Experience of Vitalik from Armenia, participant in JS activity in Alternativi International

My name is Vitalik and I am from Armenia. I arrived in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, for participating in the long term project “Make Europe hate free again” on the 1st of June. After a long day of traveling I arrived to my destination and met the other participants. I was tired but excited for the upcoming days. 2nd of June, Sunday was our first working day. According to the prepared job shadowing schedule this day was dedicated on resuming the work that was done during the TOT in May all participants took part and to prepare ourselves for the next 2 days when each of us had to run a workshop on human rights topic for a group of 20 young people who are volunteering in Blagoevgrad for 2 months through Erasmus+ program.

On the 3rd of June we went to Alternativi International’s youth center called “The Place” to meet the volunteers and to implement our workshops. First activities were held by Jazgul Orazova, Tako Gogolaori and Nika Janjxava. They had organized the following session –  “Millionaire game”, “Octagon” game and  a session called “Iceberg”. They put a lot of efforts and as a result we had great fruitful presentations.

On the 4th day of our job shadowing visit I, Vitalik Petrosyan, Babken Ghazaryan and Nikolay Dushkov delivered our workshop presentations. We have prepared the following sessions – “A new mosque in Sleepyville”, “Education problems” and “Privilege walk”. I enjoyed working with the volunteers. They responded very well to our initiatives and participated actively.

The next day, we started working on the program of the upcoming youth exchange in Georgia in October. We brainstormed and shared our ideas. We worked hard to structure an interesting and informative program. In the afternoon, our hosting organization, Alternativi International had organized a meeting with the ombudsman of Blagoevgrad, Mr. Valentin Vasilev. He welcomed us warmly in his office and presented his role and work related to defending citizen’s rights. We got familiar with different cases and how he and his colleagues are helping the people. After a full busy working day we went for a short walk to discover the beauty of Blagoevgrad. In the evening, we got invited to attend a cultural evening organized by the short term volunteers where Armenian and Turkish participants presented their cultures. It was very interesting and fun to be part of this event.

Early on day 6th of our job shadowing visit together with the short term volunteers we visited the Rila Monastery, a famous cultural monument in Bulgaria part of the UNESCO world heritage. Even though it rained shortly, we had great experience and it was another chance to have unbelievable time together.

On the 7th of June we went to Sofia to attend 3 different meetings. First, we met with the head of the organization “Humans in the loop” – an organization working on better integration and protection of refugees and asylum seekers rights in Bulgaria. We got to know how it all started, what the process was and what their current activities are. I was curious to have a deeper understanding of the refugee situation in Bulgaria.

Our next meeting was at the Human resource development center who is responsible for Erasmus + coordination in Bulgaria. We met the director of youth field department for Erasmus+ who welcomed us very warmly. We had an interesting discussion and learnt more about the opportunities offered by Erasmus+ program.

Our third meeting was with the coordinating organization of Council of Europe “No hate speech” movement campaign for Bulgaria – Infinite opportunities association. Since our project is tackling the topic of hate speech and human rights I found very informative and useful what I learnt about their organization and work. I think they are very experienced and doing great in this field. We got to know their volunteers coming from different countries, such as Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Lithuania, etc. That day also was full of emotions and expectations.

For having some rest we decided to walk a bit through Sofia city center. They visited the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, which is one of the symbols of Sofia. We continued our walk passing by the National Assembly and Parliament of Bulgaria. Then we stopped for a break at the park in front of the National Theatre “Ivan Vazov”. The Presidency of Bulgaria was our next stop and the final place we saw were the ruins of old city of Serdika. Tired but happe of the day, we returned to Blagoevgrad.

Saturday, 8th of June was our last working day in the frames of the job shadowing. We finalized the youth exchange program we were working on. Also we wrote articles and filmed short videos for our stay in Bulgaria.

I am happy and delighted that I took part in all activities. I learnt a lot and gained important experience. I made new friendship with other participants from Spain, Italy, France, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Portugal, Georgia.  I liked the juice “Tsitronada” and the night Blagoevgrad, especially the “Umbrella” street in the city center. I also liked the participants because they are really HUMAN and open minded. We understand each other and spread goodness through the group.

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