Empowering Roma youth
“I hope the youth centre will be a place where we can make new friends and learn new skills,” says Kostadin Chilikov. He is one of many young people that will benefit from four youth centres that have received grants in Bulgaria.
The centres are being set-up as a part of the Bulgarian children and youth at risk programme. They will be open to young people between the ages of 15 and 29, and Roma youth are a key target group. In total, four centres are being established. Each centre aims to receive the Council of Europe’s Quality Label, and they hope to open their doors by the beginning of 2015.
Svetoslav Aleksiev, Rashko Aleksiev and Kostadin live in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv and are looking forward to the centre being opened. The three young men are from the Roma community and they are hoping that the youth centre will be a place where they can meet other young people from outside their own community.
“For us as Roma it can be difficult to meet people from outside our own community. So I hope that the youth centre can be a place where young people from Plovdiv can meet regardless of ethnic background,” says Svetoslav.
The centre is not only about fostering friendships across cultural boundaries, it is also about teaching vocational skills and helping the youngsters enter the labour market. Both Svetoslav, Aleksiev and Rashko are unemployed and they are hoping that once it opens, the youth centre in Plovdiv will help them develop useful skills and find a job.
“It would be great to get help with applications,” says Svetoslav.
“Also, it is good that the centre will be a place where we can have internet access. That will help a lot,” says Rashko.
In the city of Stara Zagora, about an hour’s drive east of Plovdiv the creation of a youth centre is being welcomed.
“I want to become a hairdresser when I grow up and I hope the centre can help me achieve this,” says Minka Ahmedora.
“I want to work with computers, so I think it is really good that the centre will give me a chance to learn more about this,” adds Pfamen Dienu.
Also the deputy mayor of Stara Zagora, Ivanka Sotirova, is happy about the support from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
“The integration of Roma youth into the local community is very important for us. As it is now, a lot of the Roma live outside of society at large. Therefore, this is both a very timely and very helpful project,” she explains.
Establishing a Youth centre in the city of Plovdiv
Human and Social Development
Municipality of Plovdiv
Type of Institution:
Regional or local authority
One of the main problems identified by the Bulgarian municipalities is related to the improvement of educational integration of Roma youth. This challenge is examined in the “Strategy for youth policy of the city of Plovdiv 2010-2020” of Plovdiv Municipality. The project is aimed at improving the living and social conditions for the target group - young people between 15-29 years, including those of them at risk, as well as contributing to the overall improvement of youth development in the city of Plovdiv and in the region. The envisaged indicators are: at least 100 young people from the target group, who have completed non-formal training in project, 25% of them are disadvantaged; 5 recruited youth workers and 2 Roma mediators will be included to work with the target group. All of the activities are adressed to the target group: especially representatives of low-income families, with deviant behavior engaged in anti-social and criminal activities, children and young people in institutions, from ethnic minorities; living in small and remote locations.