We will work with people that we call the “new settlers” – young individuals or couples who are leaving behind life in the city to settle in rural areas in North-East Bulgaria. Covid-19 has triggered a wave of migration to rural places. This brings a lot of challenges. New settlers face difficulties adapting, while local people are not always welcoming them with open arms. Our aim is to facilitate a process of community building between these groups by providing support to the new settlers.
Nadarevo, North-East Bulgaria, with participants from Razgrad, Shumen and Targovishte regions.
The population in the rural areas of the regions consists of elderly people and the villages become increasingly desolate. There is a deficit of investment and civic initiatives. Private houses and public buildings alike are empty and dilapidated. A viable chance for these communities is if young people from urban areas move to live in them and bring along new ideas, human capital and potential for regenerative projects. Thankfully, such a wave of youthful migration is happening. But the villages are facing a real civil challenge – new comers and indigenous people to learn to cooperate and co-create their future in a new community. This project seeks to bridge the gap between new settlers and indigenous rural inhabitants, thus contributing to community cohesion and rural regeneration.
We will work with 20 participants - 25-40 year-old young couples or singles who have re-located, or are seeking to re-locate, from urban centres to rural areas in the project regions. They will be people who embrace the idea of sustainable lifestyles and who are committed to contribute to building new vibrant communities in their chosen villages and help their regeneration and development. We will involve people who have recently bought a property in a village or who are planning to buy one. We will select twenty participants who have original ideas, motivation and capacity to become drivers of change in their new communities. Their urge for rural settlement, coupled with their urban experience and know-how will be capitalized for creating civic groups and initiatives in their new homes.
The project will begin in October 2021 with a selection of 20 participants through an online application and interviews. Mentors will also be identified. Seven three-day workshops will be held between November 2021 and May 2022. In June 2022, a week-long workshop will be held. The following topics, relevant to private and public life, will form the basis of workshop debate, problem-solving and planning:
•Building and renovation with sustainable materials;
•Sustanibale agriculture and growing organic food;
•Sustainability and ecological lifestyle – how to maintain a clean environment?
•Raising children in the village – conventional and alternative schooling;
•Work (and) relations with public institutions;
•Community development – different forms and initiatives;
•Civic activism, volunteering, fundraising – what can we do ourselves?
The week-long workshop will include new settlers, local people, mayors, NGOs, other stakeholders. It will act as a ‘community building lab’. Participants will learn to co-design different civil initiatives (action projects) which they will implement in their villages. Real case studies will be proposed and solutions will be charted out. The project will award symbolic funding in order to ease the implementation of the civil initiatives. Participants will learn how to raise funds from other sources in order to top-up this financial incentive.
This project will be an encouragement and support to young people who see the potential in the rural regions and want to be part of their regeneration. After the project, 20 young people from urban centres will be able to manage with the difficulties arising from re-location to a rural community. They will be able to build meaningful connections with the indigenous inhabitants and collaborate with them for achieving better living conditions for all. The project will result in concrete actionable ideas that the participants will implement in their villages in the field of civic, cultural, social or environmental life. The project as such, will be a demonstration of how new settlers from the city can bring positive change in desolate locations and trigger fruitful cooperations.
We will support new settlers to integrate in local communities by providing them with skills to cope with difficulties, negotiate and collaborate with indigenous village members, organise a civic action. We will improve their self-confidence and proactive problem-solving. By encouraging a culture of dialogue and cooperation between local community members and new settlers, the project will nurture an ethos of shared learning between new settlers and indigenous communities, thus enhancing the capacity of all people there to stand up for their civic rights, pose their issues and demands in front of local authorities and ultimately achieve better standards and quality of life in their villages.
BLF in the village of Nadarevo is located in the property where our project leader, Dr Apostol Apostolov, was raised. We are well-networked regionally, providing training and hosting events for NGOs and start-ups. All our events bring added value to regenerating rural communities.
Emiliya Ilieva is responsible for training activities. She was born and lives in Veliki Preslav (Shumen). Simona Dyankova is a member of the team and the Board of Directors. She grew up in Targovishte. All three are well educated, with work experience abroad, now putting efforts to revitalise their home regions.
From our partner - Nevena Madzharova is an experienced professional in the NGO and Chitalishte sectors who has led many civil development projects and is with invaluable knowledge of the rural region.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Office expenses: 2760 EUR
Travel of participants and mentors: 3124 EUR
Accommodation and subsistence of participants and mentors: 13876 EUR
Event costs: 1920 EUR
Fees and honoraries for external mentors/facilitators: 2900 EUR
Public relations: 800 EUR
Unforseen costs 500 EUR
Personnel costs 8000 EUR
We would like to hear from organisations with similar experience, especially if they have worked on projects encouraging collaborations between rural and urban communities. We would like to hear about examples of successfully developed rural regions with active civic communities.