Let’s start with a Brief presentation of For You Association. What is your mission? What are your daily activity and the current projects of the organization?
For You Association was founded in 2009. Our idea was to support young people development both in the personal and professional level. We also have a special focus on people in a disadvantaged situation. What we are doing right now is mostly international youth exchanges, European Voluntary Service, international internships program and other youth initiatives. We believe that through these experiences people can gain important skills and competencies for their future development.
And for the future?
As usual, For You Association aims to promote volunteering at a local level and to motivate young people to participate in volunteering projects. We also try to motivate local organizations and institutions to open to volunteers and start working with them.
For sure we will continue it. We will also continue making presentations and events in school and universities about volunteering opportunities, so young people will know that they exist and are easy to catch. We are going to focus a bit more on working with local high schools to promote mobility opportunities abroad among students, so they can see how is living in another country, become more independent and also apply what they learned during their studies.
Can you tell us about the volunteer team working with For You Association?
Right now we have one big project and we do this for the third time. I believe we are one of the few organizations in Bulgaria that work in this way. We always host long-term volunteers, because long-term volunteering gives the opportunity to learn and know the country for real and be effective at the end of the year. We host volunteers to work in different organizations. We have created a local network of hosting organizations that we coordinate and also help to find the suitable volunteers for their activities and follow the whole process so we ensure that the volunteering experience is going as planned, as for the volunteers as for the organizations.
This year we have again such a project. We have 12 volunteers working in 6 different organizations: two in our office to promote volunteering; two in Alliance Francaise where they promote French culture and language; one working in Varna University of Economics, where she support international and Erasmus student and also builds partnerships with different universities; two volunteers working on a shelter for women and children victims of domestic violence, where they support the daily work with the victims and organize free time activities; two volunteers working for youth centers with local NGO organizations supporting its daily running; three volunteers working for Varna EYC 2017 supporting the organization on different activities and events, especially promotion and media coverage; and one girl has gone to Russia to work with youngsters and children with mental disabilities in a day care center.
All volunteers have to do a service for 10 months, so they are staying during the whole 2017 and that is why the project is called “Get ready! Varna EYC 2017”. In fact, this year we are European Youth Capital and volunteers will be able to experience how is life in a European Youth Capital.
What do you think can offer Varna as a European Youth Capital? What is the role played by your organization in the framework of Varna EYC 2017? What initiatives do you have in the program?
The role of For You Association in Varna EYC 2017 is to continue and improve the work of promoting volunteering. We are also partner of the organization running the program of European Youth Capital; we coordinate the project for the three volunteers and we also support all the events organized by Varna EYC 2017. That is also the role of most youth organizations based in Varna: to support the program of Varna EYC 2017 running all over the year, to be active as usual and improve their work. We will continue to be at this high level and always to fight for the needs of young people.
According to your experience with projects, especially in the disability field, what Varna EYC 2017 can bring to disadvantaged youth?
This is a very hard question because we always think that Bulgaria is not so friendly to people in a disadvantaged situation. For example, it is not accessible, it is not easy to participate in social life. One of the aims of Varna EYC is to support through projects organizations working for people in a disadvantaged situation by giving them the opportunity to implement activities in favor of those groups. We have a special project funding line called Innojump, whose aim is to support the professional inclusion of youngsters in a disadvantaged situation. Right now we have funded seven projects of organizations who work for the professional development of youngsters in a disadvantaged situation.
FUNcity annual Youth Festival is a unique event in Varna and this year the city celebrates its third edition. What do you have in the programme for it?
FUNCity always has a really nice programme. It has five different fields of activities: sport, entrepreneurship, music, dancing, and arts. This year we have anime and manga fest, craft stands, playground, table soccer, board games, skate and rollerblade competitions. There will be also a competition for young rock singers, streetball competitions, beatbox, dance workshops. So from 30th August until 3rd September do not miss to be in Varna and check what is going on, because the program is really diverse and full. We have also ten European volunteers supporting the event. They come from five different countries, so we are looking forward to checking what they will add to the festival.
What does “good practice” mean to you? Can you give us one or more examples of that based on your experience?
For me, it is something tested that works and give good results. Speaking about young people, and also in the context of Varna EYC and social innovation, I would live to give the good practice of Norway and one of the sport club there. There is a sport club that works together with local business and the Ministry of Labour or Social Ministry. What they do, according to the Social Ministry, is sending unemployed people to a 5-week sport programme, meanwhile social workers can assess the performance of these people and after that they can advise them about what kind of work to do or maybe give them some treatments so these people can improve their condition and are able to enter into the labour market better. This is an example of good practice because like that you involve sports clubs and institutions and also local business to help people improving their condition and getting a job.
Today we celebrate the International Youth Day and the topic for this year is “youth building peace”. What does this mean to you?
I think about all the initiatives that people can do regarding refugees and migrants because now they are a hot topic and there is a lot of discussion about them. I have seen people participating in a lot of activities for migrants. For example, going to camps and helping with the distribution of food and clothes, giving lessons to illiterate people and so on. I believe that people can definitely do this and also try to do more initiatives about building tolerance. Migrants are not a menace for us, they are not something that we have to be afraid of. If they are here, is not because they are unhappy to live in their countries, is because they need to.
What do you wish to the youth and the volunteers in the world?
To continue fighting, to not forget that they are young people and the change in the world depends on them. I wish they do not stay indifferent to what is going around, but take action no matter the cost.