City: Lukovit, Bulgaria
We try to build and revitalise traditional, social and cultural activities of the local community, which today have either been forgotten or lost.
Photo courtesy of ngo.lukovit.bg
Holding Organisation: Association "St. Martyr George the Victorious – Lukovit" Status: NGO Financing: Self-financing, donations, business People involved in the project: Citizens aged between 12 - 50 years old Public Partners: Lukovit Municipality Private Partners: Local, private companies support the activities Creation Date: February 2012 Sources & Links: Website under construction; Some of the initiatives can be seen in ngo.lukovit.bg Contact Persons: Georgi Georgiev, Secretary of the Association; e-mail: g.georgiev à ngo.lukovit.bg
The basic idea is to activate the local population for enrichment of social environment, the creation of cultural values, especially among adolescents, which are a prerequisite for constructive future. We follow the maxim: "Smart and compassionate people, calm and strong community".
We are trying to build and revitalise traditional social and cultural activities of the local community, which today are either forgotten, or lost. For this purpose, we undertake various initiatives: publishing a free newspaper, cleaning of public areas, organisation of cultural and sporting events, conducting exhibitions, photo and art workshops, etc.
From early 2012 until now the Association has been able to implement a variety of such initiatives. All participants involved are volunteers.
The local context
Lukovit is a rural municipality with a population of 18,125 people (Census 2011). It has a long history in relation to tourism. The main social problems are a high unemployment rate, high rate of illiteracy, high rate of school drop-outs, low quality of life, etc. The concentration of Roma people is quite high – more than 16%.
Over the last 20 years the social and cultural life of the municipality has become very placid. Community centres, whose role it is to keep alive the spirit of the different traditions, to nurture love for the arts and to encourage, guide and provide a platform for young talent, for one reason or another have become rundown and do not play their correct role. Contemporary consumer culture does not involve the development of a value system in which words such as solidarity, faith, spirit, striving for perfection, art, ecology, etc. are missing or meaningless. We believe that we can help and make our lives better only if people become much more active and act as good role models for teenagers and young persons.
The starting point
The Steering Committee met spontaneously a year and a half ago. The founders of the Association were joined by teachers, school psychologists, engineers and economists. We decided to initiate different events and activities for and with the local community based on civil enthusiasm and citizens' involvement.
How does it work
We identify a concrete initiative and draw the attention of citizens of the municipality to it, paying particular attention to children. The children we work with are gathered according to the talents and abilities they possess. For example, we set up fully equipped rehearsal rooms at the local community centre, where children and youth can come together and play instruments that they never believed they could play so well. Some found themselves talented in acting skills while others discovered that they could practice different sports with ease. The support and understanding that children receive in a creative environment helps their self-affirmation and development.
To implement our activities we use municipal, school and library facilities.
With its own funds, the Association managed to equip one room for rehearsals and another for lab work. Measures of success of our initiatives is the ever increasing number of those willing to participate in our undertakings, with no age restrictions enforced.
The main opportunity for sustainable activities is self-financing through our own business. The newspaper, distributed free-of-charge, provides some income from advertising which, although scarce, enables us to conduct our initiatives. The support of the municipal administration also contributes to the sustainability of the actions undertaken and, last but not least, and of particular importance, is the desire of local people to change the social and cultural life in our municipality for the better.
Participation and governance
The different events and initiatives involve local citizens, municipal and private business. Initiatives are managed by the Association, which communicates actively with public and private institutions supporting the implementation of the activities.
Lukovit Municipality assists us mainly in the area of logistics and securing of land. Private companies help through donations. Different companies support our work like: "Ablamilk" Ltd, "Rodina BG" Ltd, "Diana Tsokova", "AsetInvest", etc.
Added value of the project
The participation of different citizens in our initiatives, including the most vulnerable, builds social links and social capital as well as enables cooperation and solidarity within the local community.
The creation of a cultural environment, attractions and events implies an increase in the tourist flow and further development of cultural tourism, which in turn supports local businesses at all levels and leads to an increase in the standard of living in the municipality.
The main difficulty for the Association relates to funding. Although we use volunteer labour, the procurement of props and materials, transportation, etc. require financial resources. For the moment we are managing to conduct activities through donations and private funds, but to be truly sustainable it is necessary to rely on revenue from our own activities.
To cope with funding scarcities, we intend to expand our business through the concession of public-owned entities that we will develop; the manufacture and sale of artifacts; and cultivation of municipal-deserted farmland. Also, we will try to participate in various EU projects.
Our intention is eventually to make these initiatives a tradition. Furthermore, we intend to create extra-curricular activities for children and youth where they will learn creative thinking, local history, computer science, painting, music, etc. We are also considering the options for a free soup kitchen during the farming seasons as well as to set up a social shop and create jobs for the unemployed, to be made possible by acquiring and managing agricultural land.
Proposals for change
Municipalities could provide a concession or lease of public land for public benefit associations. This way we could generate resources to help the sustainability of our activities.