In January 2018 we began working on the European Commission’s Programme Rights, Equality and Citizenship entitled “Springboard To Roma Youth Success” (Story_S). The project aims to support the development of Roma youth through long-term peer-to-peer mentoring, workshops, a public campaign, and conferences. Our project partners are the Bulgarian Youth Forum, Carusel Association (Romania), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas de Cataluña (Spain), Associazione bambini in Romania (Italy). The project is coordinated by Universita Degli Studi di Bergamo (Italy). We have already held our initial meeting in Bergamo, Italy and our second meeting in Barcelona, Spain.
Just in time for Pink Shirt Day or the Day against bullying, we concluded another component of the project yMIND (http://www.youth-mind.eu/). It included the educators’ training with specialized workshops for teachers on increasing their capacity to work with challenging situations. Two schools in Sofia and one in Kyustendil city participated in the training. We are also conducting workshops for increasing the social skills of students and changing their attitudes to promote acceptance and respect towards differences.
The project is implemented over two years, with the support of the Erasmus + programme of the European Union (Initiatives for policy innovation – Social inclusion through education, training and youth – EACEA 05/2016).
The topic of domestic violence became particularly popular in the recent weeks, especially in relation to the debate on the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence(the Istanbul Convention) by Bulgaria’s parliament. The news and commentaries on the topic this past week left almost unmentioned the news of the new Governmental Program for prevention and protection against domestic violence. The continuing public discussion has shifted the focus of the debate from the problem of protection of domestic violence victims onto the acceptance of the so-called “third gender”. This clearly stresses a very important and obvious conclusion, which we at the Health and Social Development Foundation (HESED) have reached years ago through our work on domestic violence prevention in Roma communities and that is: the sensitivity on all levels of society regarding domestic violence in Bulgaria is shockingly low.
Through the innovative project yMIND, the HESED team works on adapting the effective educational/training model for behavioral change, in a model for increasing the sensitivity towards domestic violence and gender-based violence among the most vulnerable groups in Roma community – pregnant women and young mothers. At the same time, we are attempting to influence the attitude of young men toward their role in the family in order to decrease violence against women.
The campaigns that our teams conduct towards adapting the model, use the natural channels of communication among the youth in the Roma communities and the leaders among them to introduce a different point of view regarding traditional gender roles and expectations. In order to accomplish the desired change we use methods inspired by the theories of social diffusion and group dynamic. The adapted model will be transferred through yMIND toward the three partnering organizations and will be tested in closed Roma communities (in Bulgaria and Greece) as well as in closed migrant communities (in Germany and Austria).
We believe that working with the norms and attitudes regarding domestic violence is the keystone of preventative work and prevention itself is critical for decreasing the incidents of violence against all women… and we work towards achieving positive change.
Do you know what “natural horsemanship” is? We already do…
Teenagers from Filipovtzi visited “Seven hills ranch” in Plovdiv and had one unforgettable day of outdoor activities in the nature. Thanks to Drago, the owner of the ranch, our teenagers learned about the specifics of the western horseback riding, lassoing, non-abusive methods for training horses.
All the participants admired the skills demonstrated by the animals and the approach of the instructor, based on the Natural horsemanship principles. Drago is using a variety of horse training techniques based on methods said to be derived from observation of the natural behavior of free-roaming horses and rejecting abusive training methods.
Practical riding activities provoked exceptionally strong emotions – fear and how to overcome it, satisfaction from the success, proud… the young adventurers came back from this excursion full with impressions and a lot of smiles.
Because of our yMIND activities HESED is back to school! Last week we performed the first teachers` workshop “Bulling and violence prevention in school”. During the workshop, we have discussed with the pedagogues from 103 primary school Vasil Levski” “the reasons for the problematic behaviors in school, and the options for reactions of the teachers in those situations. We have presented and discussed with the participants diverse interactive methods to involve the students in order to increase their sensibility on the topics concerned, to improve their social skills and the levels of empathy within the class.
