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Frontpage News 2016 Empowering youth at risk in Bulgaria

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With support through the EEA Grants, we managed to construct and develop a modern youth centre, complying with the Council of Europe Quality Label for Youth Centres’ concept and criteria Photographer: Municipality of Stara Zagora

Empowering youth at risk in Bulgaria

  • The International Youth Centre in Stara Zagora in Bulgaria has been awarded the Council of Europe’s Quality Label Award for its work on empowering young citizens in Bulgaria.

    With support from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants, the Youth Centre in Stara Zagora centre offers human rights education and leadership training to disadvantaged youth in Bulgaria. Among the people working at the centre are trained Roma mediators that work to improve the position of Roma people in Bulgaria.

    Through its international exchange programme, the centre has created strong relations with other youth centres, acquiring knowledge on how to further develop and improve their youth policies. Around 70 volunteers have participated in the programme. They have visited similar youth centres in Germany, Sweden and Luxembourg to draw from their expertise and ways of doing things. The centre also cooperated closely with the ‘World without Borders Association’ on the Council of Europe’s No Hate Speech campaign.

    “Focusing the support from the Grants on facilitating visits at youth centres in other EU countries have been particularly useful to us. The support has helped us to take appropriate approaches and apply good practices while with the youngsters,” says Ms. Ivanka Sotirova, the Deputy-Mayor of Stara Zagora and project manager.

    Working to ensure Roma inclusion

    The centre focus particularly on elevating the position of minorities:

    “Our youth centre has focused particularly on developing expertise in working with young people from the Roma community,” says Ms. Sotirova.

    Access to education and employment is especially challenging for Roma in Bulgaria.“ By using an informal education approach, we have successfully reached and worked with Roma youth facing social exclusion," explains one of the youth workers. The success of the youth centre in Stara Zagora illustrates the importance of the Grants in strengthening disadvantaged social groups.

    “We have also prioritised the development of active international exchange opportunities for Bulgarian and international youth. This was an aspect of our activity which was highlighted in the Council of Europe Quality Label for Youth Centres’ application process,” says Ms. Sotirova.

    Supporting initiatives to improve the lives of Europe’s Roma citizens is a core priority for the EEA and Norway Grants.

    Read more about the Bulgarian ‘Children and Youth at Risk’ programme

    Read more about the EEA and Norway Grants to Bulgaria

  • Country:


    Project title:

    International Youth Center for Work with Children and Young People at Risk in Stara Zagora

    Project number:


    Priority sector:

    Human and Social Development


    € 1186072



    Project promoter:

    Municipality of Stara Zagora

    Type of Institution:

    Regional or local authority

    Project duration:

    40 months

    Project cost:

    € 1,395,379

    Grant from:

    EEA Grants

    Young people in Bulgaria today are faced with many risk factors such as early drop-out of the education system, unemployment, unhealthy way of life, youth criminality and lack of childcare and youth services. Stara Zagora is an administrative center. There are 25% of young people in the area who identify themselves as members of minority groups. The establishment of a youth center is of utmost importance to enhance personal development and encourage the creative work of young people. The objective of the project is establishment of a youth centre and implementing measures and services to comply with the requirements for a CE Quality mark. The youth centre is a chance for change in consciousness, attitudes and support for social inclusion. For better involvement of young people in non-formal educational activities the centre will have various youth clubs. The unique requirement will be permanent presence and attending classes throughout the year. Roma mediators, youth workers and external lecturers on the project will work with them. Minimum 150 people of young people aged 15 to 29, who have completed an informal training course included in the project activities.