I really do not know how to begin, it always difficult for me to say goodbye where ever I find myself. It is more difficult for me to say goodbye to the wonderful place that I had been staying for one whole year, and more so very difficult to say goodbye to my wonderful hosting organization “Focus-European center for development", my adorable volunteers, my most cherished clients of daily center , my lovely Bulgarian friends and finally my boss Ivaylo and his family. My one year EVS in Bulgaria, has been one of the best experiences in my life. Before coming to Bulgaria, I never had any sort of expectation, I just wanted to help and contribute in my small way to make the world a better place for someone that I never know or had any kind of relation with in my life. I must confess here that, my family and friends were all worried when I first told them about my idea of coming to Bulgaria for a whole year to do EVS. Their main concerns were; I did not know anyone in Bulgaria, also I did not have any friends or family in Bulgaria. Aside that I was also a little bit worried about all the bad news I read on the internet about Bulgaria. Despite all these worrisome anxieties, I finally decided to come to Bulgaria for my EVS and I am very happy and glad that I did not listened to friends, family and opinions of people about Bulgaria, as it all turn out that, Bulgaria is actually a lovely country with lovely people.
On my arrival to Bulgaria precisely in Pazardjick, I realized that there were no black people in the town so people attention was drawn to me. This made me a little bit shy and uncomfortable in the beginning, because people were so curious about where I was from and what I was doing in their town. The kids and young people were also so fascinated about me some approached me to take photographs with me; some also tried to make conversation with me. Nevertheless, one thing I realized about all these situations was that the people were always nice and worm towards me. As time went on, I adjusted so perfectly in the town. I also started learning the language so I was able to answer and communicate with the people. However, since most of the young people in the town could speak English I did not have much problem with communication.I soon started working in daily center; (my main reason for coming to Bulgaria) it was a great opportunity for me, as I had never worked with people with disabilities before. Working with people with disabilities has changed me a lot; it has humbled me in many ways. Working with them has also made me realized how lucky I was in this world, more especially how the little things that I took for granted actually count a lot for someone. The clients in daily center are very adorable and appreciative so its makes working with them very fun and interesting. The staffs especially Nataly and the nurse were supportive to me and they helped me a lot to understand the clients in term of their individual hobbies and interest. Aside working in the daily center, I participated in many educative activities such as theatric activities, promoting EVS among the youth in Pazardjick especially in high schools and universities, organizing training courses for high schools, seminars, training courses etc. All these activities helped me a lot in boosting my teamwork skills, my leadership skills my entrepreneurship skills and my confident level. I also participated in many festivals in Pazardjick. This made it possible for me to know more about the traditions, custom and culture of the people and it has made me appreciate and understand the people more.
I meet very nice volunteers in my project from France, Italy and Turkey; we were more like a family than volunteers. We supported each other in everything we do, we organized various excursion to different part of Bulgaria from Varna to Burgus, Plovdiv, Etera, Asenovgrad, Rila Monastery, Yambol, Alberna etc. We also usually organized intercultural dinners together. Through that, I learnt to cook Italian Rosoto, Turkish menemen, doner, Bulgarian shopska salad, meat balls and banicsa which is one of my favorite food.Since the climate situation in Bulgaria was a little bit different from my country many people were so worried about how I was going to cope with the harsh weather in winter. Ivaylo, Dimi and Shushan took me to almost all the shop in Pazardjick to help me in shopping for my winter cloths. Finally, during the winter season, I coped very well and I love the snow a lot. I remember the first day it snowed in Pazardjick, Ivo and my almost all the volunteers called me on the phone to ask if I was okay or cold, but I was already outside enjoying a walk in the snow. Everyone just cared for me and treated me very nice.
Finally, I had the best boss Ivaylo and the best mentor Petko they were supportive, understanding and kind to me during this one year, had it not been them I do not know how I would have cope in Pazardjick. They made it possible for me to count on them any time, anyhow and anywhere. I can actually write a whole book about my one-year experience in Pazadjick, because everyday in Pazardjick was memorable for me. I therefore will end it all here, and say a big thank you to Ivaylo and his family “you are indeed hero and superman”, Petko you are a true friend, Shushan you add color to my world, Dimi and her family I am grateful for taking care of me, Aurora, Cemal, Michele, Maurizio, Julia, Tugba thank you all for being there for me and making it possible for me to count on you 24/7.
Finally I say a big thank you to all my ex-volunteers especially Lara and her sister Zoe, Neomi, Dilara, Edin and all of you, it was a pleasure meeting you all. Do not forget you all have a friend in Ghana and you are all invited to Ghana. I hope to meet you all some day, somewhere in the world again. I love you all and I will miss you all.
If you are ever wondering where to do your EVS its should definitely be in Pazardjick and of course with NGO “Focus – European center for development” /www.foccen.org /.
MY ONE YEAR EVS IN BULGARIA - Catherine Akorfa Akpaloo