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.