Local activities with migrants and minorities in Bulgaria

1. The groups

Migrants – There were 20 people in the migrant group, with people from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova who had come to Bulgaria for work. They live together in a hostel in Shumen, Bulgaria, but are very isolated as they cant speak either Bulgarian or English, so are not able to communicate with anyone outside their group. They were mostly over 35 years old, in the labour market, with a low level of income but do not benefit from any public social services.   The men were single, whereas the women were married, with families.  , Some of the group were educated to secondary level or lower.  Their level of knowledge of Bulgarian was poor and English was fair, but they largely had good numeracy and ICT skills.

Minorities – There were also 20 people in the ethnic minority group, originating from the Arabian peninsula and Turkey. The group consisted of five men and fifteen women, aged between 25 and 50 years old, who were all early school leavers and living in poor districts (where the majority of people have a very low level of income, mostly relying on social support and other public aid).

2 Particularities of the tailored learning program

One group of migrants and one of ethnic minorities took part in the course. Russian, Armenian, Turkish, and Bulgarian participants, accompanied by trainers, tried out the methodologies in practice.

There were four workshops (7 hours each), which took place at the office of ArtMania EOOD, 12 Pencho Slaveikov, Shumen, and included the following:

  • Introduction to autobiographical methodologies in social work.
  • Autobiographical writing workshop – presentation of the participants – writing of personal history and exchange of memories – discussion of past events experienced by different minorities – “The aroma of my memories”
  • Creation of a group slogan – presentation from participants in Russian, Armenian, Turkish, and Bulgarian cuisines
  • Digital Storytelling – a psychological game about typical national spices. Discussion of their taste and healing properties and importance for sensuality. Video recording of the stories.
  • Creation of video – exchange of spices and stories between participants of different nationalities
3. Evaluation tools used

We held a two hours meeting after the experiment to reflect and consolidate the learning. In addition we provided a questionnaire to be completed.

In total we held five meetings, used the time well, and found that the participants welcomed the topics and exercises with interest and enthusiasm. There were few problems with the techniques.

4. Successfully elements and obstacles

The project is very good for clarifying the concepts and developing a system of communication between people of different religious, cultural and social backgrounds. The information on the options for bringing the groups together and the means of expression to illustrate personal stories was useful; the positive role of motivational games and storytelling techniques in leading to acceptance. We understood the differences between individual and group learning, learned how to structurea thematic training programme, improved our communication and teamwork skills, as well as our ability to search and select information of various kinds on the Internet.

As the project appealed to individuals who were open and empathetic, it was easy for them to acquire the necessary skills to use the autobiographical method. They were broad-minded, accepting the position and point of view of others, so the experience was useful and enjoyable.