The Refugee Project – Everybody Deserves a Warm Welcome
The goal of the project is to give asylum seekers the opportunity to learn new languages, acquire new skills, learn more about life in Bulgaria, and to have positive interactions with Bulgarian citizens. In addition, it encourages volunteering and skill development among Bulgarians to help adults and children with migrant background to integrate into their new environment by teaching them language skills and giving them new experiences. The project's team recruits, trains and supports volunteers of all ages.
Year(s): 2010 – ongoing
Target group(s): Refugees, asylum seekers; Volunteers
Every four months, the team recruits a new cohort of volunteers who commit to dedicating at least two hours per week to lead and participate in the lessons and other organised activities. Whilst the minimum time commitment from volunteers is two hours per week for a four month period, many of them invest more of their time each week or continue to volunteer for months, or years, beyond the initial agreement.
Working alongside the State Agency for Refugees, the team creates a weekly timetable of activities to be delivered in each of the reception centres in Sofia. The diversity of activities depends on the interests and availability of the volunteers and the demand from the asylum seekers.
For each group of volunteers, the team undertakes mid-term and final evaluation, using a variety of techniques, including feedback sessions with all of the volunteers and online surveys.
Type of product
Course / Training
Workshops and interactions on various topics of interest for refugees and asylum seekers
Brief description of the product / outcome / method
Volunteers now provide not only Bulgarian and English lessons, but also art workshops, music activities, sport and games sessions, IT lessons and even cookery workshops on a weekly basis. The Refugee Project now has activities in all three refugee camps in Sofia - Ovcha Kupel, Voenna Rampa and Vrazhdebna.
Asylum seekers and refugees benefit from the project by having increased interaction with Bulgarian people, opportunities to improve their language skills, and the option to participate in a wide variety of activities while they are staying in the centres.
Volunteers have the opportunity to hear at first-hand the experiences of refugees coming to Bulgaria and to have an active role in their adaptation to the education system and their social integration in Bulgaria. They gain experience of intercultural communication, knowledge of different cultures, experience of working with people of all ages, and with leading and participating in workshops.
Impact on target groups / Transferability potential
Since the beginning of the project in 2010, more than 300 volunteers have participated, and the team currently has more than 60 active volunteers who dedicate their time to the project each week. The activities are well-received by the hundreds asylum seekers, and sessions often have to be divided into two to accommodate excess demand.
In December 2014, the president of Bulgaria gave the team an award recognising The Refugee Project as ‘Volunteer Initiative of the Year’ in Bulgaria.
The greatest success of the project is that it has been running continuously for five years with very limited funding. The reliance on volunteers to run the project allows the team to continue to deliver activities and makes the model sustainable.
Building sustainable relationships with other organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers in Bulgaria, such as the UNHCR, Council for Refugee Women, Bulgarian Red Cross, Refugee Support Group can also be considered as a success. This has extended the reach of the campaigns and allowed the team to work in partnership to deliver the respective activities in an efficient manner.
Promoter of the initiative
Name of organization / individual: CVS - Bulgaria and Caritas Sofia
Contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org , www.facebook.com/refugeeproject