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COOL “Community of Open Learners”, Bulgaria

Good day! My name is Andrii, and recently I finished my volunteer year, which I spent in Bulgaria, in a small town called Razlog, not far from the ski resort. I am very glad that I got the opportunity to live and work here, and if I had the opportunity to repeat this year, I would have agreed without the slightest hesitation.



My story begins in the beginning of July 2018 when I arrived at the project. I was very excited because it was my first trip abroad. Upon arrival at the hosting organization International Initiatives for Cooperation, I immediately realized that I would like it here. The staff and other volunteers were very good-natured, and always helped me when I was in dire need. Because my English was rather weak, for the first two months I experienced a discomfort communicating in a group, but the volunteers kindly helped me with the study and soon the language barrier was gone, big thanks to everyone who made the effort. 



We had from 7 to 13 volunteers at the same time from all over Europe with whom we had to work, share housing, cook food and spend our free time together. The host organization provided support to all volunteers, regardless of the type of problems, whether it was just a disease, difficulties of adaptation or domestic issues, and helped us as much as possible, and also supported any of our ideas. Our main tasks were to organize events for the local community. These were children, adults, old people and people with mental disabilities. National evenings, language courses, gymnastics, board games, competitions and solving riddles, making handicrafts and cooking various dishes, movie nights and dance lessons, hiking tours and educational lectures are just a small part of what we did. 



I also performed some administrative tasks, such as: administering several web sites, filling and updating them, fixing errors; developing logos and other graphics to advertise our events and customize computers and other technical equipment. Moreover, most of the activities needed to be done in Bulgarian, but thanks to the support from the project staff and several local volunteers who sometimes came to the help, there were no problems with the preparation, moreover it all helped to learn and improve the local language. We worked according to the agreement 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, but sometimes, depending on the workload, we could free ourselves earlier or, on the contrary, stay longer, but in any case, additional hours of rest could be taken for overtime work. We also had 2 days of vacation per month, which accumulated and later we could take about 10 days at a time and go on a trip. 



In our free time we traveled around Bulgaria in order to see interesting places, visited and hosted friends from other cities, discovered other countries, shared interesting life stories, went to various performances and celebrations, tried on the lives of local citizens, such as helping to chop firewood, collect fruit or cook a national dish and generally have fun. In general, it was an opportunity to try another way of life, to live outside of my comfort zone. Personally, for myself, I discovered that there is life just outside of my country, where exactly the same people live, who have the same values, who build their future and help their relatives, also work and dream. I am grateful to everyone that now I can fully use the non-native English and Bulgarian languages ​​as communication tools. On the project, I lived not one or two lives but many more. They are measured by the number of people I met who somehow influenced me, contributed to my worldview and education. In general, the relations in the team were not like in a normal office, it was like in a family. 



Now, after the end, I still can not believe that my volunteering is over, I was so deeply inspired by Bulgaria. And I think that I managed to make my minimum contribution to the development of this small Bulgarian region. Now I know that I have good friends from different corners of the earth, ready to listen and help me, and there is an even greater achievement ahead of me. And for those who are just going to go on your project, I can say with confidence that this will be an unforgettable and the best experience in your life!


Andrii Kapitanchuk, 25 years old, Luhansk region