Our name may not be on a list but we are coming in

Trip Start Dec 09, 2010
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14
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Trip End Dec 22, 2010


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Gabrovo

Flag of Bulgaria  , Gabrovo,
Monday, December 20, 2010

For once we get to an early start as we are on the road for the next two days and we have a long way to go. Our first stop is in the city of Stara Zagora with a visit to our friends at World Without Borders.  It was a real pleasure to see Milena, Maria and Toni and even better to hear that they feel that their small organisation is on a much firmer foundation than last year.  Their work here amongst the huge Roma community revolves mainly around delivering health projects to the women and supporting families through a kindergarten.  This neighbourhood is extremely tough, especially for girls on whom the pressures to become prostitutes and/or young mothers is extremely high and hard to resist.  Many Roma people like to keep their communities isolated from Bulgarian society.  Milena tells us of one family where the father forbade his little girl from going to kindergarten because he did not want her to learn the Bulgarian language, instead preferring that she only speak the local Roma dialect; a sure way to trap a young child into one community for the rest of her life.  The Roma language is not a written language and without the ability to communicate outside of the community young people especially girls face a lifetime trapped in poverty and crime.  Thanks to World Without Borders' efforts, this little girl is now in kindergarten and learning to speak Bulgarian; hopefully the first but crucial step to a better life.  Trussell Trust funds some of WWB work, helping to make a difference for the poorest of the poor in Stara Zagora.

We hop back in the van and drive to Sliven Women’s Prison where we have arranged to drop off presents and also to visit the baby unit for babies of women who are sentenced whilst they are pregnant.  Despite having arranged this visit with the big cheese of Bulgarian prisons, on arrival we are met with blank looks and frowns a plenty... Miryana is having none of this.  After a minor debacle, several phonecalls and a fierce look from Miryana, we are allowed to visit the baby unit and give presents to the mum’s with their little ones.  Once you walk into the baby unit you can almost forget you’re in a prison, the room is bright and cheery and a stark contrast to the rest of the building.  We meet four mothers and babies and hear that several of them are nearing the end of their sentences. 

Our initial persistence in wanting to come in pays off when we discover that the prison budget does not stretch to looking after the babies and that the nurse in charge struggles to get donations, clothes and food for the babies.  We will be able to help here too by supplying items that they need and helping the nurse to write to companies to apply for baby food, clothing and equipment.    For the meantime we are able to leave them with a box of extra items for babies which we had on the van. 

Then we pile back into the vans for a two hour trip to Gabrovo on the twistiest mountain pass in Bulgaria – cue lots of fun on the slippery roads!  Once in Gabrovo we hooked up with Rumen and Jenni Popov who head up our new House of Opportunity project in the city.  It is really good to hear of the positive start this project has had since opening in November; all the young people are in work and it was great to meet Dani who had moved from the House of Joshua in Skravena to start work in a clothing warehouse here in Gabrovo.  He is really happy with his work and has joined the local athletics club too.  It is encouraging to see young people who have been marginalised in this society for so long flourish when given the opportunity. 
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unnikrishnan on

good

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