Centre Immigration and Integration
Since August 2017 the organization is a member of the Radomir-Zemen Local Action Group. The organization also collaborates with the municipal council and the municipal mayor.
This initiative addresses the exclusion in scarcely populated villages with no multifunctional public space that allows common age-friendly initiatives. Its objective is to overcome the social distance of people who are culturally and informationally isolated through bonding. The target group includes the residents of 19 villages with less than 100 inhabitants and the approach is bringing opportunities to people with the help of a mobile facility for social events and participation.
18 villages with less than 200 residents in the municipality, Radomir municipality, Pernik district
The rural area of the Radomir municipality suffers from depopulation, degradation, isolation of the rural population. People lack opportunities to have a voice in their community, they lack engagement in meaningful social relationships, participation in civic activities, access to formal services. The rural communities in the area are much less able than the residents of larger settlements to access or implement age-friendly initiatives or to participate in the broader societal and civic processes. We approach this challenge with the conviction that social participation can be protective, with socially engaged older adults less likely to use health and aged care services and more likely to engage in civic activity.
We share the conviction that interaction is as important as physical health and social services. Democracy is for all, it means equal opportunities for all, especially for participation. Citizen engagement requires shared spaces of communication and exchange. It requires the possibility to form a collective will and to take initiative for one’s own surroundings. As Raymond Aron once said, good knowledge of the circumstances is the paramount task of political action. The idea to create a chitalishte in a box will: (i) keep the community alive and build solidarity; (ii) acknowledge the agency of communities in protecting against exclusion, i.e. being shut out from any social systems that determine social integration; (iii) facilitate connectivity by providing a community “playground”.
This initiative is to the benefit of a total of some 1 803 residents of 19 villages with population of less than 200 in Radomir municipality. This data is from the latest census (2011) and today they are sadly less by probably a quarter. Older people dominate but are not the entire group. The opportunities that the initiative will create will be for all of them regardless of any demographic characteristics.
The Chitalishte in a Box initiative will be implemented in three main steps: (i) Equipping the mobile “box” with the necessary equipment to create proper environment and implementation of various events. (ii) Compiling a calendar of events for the action period. (iii) Organization and implementation of the events. The types of social activities that will be organized and implemented in the target locations are local initiative discussions (local “referendums”) to send messages to the municipal council, exchange of information, mobile exhibitions and various multimedia presentations, transportation of small groups for participation to a nearby place etc. We will actively seek the target group’s feedback to respond to their interests and needs at step two and during events implementation.
For this initiative success means people in the area to revive their initiative. What we strive to see a year from now is people living in the villages on the territory of the municipality who are regaining their self-confidence of being a meaningful part of the society and not an abandoned, isolated group. The project strives to make them start associating more actively, start thinking as a community, overcome the feeling of isolation, develop the belief they can make a contribution and start looking for opportunities and for ways to create them themselves with help from their elected officials. The local community can only be empowered, if it succeeds in overcoming the disillusionment it has sunk into.
This challenge is not unique for the Radomir municipality or even for Bulgaria. It exists in many parts of Europe, both in the South and the North. And it is not easy to overcome, as is evident from the partial successes here and there. However, Europe cares and should care about all its citizens and its regions. We know of various local initiatives by local people in many EU countries that have managed to make a difference for the residents, and they are inspiring. They also show that the cause is not lost where collective energy has been generated.
We have lived with this community and shared our special moments with it for years. We are observing the process of decay and isolation and we believe we should do something about it. The idea for this initiative was born a while ago and ever since we have been trying to raise funds to realize it. As mentioned, this initiative forms a core part of our mission and we are not ready to abandon it before we have made every effort in its pursuit.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Equipment (camera, lighting, sound, software etc.) - 19 200 EUR
Website maintenance (1050 EUR) – own contribution. It is a tool of informing and promoting the activities and most of all for coordination and communication with the participants in the events.
Events organization (library with a reader club, mobile exhibition, festivals, discussions) - 11 250 EUR
Project management (personnel, office, accounting, transport) - 4 500 EUR
How we can make it more attractive for the local people and enthuse their active involvement