integration Centre offers some other courses in hairdressing, cosmetics and tailoring, but they are just available for refugees, not for asylum seekers because there are not enough places for all of them.

Refugees and asylum seekers' travel stories. How is their entrance in Bulgaria?

They are usually caught in the border and they are sent either to Lyubimets or Butmansti migrant detention centre or to the jail if they don't have documents. Later on, they are sent to Sofia or Banya RRC.

How do they come in general? Are the victims of human smuggling, are they coming with false documents...?

Both. I can tell you some stories about it. For example, in Sofia Integration Centre there is a family from Syria. They came to Bulgaria running away from the war with the final purpose of reaching Germany. By selling all their family jewellery, they got the money to pay for false documents in which it was written they were from Germany. They travelled to Sofia by bus and they were caught by the Bulgarian police border. Firstly they were sent to Lyubimets, where they spent 4 months, secondly to Sofia RRC and now, finally, they have the status. The case of this family is really common. Bulgaria is not the final desired destination for most of the refugees, however, they are applying for asylum here because according to Dublin Regulation there is a must to apply for asylum in the first country you reach.

Not accompanied minors. How is the reality of them? Are they going to the school?

This is the target group of my project so I know some of them and I just can say that they are great! The majority of them I know, are from Afghanistan. They came by bus here to find a job in order to send money to their families. It's mandatory for them to have a tutor, who is organizing his money. At the beginning I couldn't say they were unaccompanied minors because they are living like the others, the same way. And about their education, they are going to the school when they have the status.

Which future do you see for refugees in Bulgaria?

As I told you, several of them don't want to stay in Bulgaria so they don't want a future here. They want to go to Northern, Western Europe, because most of them have relatives in these countries. I think they don't want to stay in Bulgaria because they have a lot of difficulties to find a job, and if they find it, it uses to be in not qualified positions, like in call centres etc. But in my opinion this low rate of employment among refugees is also connected with the economic crisis in which we are immersed.

And not with discrimination?

Of course with discrimination also. One of the reasons of why they don't like Bulgaria it's because they feel discriminated against. They are always telling me that one of biggest problem they find here is that people don't like them. It doesn't happen to everybody but I would say that this is a general feeling between this community.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Step into another person's shoes through art

Just going through the webpages accidentally I have found a short movie that has been stuck in my head for a few days now. The first impression about it was – beautiful and sensitive. But it has a way deeper meaning behind it.

The short movie has been shot by Lisa Gunning for the Goldfrapp song Anabel. The idea for the video was inspired by Kathleen Winter's 2010 novel named the same “Anabel'' which follows a hermaphrodite child who is forced into taking on a male identity in 1960s Canada. The short movie introduction starts with a sentence: Tales of us. It sensitively illustrates how a young boy explores his gender identity. As the author of the song Alison Goldfrapp said: "It’s very much about memory, identity and gender. I’ve always been fascinated by dual creatures, personas, people, personalities and transformation. I think it’s a theme that’s pretty much always in fairy tales and horror, which I love. What struck me about Annabel is that the parents are in total denial of what their child is: this child has to choose in the end, and that’s what society is making him do. Why can't you be both? I feel really strongly about that whole concept in so many things in life. All the characters in these songs are trying to figure out who they are, where they're going, and why they are who they are."

It made me think that we all want to live without society’s judgment. But to be sincere we all sometimes judge others but usually because we don't understand why someone acts as he acts. In order to understand somebody all we need is sometimes to step in someone else’s shoes just to see how that other person feels. Art allows us to do it really easily: just by watching a movie, film, documentary. Just by clicking the link you can see and experience the denial of the parents and the boy’s journey through his gender identity search. All this is wrapped in the emotional electronic track of Goldfrapp which blends together perfectly. Well done Goldfrapp and Gunning. Breathtaking!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

International Youth Day through Bulgarian National Television eyes

This is a video taken by Bulgarian National Television about International Youth Day 2013 in Sofia where we took part by promoting Love and Hate campaign. You can even find our smiling faces in there.

Take a look: