I knew I was going to be kind of involved in the field of working with migrants and refugees since I started studying my bachelor’s degree in the Faculty of Classical and Modern Philologies in Sofia University. Iranian Studies (or philology with Persian language and its dialects Farsi and Dari) is connected with the global problem of migration and refugee crisis due to the big amount of Iranian and Afghan people, fleeing their countries even though there is no war therein. Firstly, I didn’t have any experience in this sphere, except for attending a Mentor program for refugees, helping their social integration, organized by one of the biggest NGO-s working with migrants, i.e. Karitas and participating in Erasmus+ training course on this topic.
This year I’ll be graduating from the university and two facts lead me to start working in Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria – my previous interest and the desire to practice in my specialty, as a translator. We are a non-profit organization with mission to assist newly recognized refugees in the process of their initial adaptation and integrationin the Bulgarian society.We work on different projects, funded by Ministry of Interior or United Nations High Commissariat of Refugees for example. Our team is divided into social workerswho are psychologists and cultural mediators – translators of Arabic or Persian. We’re working either in our office in Sofia city center or at the territorial units of the State Agency for Refugees under the Council of Ministers, which is “Registration and Reception Center Sofia” - with International Protection Production Departments in the neighborhoods of “Ovcha Kupel”, “Vrazhdebna” and “Voenna rampa”. We work in collaboration with other NGO-s on projects like “Community support to asylum seekers and refugees in Bulgaria”, “Improving access to services for third-country nationals” and so on.
Some of our activities include social mediation program and provision of humanitarian assistance. People can receive support in the process of social adjustment and integration through social consultations and provision of information, translation, accompanying to medical/state/municipal facility, provision of humanitarian aid, administrative assistance, etc. The advocacy and networking activities include cooperation with state agencies and NGO-s, participation in networks, workgroups, studies and partnerships with all stakeholders on national and international levels. The experts in the organization design and conduct trainings on multicultural approach in social counseling, violence survivors, crisis intervention and traumatic experiences, child protection, case management, burn-out prevention and prevention of social exclusion for vulnerable groups. The fundraising and publicity activities are focused towards development and implementation of comprehensive strategy to work on awareness rising and sensitivity building among the society on the topics related to refugees, social adaptation and integration. The publicity and fundraising activities include also attracting volunteers, organization of social events, donation campaigns and communication with individual and corporate donators.
The third-country nationals can also receive a wide range of services such as consultations with a lawyer or psychotherapist, Bulgarian and English language courses, training sessions on getting acquainted with Bulgarian law, employment and legal relations in the country, assistance in drafting a CV and cover letter, organizing job fairs, socialization through cooking in a bread house, craft art activities, etc.
In the process of gaining more experience from my work, we go to different trainings - internal intervision; together with other organizations; trainings of UNHCR and the National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings; monthly supervisions with the psychologists of the organizations and others. Photos below present me and our beneficiaries in cooking activity, me and my colleagues having supervision and some children attending activities.
by Silvia Plamenova
Seminar “Let them be heard” in Braga, Portugal