“Do you care?”: “Change the direction!” These are two of the slogans of the initiatives, executed by young people from Vratsa, Sofia and Blagoevgrad within a project, named It’s Up to You. The high school students worked three months under their own initiatives, related to sustainable development and the one of civic society. Their activities popularized sustainable way of living, ecotourism, healthy nutrition, different waste management issues and protection of biodiversity. The project was executed due to the support of former Bulgarian scholars, trained under the Civic Education in Action programme of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Federal Agency for Civic Education – Germany. The MitOst association for cultural and language exchange, headquartered in Berlin, the EcoCentric Foundation, the directorate of the Vratsa Balkan Natural Park and the Bulgarian Center for Green Economy are all partners in the project. “When I was in high school I wanted to do something meaningful with my friends and now I am glad that I can help students get such a chance,” says Head of the It’s Up to You project Hristina Bancheva. “The expression sustainable development is now used more and more often. Our idea on its outlook is: you give to young people the financial opportunity to do what they like and consider good and you help them with ideas when necessary.” The environmental clubs with the schools that took part in the initiatives of the project organized informational campaigns, shot videos and prepared presentations. “We want to take out coevals from the cafes, malls and McDonalds and send them among nature for a bit longer,” young people from the Detelini environmental club with the Hristo Botev high school in Vratsa said. They marked the routes from school to green areas nearby within the frameworks of the Change the Direction initiative; they gave maps to green points around the town and organized healthy green breakfasts in the parks, situated next to their schools.
“Green Horizon was the name of another project of Vratsa students,” Hristina Bancheva goes on to say. “An eco art happening was organized by both students and members of the Vratsata sport and tourist club. The event was organized near the famous Ledenika cave situated in the mountain some 19 km away from Vratsa. More than 60 students and their parents gathered there. They shot an advertising tourist video, organized a photographic contest and an environmental quiz.
At the same time the Academician Liudmil Stoyanov language school from the town of Blagoevgrad made its Small Paradise in the schoolyard. The young people arranged a kind of a botanic garden with herbs, typical for the mountains of Rila and Pirin and placed the information tables necessary for each species. “Do You Care?” is the question that the environmental club with the 91st German Language School in Sofia asked and conducted a survey on whether young people know more on separate waste collection and environmental protection. The students organized an information campaign, interviews, they created a website and a movie on the issue with the idea to explain to their young fellows how important environmental protection was. The students ended the initiative in a symbolic manner, with the planting of a tree that came to express their concern on nature’s future.
The Let’s Live Ecologically festival, organized by the Geya environmental club with the 74th Gotse Delchev High School in Sofia was another interesting initiative. Eco covers of popular songs were presented, along with short eco plays, quizzes etc.
The It’s Up to You project finished end-May with a national meeting and reports on what had been done in each town or city. The event took place in the NATURA environmental center with the directorate of the Vratsa Balkan Natural Park.
“I am happy that we had the chance to give such an impulse to those boys and girls,” Hristina Bancheva says. “I think that high school seniors suffer a lack of environmental education, which is aimed more at pupils or university students. That was why this group was our target. The young people were very happy and motivated for more projects. They all presented extensions of their projects at the Vratsa meeting. We had shown them how they could do nice things if they had the wish. I think that the world is opening and new possibilities of this kind are available now. The MitOst association offered a second project to take place during the next school year with other school clubs. In the meantime a new youth project starts in July, called Holiday for Sustainable Development and the EcoCentric foundation executes it in a partnership with the directorate of Vratsa Balkan Natural Park. I think it will be successful either,” Mrs. Bancheva says in conclusion.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev