It all started with the Gendered Realities project and the call for local activities on gender equality topic by SCI.
The team of three girls Bea from Poland, Vili and Shirin from Bulgaria, who already had organized two workcamps on women empowerment in a small village in Lukovit region in Bulgaria (in 2017 and 2018) embraced the idea to continue their work in the summer of 2019.
They went bold, driven by the need to focus on the potential of the local young girls who they met in the previous years. Their idea was to go out in nature, meet international volunteers with these girls and challenge the gender roles that are still very present in their own communities.
The idea was approved and on the 17th of August the team, together with three volunteers from Spain, Belgium and Germany met with 4 young girls from the region of Lukovit. They took the bus from Sofia to Kresna from where the most popular local driver with a minivan suitable for the broken road took them to the distant Vlahi village (population of 8 people).
The accommodation was in Vlahi Nature School a building restored only by natural materials, and it provided big kitchen area, nice beds, compost toilets, outside showers with water heated by solar panels, amazing mountain views and a sky full of stars. First touch with nature was already there!
The program was intense from the first meeting, because there were only 7 days to spend together. The coordinators team was very lucky to have volunteers who came prepared with workshops on body image, beauty standards, self love, gender representation in school, media, different job opportunities.
The non-formal methods of barometer, taking a step forward, drawing, magazines and photos from internet lead to deeper discussions and sharing of personal stories. This has been the most challenging part for everyone because translation from English to Bulgarian and vice versa were needed for everyone to take part and understand each other’s backgrounds.
After two days of intensive workshops it was time to prepare for the wild camping. It started with watching the movie Wild and preparing the list of things needed for the campsite. Then there was time for the quest to find the best spot to set up the camping.
During the hike the amazing sights of Pirin mountain appeared even closer and everyone felt excited of what else is coming. When the perfect spot with flat ground and river nearby appeared, the decision has been made, the group went back to the school for a short rest and packing for the camping part of the week.
Workshops on how to open a tent were made, together with building a small table from wood and stones.
In the morning some of the girls shared they did not feel very comfortable spending the night in tents, so the group had a session for midterm evaluation and everyone shared if their expectations were met so far.
The best outcome of this discussion has been the decision to never give up after the first time, to check what and how it can be improved and at least try one more time (camping or in life situations).
The rest of the camping experience has been dedicated to outside games for bonding, first aid in case of emergency, starting a fire, cooking, taking care of each others needs and create a comfort in the wilderness.
The last two days were used for an evening of the talents and cultures, some free time hiking to the nearest waterfall and personal and group reflections, together with evaluation of the overall experience.
During this time the motto of the workcamp has been decided and it corresponds to the full experience of every person who took part in it, considering the low and the high moments of it.
With pride we share it with you – At least I tried!
This story might not sound to you as a regular workcamp as we know it in SCI, but it was an effort that the three girls took very boldly and executed successfully, mixing different activities and programs that they know. Lessons are learned, eyes have been opened and fingers are crossed for more action on Gender equality and women’s empowerment in the future!
Shirin Hodzheva from CVS Bulgaria.