Dates of the event: 2 – 8 July 2017
Place: Strelcha, Bulgaria
On the first of June, on the Facebook page of Association Strive! another Erasmus + project was published. The theme of the project – “European Youth Forum to Rural Areas”, and the site of the project Strelcha, about 100 km east from Sofia. By reading the info pack I have decided to apply with the online form and cv. Exactly 15 days later, the results came. I was selected as one of the participants of the Croatian team! I immediately got a Facebook group link where I got to know the other members and participants Tesa Goldstein, Zdenka Barna, Marija Magdalena Maešić, and Jana Ajduković, and where we could then plan the travel to Bulgaria. We had to be fast because the first day of the project was 2nd of July.
After packing the luggage, it was time to go. First Station, Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade from which we had a direct flight to Sofia. We landed in Sofia after an hour of flight, from where we headed towards the center of the city. The meeting point with the organizers of the project was the South Bus Station. From there, together with other participants, we headed to the site of our project in Strelcha. Strelcha is a small town in Bulgaria, with approximately 4,200 inhabitants. When we came to the hotel, we settled in our rooms and spent the night in conversation with other project participants from Italy, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, and Latvia.
On the second day, we had a presentation of the organization that hosted us in Bulgaria and who organized the project. Also, we have gone through some basic project rules, and the fears and expectations we have before starting a project program. The program for that day ended with a variety of dating games. In the workshops “My rural area” and “If I was the mayor …” we learned some interesting things about the rural areas of the participating countries and about the procedures and criteria of rural development that would be important to us as a mayor of a city.
By visiting the local family farms involved in the production of rose oil, we have seen and learned how they succeed and how municipality helped them. Family farms which we have visited are producing roses for over 10 years, and have 12 hectares of rose plantation.
30 participants also had an opportunity to talk to the Mayor of the town where they could hear what authorities were doing to keep young people in rural areas and avoid the situation where young people move to larger cities in Bulgaria (Sofia, Plovdiv,…). Membership in the Student City Library is free, as well as a public swimming pool located in the city. The playground and the recreational area are also free for students as well as numerous other facilities. Some might say that this is not something, but it is a personal effort for me, and that is definitely visible.
After many learned things, there was time for a break. On the last joint dinner of the youth exchange, we went to the club where we enjoyed and talked together about how the project lasted for 6 days.
I decided to stay in Sofia another day after the project, to get to know the city better and enjoy it. Last chance to say bye to beautiful Bulgaria was on the flight back to home. To some other opportunity, to another (Erasmus +) project.
Author: Igor Barać