Assia Zaharieva and Her Attempts to Spread Her Passion in Varna. Our International But Bulgarian Volunteer :)

Assia Zaharieva is a Bulgarian who spends most of her life in Germany after moving there at the age of 12. The EVS project created an opportunity to go back to hometown and use what she had learned as well as her passion – rollerblading – in creating “new” space in Varna. She is the part of our family of Association For You, which is responsible for the EVS project she could use to put life into her ideas, but surely EVS experience is slightly different for her than for most of us.


Assia, what made you come back to Varna?

Passion for rollerblading! I remember this sunny day when I was 6 years old and my father put me on my mom’s old skates and taught me how to do it. Since then, it didn’t matter how I developed in my life, rollerblading was always part of me. In good as well as in bad times.

I studied facility management and I worked a long time as a facility manager. But my heart was beating for my passion. In my free time I participated in competitions (I won some of them) and other rollerblading events as camps or tours. I discovered the „bladersfamily“ (this is how we call it) and I became part of it – my closest friends are rollerbladers from all over the world.

After a while spent in my office I was asking myself – what gives me a sense in life? The answer was rollerblading. What will happen if I put all my time, energy and effort into my passion? I decided to try.
I realized, that Germany’s rollerblading scene is quite good developed, but Bulgaria, where I am originally from, offers great space to create rollerblading community, which would be new for the Bulgarians and new for the rest of the world.

Varna is a great city for rollerblading. I call it „Secret Barcelona“ because Barcelona is kind of Mekka for all rolling sports. We have a beautiful black sea garden with nice alleys. The sun shines almost everyday and it is warm. The only thing we miss here is an adequate skatepark for the extreme part of this sport. This is what I struggle for – better conditions for developing our passion.

How did it happen that you are part of the EVS project?

I learned about the project “Hale 3”, which nowadays is the only indoor skate park in Varna and one of the few in Bulgaria before I knew about EVS. At that time I couldn’t even imagine being a volunteer there.

First I started to support Hale 3 with donations until I’ve heard that the NGO behind this project „Alternative Space“ searches for EVS volunteers. I applied and even before the application was approved, I already moved back to Bulgaria. I had nothing to loose. I was sure, I wanted to become volunteer exactly at this place, and it didn’t matter if it was EVS or not. The final EVS approvement was a big moment to me though. I knew that I didn’t have to worry about the daily costs and I didn’t need to search for another job. I could dedicate all my time, energy and effort exactly to the project I wanted to.


Tell me then, what do you do during a regular day at Hale 3?

My main activity and also my EVS personal project is the rollerblading school. I started it on the first day of my EVS and it developed quite fast. I teach kids how to rollerblade almost every day. Other daily activities are keeping Hale 3 in order, cleaning up, organizing the reception, creating working processes and organizing events. Hale 3 is a great place to work because it offers space to do and create almost everything you want to. The only thing you have to provide is the idea and motivation.

Assia at Hale3 giving a rollerblading class to the kids.

Why do you think Hale 3 is an important place for Varna? 

According to my observations, Varna offers fewer opportunities for leisure activities. The most popular activity I’ve noticed here is to go to café or bar to drink and to smoke. Not to mention excessive alcohol and drug use.
Hale 3 is an alternative space created by the youth and it offers space for creativity and activities outside of the mainstream. We offer skateboards, rollerblades, guitars, drums and handicraft materials for use. We provide table tennis, a foosball table and a billiard. We also have a kitchen where you can cook your meal. And the best thing about it is that everything is donated, provided or handmade by a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers.

The idea of Hale3 is to give people the chance to get in touch with something they’ve never dreamed about. This place is a playground for people of all ages – kids stay kids, adults become kids.

What is the most difficult about working in Hale 3?

The most difficult part is the unstable existence of Hale 3. We have to gather enough money for the rent, which is a monthly match between staying and closing. Three months ago, when things were going very well and we were highly motivated, our landlord decided to increase the rent, so we lost the motivation and started to pack our stuff. But as fate would have it, after many negotiations the landlord left everything as it was. So there was a new power, a new kick. We started to work very hard again and the next stroke of fate happened, Hale 3 got robbed. We realized that there are many things we can not control or effect.

My hope is to identify Hale 3 not with the building where we work at, but with the people, all the enthusiastic volunteers behind it. „Hale 3“ are the people. I wish if we have to leave this place one day, to have enough human power to create it again elsewhere.

What is the most rewarding?

There are lots of magic moments in Hale 3.
There is the laugh of the kids. It doesn’t matter how stressed I am, stepping into the rollerblading classes, the positive vibe of the kids overwhelms me so much that it changes my attitude. Children are the best energizers.
There are also these magic evenings when musicians come together and spread their love to the music with the sounds they create on our stage. I love these moments, I just sit and listen to them.

What do you think about Varna being European Youth Capital 2017?

I think it’s a good advertisement for Varna Europe-wide and it brings motivation to young people to take action. I just wonder what will happen in 2018. Will the motivation maintain or all this effort will turn out in vain?