Nikolay is a father of two beautiful children and also dedicates his time to various great causes in the fields of education, healthcare, food banks, and social support as part of the team at the "Verniyat Nastoynik" association. In his desire to improve his skills for working in a non-governmental organization, Nicky enrolled to participate in the Initiative project of the Workshop for Civil Initiatives Foundation, funded by the Active Citizens Fund of the EEA.
In the interview below, we briefly tell Nicky's story.
How did you get involved in the world of "active citizens", and what exactly do you do at "Verniyat Nastoynik"?
I got involved in this area thanks to my friends from my teenage years. They often told me about the people they supported, how many children they had managed to make happy, the emotions they experienced. I wanted to experience the feeling of helping someone in need, too. I joined them and met the chairman of the association, Zhelyo Zhelev, and since then, I have been shoulder to shoulder with the team.
In addition to charitable initiatives and great causes, the organization is also involved in business activities - a business consisting of a clothing store and two homes for the elderly. The organization's economic activity is necessary, on the one hand, to provide sustainability and development for what we do and, on the other hand, to financially support our families. Together with Zhelyo, we are responsible for the management and development of the organization's economic activity, as well as for the design, planning, and implementation of all projects, causes, and initiatives that we engage in as an organization.
How many years have you been working to support people in disadvantaged situations?
I have informally been working in this area for more than about 18 years. First, I was a volunteer in a youth informal association, which later turned into a non-governmental organization.
The story that you will never forget...?
Incredible stories accompany the daily life of people like me who have dedicated themselves to helping those in need. I remember many different stories that have not only taught me to appreciate what I have but have also given me the motivation and desire to teach my children about it.
Years ago, a volunteer from America came to our organization. Americans have a highly developed value system and culture regarding volunteering, and many of them have traveled to a dozen countries while they were young to help people in need. So this lady came to me to tell me about their organization and to explore the region where we work intensively. When we arrived at the first populated place where I had decided to take her, she was shocked and explained to me that she couldn't believe that in a country from the European Union, people lived in worse living conditions than in the places she had been in Africa, and that was only 30 km away from Bourgas city.
Another story that gives me a sense of purpose to continue is from last year. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, we regularly organized donations of essential food products for pensioners and people in need from the city of Bourgas. This was done by pre-registration online, and any resident of the city could sign up or specify a person they knew who needed such help. When I parked the van at one of the addresses, I saw a middle-aged woman waiting for me with almost teary eyes. I got out, handed her the food package, and asked how else I could help. She told me that this was entirely sufficient and shared that her refrigerator had been turned off for three days because there was nothing to keep in it. This woman is an example that not only people from minority groups need help, as people in our country often believe.
I have given brand new sneakers to a child who had never received anything new, I have given Christmas presents to children who had never received any, we have organized trips to the zoo and cinema for children who had never left the settlement where they live - I can't describe how uplifting the children's joy and euphoria are.
There are many, many things I can say, and it's moments like these that make me even more motivated and feel useful in what I do.
What do the people you help need?
It may sounds like a cliché, but the people we help really need very little to be happy. Besides material things, I've noticed lately that more and more people need a "kind word" that gives them courage to continue fighting the challenges of life.
Why did you decide to get involved in the Initiative?
The Initiative is something unique for Bulgaria, bringing together young people who have a forward-looking view of the development of the organizations and communities to which they belong. The practical training is of a very high level and is very suitable for building us as leaders in the non-governmental sector and quite specialized for the development of the NGOs we work with. The added value of all this is the network of contacts and friendships that participants have the opportunity to build during the training.
What have you managed to "steal" from the training so far?
The lectures on founding an association, the legal requirements, documentation management, design, and preparation of various strategic documents were very valuable to me, as well as meeting established leaders and successful people not only from the NGO sector but also from the private and public sectors.
What do you dream of?
I dream that charity and volunteering will become more popular in our country, as it is in more developed countries, and we will see for ourselves that our country can look different and develop more dynamically and in a better direction.