At the end of April, as part of my volunteering, I had the opportunity to work for three days in Smolyan, a small but long town (it is located in a valley and it extends for about 10 kilometres!) in the Rodopi mountains, not far from the border with Greece.
In the framework of the project “Spot Bulgaria”, BG be active can count there on the partnership with a local organization, called Youth Improvers for Youth Development (YIYD). They are a great group of young people, coming from Smolyan and surrounding areas, to gather and take initiatives to improve things. They have a big room where to meet, talk, create, work, have fun and relax. It is quite a big space located in the municipality building, with many nice things inside such as books, musical instruments, computers, table tennis, a hammock, a coffee and tea corner, a machine for body workout, plants and games. Valentin, the charismatic leader of the organization, and the guys have created this space, furnishing and decorating it by themselves. After having completed his studies related to tourism in Varna, Valentin became an expert in european funding opportunities and decided to come back to his hometown with the will to create more spaces and opportunities for young people in Smolyan.
The municipality building features the typical sovietic style and when we entered, I really felt back in the days since, at that moment in the morning, the big corridors weekly illuminated by soft lights were all empty and we only encountered a weird old man wandering and yawning. But eventually we took the stairs to the top floor, we entered YIYD room and.. wow, how colourful! The walls are in fact decorated with drawings of natural landscapes and human inventions!
After introducing ourselves, we started to work, helping them to clean the park next to the municipality building from the remains of some trees that were cut in the morning. The vegetation in this park in fact had grown too much, making it too dark and inhospitable and hiding the panorama. The purpose of the intervention was to make the area, which is important for the community as it is surrounded by some buildings as museums, municipality and theatre, more open and hospitable at any time of the day. We worked for three days in a row along with some light sentenced prisoners who came to help as part of their rehabilitation program. The nice thing is that many locals came voluntarily over the three days to help in the work, not only YIYD’s young members, but also several adults.
During the stay, we also enjoyed one of the beautiful waterfalls present in the area and the local cuisine in an old traditional house transformed nowadays into a typical restaurant. I found these three days very energizing. Being with such a group made me realize once more that when young people gather with a positive attitude, curiosity, information, imagination, talent and willingness to work, beautiful things happen. Also a guide such as Valentin helps.
Thank you guys and keep going!