Heritage volunteers and friends for Sakar - the Sun’s home
Despite the lack of local development policies and civic cohesion, and the general skepticism towards volunteering in the town, we have joined forces for heritage volunteering with the vision for revealing the rich natural and cultural heritage of Sakar mountain and to use it as a means for civic and social empowerment. Engaging schoolchildren, their parents and local authorities into heritage volunteering we aim to build new community culture and to achieve policy change.
Topolovgrad, South-Eastern Bulgaria
We aim at overcoming the lack of citizens’ engagement and the mistrust of local authorities in volunteering. By involving school children and their parents in volunteer activities for revealing the local natural and cultural heritage of Sakar. The project will: 1) empower citizens for driving local policy change; 2) build “sense of belonging” as specific local civic culture; 3) make accessible and socially visible key local heritage landmarks; 4) spread knowledge; 5) lobby the local authorities to support community building and volunteering. Our relatively short but solid experience in heritage volunteering allow us to develop strong community spirit and to empower and enhance the local civic environment. Now, we are eager to spread the spirit engaging people and public institutions.
We will engage school children from different age, their parents/guardians and local authorities. Children will be involved in volunteer initiatives as part of their training in Civic Education, History and Civilization. They will be given the opportunity to develop ideas for own volunteer campaigns and the best ones will be awarded and disseminated. We believe that parents learn best from their children and parents and other adults inclusion in the volunteering activities will be strongly encouraged, aiming at spreading the community spirit and inter-generational exchange. Working together with children and adults we will engage local authorities in our activities through school and site visits, debates and exchanges, and will create political support for community heritage volunteering.
Three pillars shape our approach: 1) community engagement can be achieved through heritage volunteerism; 2) parents learn best from their children; 3) heritage builds culture of belonging, ban differences and boost volunteerism. The approach is applied in three steps:
Step 1 Engagement: Volunteers will visit 3 classes to share their experience and values with schoolchildren. Children will exchange with their parents and some of them will decide to be involved in heritage volunteerism. Representatives of the local authorities will participate in the school visits and will be engaged into debate about volunteerism. The goal is to engage at least 3 students per class and their parents (min.9 students and 9 parents).
Step 2 Enrollment: Children, parents and volunteers will develop together an action plan with activities, tasks and responsibilities. They will be trained how to work in small groups and how to keep them safe and how to preserve nature. They will receive a package with equipment and tools. Children and parents will be involved in at least two one-day mission to develop eco-trails, heritage information materials and to participate in the decision-making.
Step 3 Connectivity:Two seminars will be organized jointly with archaeologists and nature preservation specialist and one visitors tour. Children and parents will assist local parliament session to share experience.
Four new eco-trails (20 km.) will be delivered entirely through volunteers work; This outcome will attract visitors, help local business and empower the community;
At least 9 students and 9 parents will be trained as volunteers and they will share culture and values of volunteerism within their communities. This will strength local civic engagement.
It is expected that all exchanges and debates developed together with local authorities as well as the results achieved will lead to policy change in support of volunteering.
Finally all friend of Sakar – archaeologist, biologist, tourist, visitors will be inspired by the volunteering initiative and will spread and follow it.
Volunteering is a form of civic engagement that creates culture of belonging to the place and to the community. By supporting it, the project will boost the creation of sustainable civic culture and community building. The volunteers’ community will act as a kind of civic forum that bring together the voices of children and parents, of citizens and local authorities. The community of volunteers through their activities will makes decisions and will implement them. The project will be the tool that will empower the voice of citizens-volunteers to make and to decide about the future of their town inspiring them from the natural and cultural heritage of Sakar.
The key person behind the heritage volunteering is the historian Vesselin Kalvachev. Through his inspiring writings about natural and cultural heritage of Sakar, he started to engage other locals and they set up a small community. They started to clean the overgrown trials in the mountain and to make it accessible. The young craftsman Peter Petrov, the policemen Dancho Merakov, the young farmer Nikolay Uzunov and some other close friends become inspired from the idea to go in the mountain and to make heritage accessible for the others. For these persons heritage volunteering become a mission. They want to transmit this spirit to the others, to engage them and to spread volunteering as civic culture of belonging to the place and to the community.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Step 1 Engagement: (schools debates, students award, parents involvement): 1000
Step 2 Enrollment: (equipment, training, materials, transportation, 20 km eco-trials development, consultations with land-shaft architect, development and printing of information tables, food provision during the working days): 23060
Step 3: Connectivity (2 seminars, one tour, printing of dissemination materials developed by volunteers, dissemination): 2540
Project management: 3400
What do you think about our initiative?
How to improve our heritage volunteering approach?
Can you share with us other similar initiatives to learn from them and to connect to them?
Advise us how to further empower civic culture and communities in small shrinking towns?