By Viktoria Panayotova (YES 2018-2019, Bulgaria, hosted by AYUSA in Stewartstown, PA)

Victoria was a volunteer at the Gender Equality Education implemented by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bulgaria Association.

The article is originally published on the website of YES Programs here.

One of the most important lessons my exchange year in the Unites States taught me was how important volunteering is and what a big impact for the community it has.

So, ever since I came back to Bulgaria, I’ve been seeking different opportunities to do just that: get involved in the activities and give back to the community in my city. In addition to doing projects with our YES Alumni group, I wanted to meet other people who are also interested in volunteering in my city.

Volunteering Matters Workshops1
Viktoria presents on the Bechdel test and has participants perform the test on their favorite shows and movies.

In October 2019, I heard that the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Bulgaria was looking for volunteers for one of their new projects called Gender Equality. I have a great interest in this topic, so I decided to apply for it in order to get out of my comfort zone, meet new people, and see how the skills and experiences I gained from YES could contribute to the project. Nine other volunteers and I went through a training to learn about Gender Equality as it relates to the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. This training involved teambuilding activities and lessons on how to discuss the topic in a presentation or workshop setting. The goal of the project is for each volunteer to organize at least five presentations or interactive workshops for students of our age range on Gender Equality.

Volunteering Matters Training
Participants discuss topics related to Gender Equality.

Before each workshop, we gathered as a group to plan the activities that we wanted to do, taking into consideration the age of the participating students, which ranged from 2nd grade students to high school seniors. Workshop activities including interactive lessons, watching and discussing videos, and performing research. I implemented workshops at the Complex for Social Services “Olga Skobeleva” and at the Private High School of Economics and Management.

I felt extremely fulfilled after every workshop because I could see how simple measures implemented by a small group of volunteers can give so much to the community. Discussing Gender Equality may not always be easy, but it’s necessary to do. Providing exposure to these topics is essential for young adults, who are the upcoming generation of change-makers.

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