Let’s start with a brief presentation of “Centre for European Initiatives” organization. How did everything begin?
Centre for European Initiatives is a foundation acting in public benefit. The organization was established in 2005 with headquarters in Stara Zagora and aims to replicate and apply the best European practices and useful models related to the development of civil society. Our priority is to implement projects and initiatives addressed to young people and stimulate their involvement in the public life.
What are your mission, projects and daily activity?
We organize public campaigns, discussion forums, trainings and exchanges which aim at attracting attention to local problems and searching for solutions based on consensus and effective use of local resources. Volunteer project is one of our main priorities. All our EVS projects have as a common thing the methods used – forum theatre and other creative methods for stimulating personal self-improvement of youngsters. The differences between the projects refer to the topics treated, but in case this application is approved, the volunteers will have the chance to share their experience, to assist each other and to improve their skills.
Apart from this on a day to day basis we work mostly with kids of different ages, organize workshops with them, summer and spring camps. We have our own radio shows established by the cooperation with partner organization from Sliven.
CEI uses the approaches of “forum theatre” to encourage innovative thinking based on youth participation and equality. Can you tell us more about them?
Forum theatre is an attractive method of promoting public debate on issues that target group itself has identified as important. The ”social theatre” emerged in Latin America in response to dictatorial regimes and human rights violations.
It is called ”theatre of liberation” because it has stimulated revolutionary movements, but has led to implementation of internal demand for personal expression, by actively defending their own opinion and citizenship. Forum theatre is a small piece, reflecting the problems of the local community. But it is not just a play. It is also a forum because it allows people to get involved in the construction of scenarios by changing the actions and reactions of the characters of the play.
Anyone can come up on stage and experiment with their point of view and personal attitude to problematic situations shown. People stop to be just witnesses of the problem – they become active participants in the life of their community because they can say ”STOP! I do not like this!” and propose changes. The method is widely applicable in different types of communities and with a participation of practically unlimited number of recipients. An important principle: the problems are defined by the participants themselves.
Some of the possibilities of using social theatre are: search based on consensus for a decision on issues related to conflicts between generations, the lack of interaction between citizens and local government, corruption, combating crime and others; stimulate public intolerance on issues generating social unrest (violence in the family and/or school, trafficking, lack of ethnic tolerance and more); improve coordination and effective communication in various units of local government and business companies; promote activity and social engagement of young people.
What does “good practice” mean to you, especially in the youth field?
Good work is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. People who come here to volunteer bring different talents and styles of work. Combining them all together and sharing ideas and responding to others’ differences improves social environment and deepens understanding.
What do you wish the youth and the volunteers around the world?
I wish to young people to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along, live without fear and enjoy. Just be active and let the world reward you, time and time again.