With his project Equal in the Face of Climate Change, Vihren Mitev, projects coordinator of Young Caritas Sofia, connects young and old generations of Bulgarians through volunteering. And with his Ecological Manifesto, Vihren connects envoronmentally-friendly enthusiasts through international collaborations. Join our friendly chat and learn more 🙂
Developing volunteering and leadership
‘Equal in the Face of Climate Change‘ is Vihren’s recent initiative that introduces advanced community-building practices for sustainable living in Bulgaria. It consists of four events that link young volunteers and old people through daily routine tasks.
The project is implemented with the support of the Equality and Climate Justice Programme by the Bulgarian Fund for Women.
In this way, Vihren, one of the Bulgarian eco-activists, shows practical steps for empowering women and older people, the categories most affected by climate change.
During the first event, Young Caritas volunteers helped elderly families to build eight new drip irrigation systems, chop wood and walk animals.
‘Young Caritas is a unique project that aims to create a volunteer movement of young people with leadership skills who want to work for positive social changes, – says Vihren. – Topics on which youngsters work are climate change, renewable energy, clean air and clean water campaigning, eco-living and permaculture’.
Young Caritas and ManEco actively collaborate with international organizations in the framework of the Erasmus + programs, the associations YOUNGO by the UN and the Federation for Green Youth in Europe.
At the moment, they are also working on zero waste projects and collaborating with the eco-clubs of the largest international universities.
Measuring success through causes
Although the Bulgarian society does not have the tradition of volunteering, Vihren gradually and successfully introduced changes, applying the systematic approach:
‘Success is to convince the general public that volunteering is not a waste of time and purposeless unpaid work for an institution. And it is not a new way for the rich to benefit from free labour, but an opportunity for people with kind hearts to find like-minded people to support their causes. And the Young Caritas centre – a place where they learn to plan and implement events, work in a team, seek connections with institutions and find funding for their projects.
Success is when you help the volunteers unite to work together for common causes; when I connect them with other organizations from which they can learn; when they return with big smiles from our events, and can’t wait to organize another one.
Success is when volunteers set goals and manage to achieve them, committing permanently’.
With the Ecological Manifesto to sustainable living in Bulgaria
In 2018, Vihren created the ManEco organization and wrote the Ecological Manifesto. Several organizations specializing in environmental issues participated in its preparation.
The first edition came out in the Daily News Pakistan and the second one in EOTO World (New York) – a UN organization.
Eco Manifesto gained official support from the Earth Charter movement and other international organizations.
The EcoManifesto consists of tips for about 100 daily practices that everyone can follow to make our lives more environmentally friendly, energy-efficient and enjoyable.
Its idea is to show how people can change their future through their daily choices. For example, shopping for products in bulk – without packaging, shared travel, separate waste disposal, etc.
‘We’re really talking about changing behavioural patterns, and the best advice I can give is: Start with small actions and see where you can go. ‘For the change process to happen, it is important for everyone to become part of it’, – says Vihren.
ManEco and European lobbying initiatives
In 2019, Vihren with his ManEco for the first time represented Bulgaria at the annual UN Climate Conference (COP 25) in Madrid, at the Civil Climate Lobby in Europe.
Vihren joined lobbying initiatives in the European Parliament and meetings with MPs and discussed the possibilities for a fair transition and suspension of coal energy production through the imposition of a pollution tax, which would go to the transformation of coal regions and retraining of workers in the mines.
In 2019, Vihren participated in the US Department of State Professional Fellows Program in which he learned organizational techniques for community organizing and participatory democracy. He did his fellowship in the US at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor (MI). This partnership continued with a visit of his mentor Rebecca Meuninck to Bulgaria in 2020.
They started working on two new projects. The first one aims to create a deposit system by installing vending machines for separate disposal of beverage packaging, and the second one has to do with environmental education.
It means that more people will have the opportunity to try and enjoy sustainable living in Bulgaria through interesting projects.
Images: Vihren Mitev