We have shared two dynamic and emotional days with the colleagues from the school, and we have promised each other that this would not be our last meeting – we will continue to work together for the improvement of the wellbeing of the students at school.
If someone tells you that HESED`s team works only in our community based centers and restricts the support for the young people only within the limits of their neighborhoods – perhaps this person is misinformed. At the beginning of September we are back to school and we work actively with the young people on actual topics such as bulling and gender based/ ethnicity based violence prevention.
We work in close collaboration with two schools in Sofia and one school and Kjustendil – 50 students aged between 12-15 years attend the Program. We are planning to have 8 consequent seminars with the teenagers and to involve them diverse interactive activities in order to sensitize them to bulling and violence regardless the origin of those behavioral abnormalities, to improve their communication and social skills, self-reflection, self –confidence and self –defense on those very important for the age topics, and to improve the empathy and the interaction between the teenagers in the participating classes.
This activities is a part from a multi-component program, implemented in the frame of Erasmus + yMIND project, together with: (1) needs evaluation of the teenagers, (2) specialized workshops for the teachers for increasing their capacity to work with challenging situations, (3) workshops for increasing the social skills of the students and changing their attitudes on the topics covered by the program and a (5) whole school approach and involvement of all the important stakeholders in school.
We are back to 7th grade, you can find us every week in school!
The profound analysis of Roma integration issues reveals that problematic social and school integration of the children from Roma community is due to serious gaps in early child development. Nutrition is one of the most important factors influencing the development in the early years, mostly because it is related with the development of the brain and the brain functions. Inappropriate nutrition in the early years has severe consequences for the physiological development and the brain functions. Young mothers often choose easy cooking for their babies and toddlers – junk food and sweet beverages. Thоsе nutrition habits change the flavor receptors and later the children and the families show preference only for food that causes obesity and chronical diseases, but also predispose limitations in the development of the brain functions. All those result in problematic social and school adaptation of the children and obstacle their academic achievements.
To change the attitudes regarding the nutrition in the community, we work individually with the mothers, but also we organize group trainings to improve their awareness and skills. Besides those systematic efforts for improving the nutrition habits of the children through the mothers, we are trying to reach a wider circle of concerned mothers by using an innovative peer education approach. We present here our peer educators who are in the middle of their training for awareness raising and improvement of their communication skills to work with their friends and relatives for changing the old practices and inappropriate nutrition habits within the community.
The second pilot POL training group on the prevention of gender-based violence in the Roma community has begun in the beginning of September in our new MID center. 14 specially selected women from Faculteta, started their training within the yMIND project. The results of the training will serve to develop a training methodology on the topic, which will be disseminated among the partners` organizations within the project.
Our Demo center at Suhodolska str. in Faculteta neighborhood welcomed guests from Africa- Davis Sebulime and Mugisha Frank from Uganda. Both of them, they work with children at risk by engaging them in creative workshops and art activities to keep them away from the challenges of the street. In Bulgaria, they are on a study visit thanks to Open Space Foundation within the Art and Culture for Unity Project, funded under the EU Erasmus + program, Key Activity 2: Developing the Capacity of Youth Workers. The purpose of the visit was, our guests to take a closer look to MID (Model for integrated development) as a good NGO practice in Bulgaria in engaging children and youth from minority groups in services that support their educational, social and emotional development and their successful social integration. Providing team development and service sustainability were also in the focus of the discussion .
See you soon in Africa, friends!
Today – 23 of June 2017, in the MID center in Filipovovtzi, HESED started the piloting of the Popular Opinion Leader (POL) model and its adaptation for gender based violence prevention use. The results for the adaptation will be used for development and dissemination of methodology for prevention of GBV in Roma community. We start to work with 12 young people – opinion leaders in their social networks who were successfully selected and recruited by our outreach workers.
The activities are part of the yMIND project, supported by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union (Initiatives for policy innovation – Social inclusion through education, training and youth – EACEA 05/2016).
We work with desire and enthusiasm on this new challenge!