Summer Activites in Southeast Europe Part III: YES Alumni Bulgaria

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By Gabriela Veleva, Alumni Coordinator for Bulgaria 2011-2012

Photographs from the Month of Photography exhibition on display

It still feels like summer here, in Bulgaria, especially if you live by the seaside, but we have to accept that the most exciting season of the year is already over and all we have left are sweet memories. However, I am sure that most of the newly returned alumni have been feeling the same way ever since the middle of June, when they flew back to their home country. Let us go back a bit, to the beginning of June and the exciting photo exhibition during the Month of Photography, where two alumni took part. We had a lot of fun preparing and arranging photographs done by high school students in a professional gallery in the city of Varna. This was the first year in which First Language School took part in the initiative, which took place in six different cities in Bulgaria. The opening of the exhibition was on June 1st and lasted until June 9th. It is important to say that June 1st is considered Children’s Day in Bulgaria, so we were able to offer refreshments and small presents for the children who attended such as notes about photography and art in general.

Chocolate Chip Cookies were one of the treats guests enjoyed at the Fourth of July event organized by YES alumni

The next month, we celebrated the Fourth of July. This event was held in a conference hall in Varna and the 20 people who attended left much more knowledgeable about the United States and full from American food. The event started out with a PowerPoint presentation on American history, including clarification and examples of  “democracy” and discussion of everything the United States stand for. After that, there were samples of American pancakes and cookies for guests to try as well as hand-outs of the recipes for them to take home. Younger children were able to play piñata outside while some of the older attendees played catch with an American football. The event ended with a little quiz of things that people had learned during the event. One participant had 100% of the answers correct and won a key chain from Washington, D.C. as a special prize.

Health workers prepare for free HIV testing in Rakitovo, thanks to the “Be Aware” project

In August, we had a series of events take place covering an important and serious topic. First, in the middle of the month the new YES students departed for their year in the USA. Another event that took place was the “Be Aware” project, which was funded by the YES program alumni funds and executed by alumnae sisters Maria Krivonozova ’11 and Reneta Krivonozova ’12. Maria and Reneta live in the small town Rakitovo which has a minority population that is not well educated on the issues that the “Be Aware” project covers—sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy and important reproductive/sexual health issues. This project took place in three parts and was designed to provide more information about these topics to the attendees. Different speakers and presenters contributed to the three sessions and at the end of the event free AIDS testing and results were available for citizens who wanted to get tested. This event took up almost all of the weekends during August, so before we knew it, it was already September.

We—and by “we” I mean all alumni—remember when we attended our first day of testing in October before being selected to go to the United States. In order to make sure more and more students would keep forever in their memories the magical feeling of taking the test and hoping that maybe that same time next year they would be sitting in an American school, we conducted an informational campaign all around the country about the YES Program and American Councils in general. We started the project at the beginning of the new school year in Bulgaria and finished in October. We hope that we got more people excited and interested in our program and helped provide more people the amazing opportunity we, ourselves, had a few years back.

Now that summer is over—and our year in the U.S. is long gone—we should cherish those memories and think about what is going to happen next…