The Association of Young Improvers for Youth Development (YIYD), an Erasmus+ partner, has turned Smolyan, the smallest Bulgarian regional centre, into a generator of the biggest social changes. What is behind these processes? Youngsters develop their own recipes for balancing their creativity and the influence of the other.
Integration through sport: boost your creativity with Erasmus+!
The team of volunteers of the YIYD, with their leader and the founder of the association Valentin Kehayov, has just returned from a youth exchange in Metoni (Greece).
The participating countries in Metoni’s project were Greece, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria.
Through games and teamwork, participants explored the possibilities of integration through sport. Many youngsters have experienced barriers to integration due to physical disabilities or cultural/religious differences.
They have been cultural ambassadors of cultural diversity in Europe through their activities in the field of sport.
The Bulgarian volunteers from the towns of Smolyan and Madan and the villages of Tarun, Chepintsi, Rovino and Selishte worked on such issues as discrimination, xenophobia and racism.
Sports values are fundamental tools in similar projects based on volunteering. They act as natural and helpful facilitators to show the youth how to prevent intolerance, social exclusion and marginalization.
‘I am pleased to have had the opportunity to be the leader of the Bulgarian group because I myself grew up along with the young people, – said Valentin Kehayov, YIYD chairman. – I am impressed by their ambition and creativity. Due to its practical nature, the project was very useful for our volunteers. It helped them to acquire practical skills and knowledge’.
Everyone should allow the other to influence oneself
Severim Bobachev, Volunteer, the village of Selishe: ‘This is my first international exchange project, and I didn’t know what to expect, except that I would meet new people, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and educational.
I had an incredible opportunity to get to know new cultures, opinions, people, and I understood a lot about myself. In my opinion, everyone should undergo such an experience at least once and allow the other to influence him.
The atmosphere itself was friendly on the part of the hosts. And the program perfectly balanced the time for activities with rest and entertainment.
My favourite part was the visit to the island of Sapienza, where we enjoyed beautiful views and unforgettable moments all day.
The island located above the main sea route between Italy and the Middle East has seen many shipwrecks.
There is also the habitat of the well-known kri-kri goats.
Another favourite moment for me was the cultural evenings, where everyone had the opportunity to try typical food or learn traditional dance.
In the beginning, everyone had some worries and fears. But by the last day, we all became a cohesive team where everyone understood each other only by sight. And I do my best to keep in touch with those incredible people.
I recommend everyone who wants to experience something like this not to hesitate because such projects bring good emotions, acquaintances and friendships’.
Play more to improve your communication skills
Rahim Hadjieminov, Volunteer, Smolyan: ‘For me, speaking in public and any public appearances are not my strong point, but projects like this give me the enthusiasm and confidence to overcome these challenges.
In my opinion, one of the most positive aspects of the exchange is that I have significantly improved my communication skills and learned to communicate easily with other participants.
It was due to our constant teamwork and also the trust games. I expanded my worldview and had fun with incredible people with whom I made friends.
I loved that the program included many activities on the beach.
The project program allowed us to get to know both the participants and the city. We had a city quiz, which helped us to see the sights of the beautiful coastal location in a more fun way.
Let’s create new recipes for success together!
Valentin Kehayov, Chairman of Young Improvers for Youth Development, Smolyan: ‘Our association was created by young people and for young people. It allows effectively working in a team and boost personal development.
To raise new leaders, we apply non-formal education and volunteering in Smolyan and the region.
YIYD organizes workshops and training in Smolyan and other places in the region, and young people also participate in international exchange.
Our great pride is the youth space with a capacity of about 120 young people, where young people gather together to share ideas and experiences, study and talk, play board games and have fun.
We are trying to improve their skills and to help them to acquire new competencies.
Volunteering is a big cause for me. It has already proven useful for the whole mountain region, not just for these 100 people.
And, importantly, all institutions have joined our projects. We regularly develop new collaborations.
So far, no party or organization has closed the door before us. We simply come and say: ‘Your kids are in our organization, you live in this city, let’s do something together’.
Even the most inefficient institutions began acting because they saw the effect and the fact that things could happen.
We really gave them a spark that any changes are not that complicated how it may look, and it’s possible to change something when you’re not burdened by political bias.
Our mission is to unite young people from different cultures and nationalities and provide them with a productive and creative environment for development.
It, in turn, will allow them to develop necessary competencies for success and achieve a higher level of self-knowledge and build critical thinking and strategy for success.
We are young people, loving, dreaming and creating! We change ourselves, our loved ones and our city.
We dream and find a way to make our dreams come true.
If you are also a dreaming and creative person, join us and let’s dream and create together!
Images: Valentin Kehayov. In the feature image: Young Improvers for Youth Development in Metoni, during the Bulgarian evening.