Saturday, July 21, 2007

Back in the BG!

After 18 days away from my city in Pernik, I’ve got quite a lot of things to write about! First and foremost, I love trains!

I realize that I haven’t talked much about the “work” I’ve been doing here in Pernik, so here is a round-up of info on that topic.

One of the main priorities of the PC Bulgaria post is to educate communities on the realities and dangers of human trafficking. Human trafficking can range from forced sex-slavery, the trade of human organs, forced-labor, baby smuggling, etc. Eastern Europeans are particularly susceptible to becoming victims, as many of them are looking immigrate to another country for work or education. A common method by which victims are trafficked is by responding to a fake job advertisement for employment in Western Europe. Often without checking into the validity of the sending company, a young person signs up, hands over their documents, and quickly find himself a victim once they arrive in the Promised Land. As a North American, this topic is something you most likely have not heard of, unless you keep up with current world events and trends. I know I had never heard of this until I joined Peace Corps! With some local partners, a group of committed PCVs organized a traveling film festival which showed two Bulgarian films on the topic, and a film produced by MTV’s “Exit” campaign. Pernik was the first stop on the tour, so I convinced my coworkers that we should host the event. We organized the space, advertised, invited locally relevant NGOs and the city youth council, and prepared a set of discussion questions. Turn out was pretty low, but I think the people who attended found the festival entertaining and informational. Despite the low turn out, I had a reason to personally feel successful. One of the ideas of Peace Corps is that volunteers bring their previous knowledge and know-how to their organization, and transfer the skills they acquired in their normal lives to their Peace Corps lives. Well, with only 100 days left of service, I felt like I finally used one of my “skills” in order to make this event a success. When turn-out seemed bleak, Alden (a fellow PCV) and I hit the streets of Pernik armed with pamphlets on anti-trafficking and began canvassing ever youngster between the ages of 12 and 20. Thanks to my days as a canvasser in the streets of Manhattan, I immediately fell into a comfort zone, and all the tactics I had mastered back then came flooding back…it was really rewarding to see nearly 80% of the people I canvassed at the film!

If you’d like to learn more about trafficking, please check out these sites for an introduction. Bulgarian NGO that works with victims of trafficking mtv exit campaign

While I was on vacation, another great thing happened. An opportunity to use the mutli-media equipment we won through a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) presented itself, and my coworkers set things up all by themselves! This may seem like something small, but its nice to know that they were paying attention when I showed them how to use the equipment, and its even nicer to know that they will continue to use it even after the project is complete! Aahh, success!

Sometimes communities in Bulgaria need only very small amounts of money coupled with truly grassroots ideas to see significant improvements. The PC “At-Risk Youth Fund” acknowledges exactly that idea, and funds projects up to 500 BGN (roughly $360). These projects have ranged from improving outdoor basketball courts, supplies for youth camps, shoes for youth, trafficking seminars, etc. Peace Corps Washington does not supply funding for this committee, so it’s up to PCVs to fundraise for the fund. Myself and Boudreaux, a volunteer in Sofia, decided that we would organize a charity 5km run/walk in Sofia exactly for this cause. We are currently in the process of securing the space, measuring the course, securing donors (Runners World has already provided some support), advertising the event, and recruiting runners! The event is scheduled for the 10th of September, so if you somehow find yourself in Bulgaria in early September, please come run! Its only 10 BGN to enter, and you get to help orphans and other kids! Stayed tuned to this blog for more information. J

And finally…the big job hunt has begun! I spent nearly the entire afternoon scouring for jobs in several worthy metro areas. So far I’ve marked about 20 positions that seem interesting, ranging from event planning for Carnegie Hall to tutoring kids in Harlem. Time to update that resume and pump out some cover letters!


At 9:44 AM, Blogger Andrea Leigh said...

HALLLOOOOO. Can I just say that the thing about your colleagues setting up the multi-media equipment is just incredibly impressive. I'm so with you and feeling as though that day was a sort of red-hot-flaming-sparkling-letter date. Also, I think you should TOTALLY tutor kids in Harlem!!!!!! I'm not kidding!

At 2:27 AM, Anonymous Angeline said...

Toni, you are my inspiration! Enjoy your last 100 days in BG!!! I only wish I could come run in your 10 K!!!!!


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