“We don’t have time to be ugly!” – Gabo from the SOS Foundation

Hello, how are you?

Aloha, I’m fine despite the disgusting weather outside, sun, songs, and fun are in my soul.

Introduce yourself!

I am Gabriel, 23 years old, I graduated from Medical University – Varna, majoring in Speech Therapy. Before that, I graduated from the National Art High School in Sliven. My interests are related to volunteering, dancing, painting, art, photography, and everything in this field. I like to experiment in all sorts of areas behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, all around the scenes, and so on. 

Have you been a volunteer before?

I have been a volunteer at the Bulgarian Red Cross in Sliven for many years, there I also founded the first club in our high school. I was the first coordinator at the school, I was one of the first trainers of trainers for first aid, as well as one of the trainers in the “Emotions” program and other trainings that I went through thanks to them. In addition, I volunteered at Thirst for Life, where the campaigns were focused on HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, infections, and more. There, mainly through acting, we were able to recreate scenes that generally show the different stages of what it’s like to be HIV positive, how it’s reported, and so on.  One must be flexible to prosper and to convey information about these important topics to the audience. The customers themselves (at the human trafficking center) do not have the opportunity to express their voice, so we have to get into their skin.

How did you find out about ESC and what motives you to apply?

I have known about the European Solidarity Corps for many years, four exactly. My idea after graduating from the art high school was to take a GAP year to go on a project outside Bulgaria, preferably Italy. However, things turned out differently so I came to Varna and started university. Now I’m nearing the end of my graduation and I needed something to help me financially. That is why I decided to join the project because it gives you an extremely good opportunity to meet new people and new environments, while at the same time being financially supported and performing an activity that you enjoy. This was the best option for me and I decided to get involved.Also, the topic of the project is closely related to the field in which I want to develop – working with people, which is my biggest interest. So far, I have mostly worked in an environment with children and I wanted to gain experience in activities with older people.

Often the free time in the centers is filled with painting and creating works of art.

What are your tasks in the center?

I am a volunteer at the SOS Foundation , a place that supports victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. The center is combined and my main task is to diversify the free time of the accommodated clients. There, things in the field of dancing, painting, photography, etc. are not very successful, because people have quite serious security problems. They fight a lot, both personally and as a family, so my main activity is to be empathetic with the things they experience. I help them with finding work, accommodation, transport, accompaniment to various institutions, be there in court cases, meetings with lawyers, and such things related to the law. Overall emotional support isthe main activity I do there. Someone would say “great, you stay and talk with friends and it’s very easy”, but it’s really not. You’re with 10 people, with 10 different stories, which of which more sinister. It is very difficult because at some point you become friends and it is not easy to set the limit when you are “at work” and when you finish. There’s a time when you start to get mentally exhausted and take work home, and that’s when you have to say, “OK! OK!” This is a project and it has its limits and that’s it. It’s hard to move from one mood to another, but in the end, if you know where your own boundaries are, things fall into place . You need to be emotionally intelligent. 

What are the main challenges in your volunteering?

The main challenges are that I have to juggle between university, personal life, and a volunteer project, which is happening successfully so far. The other thing that emerges as a difficulty is a general negativism that has gripped this type of center. It is extremely difficult because you have to be exactly that spark of light that helps the clients themselves to see the positive. When we have a bad day we are all used to meet friends, and one of them will always be positive and will charge us with his good energy and after meeting him we will be happy again . However, there is no such person in the center who is positive and looks at things from the bright side. Therefore, you must become this person.When your project is one year, it’s hard for you to be that ray of light for people for 365 days! At some point you stop being the source of energy, you get tired, but eventually, realizing what their story is and what your story is, you have to find the strength to continue to be that thing to them. The moment I cross the threshold of the center, all the clients leave their rooms and are always with a smile on their face, greeting me “Hello, Gabo, is it your shift again, how was your day?” and this shows me that there was no need for me to always have an activity prepared for them – to paint, to go to different places. I understand that I have done my job considering that the whole negative curtain disappears and everything becomes laughter, positivism, coffee, emotions, sharing, and everything related to the normal way of life we ​​are used to. I am absolutely myself there – the way I treat my friends I treat the people in the center, and they feel that I am very natural in my relationship with them and therefore they show me the same. In this way, things get very homogeneous so that we understand each other and I do my job without even noticing that I’m really at work. This is a good achievement for me personally.

How did the pandemic affect the activities?

The pandemic did not in any way affect the activities that I am carrying out because the center has been there, is there, and will be there, because these problems do not end with the pandemic. On the contrary, cases of domestic violence have increased since the beginning of the pandemic, which is quite now. The activities have not changed in any way, only the mood of the clients themselves is perhaps gloomier than usual , as work was difficult to find, including the accommodation. It was a slowdown in the process of getting back on their feet, but things are now stabilized and moving in the right direction.

Do you have a favorite moment, situation, memory from the project?


My favorite moment is going to the center to be greeted by all the smiles of people who are happy to just see me. Honestly, I do not know if a better moment exists. I feel accepted for who I am. Everyone there is natural and that is why we understand each other. I am not a person who judges, therefore I give them a feeling that they reflect on me, and things turn in a positive aspect.


What inspires you most in your work?

Being inspired inspires me the most! Going to the center as a normal Bulgarian student – I have always found excuses and something to complain about. For example, I have a lot of responsibilities at the university, my apartment is small, and so on. Things that customers don’t actually have, and we take for granted in our daily lives. This inspires me that life is not really as black as we think. Like anything, of course, life has its downsides, but it’s just the essence of things and you have to accept it. What inspires me are the people and the fact that they showed me that I have everything I need to be what I want tomorrow.My inspiration came from them to be a better version of myself. Personal inspiration, the foundation of which lies in working with the people in question. They helped me realize a lot of things, and I helped them be a little more positive. And I’m not positive because that’s how I was born. I’m positive because I just work on it every day.

What would you say to young people to motivate them to volunteer?


Whatever I say, I don’t think I would motivate them if they don’t have that inner spark to do something for a group of people or a society. I believe that everyone has an inner desire for certain activities and initiatives. Volunteering is not always in the form of a donation, sometimes it is in the form of an ESC project. If a person sees that the topic of a project is important to him – he should get involved. We need to make things useful and interesting for ourselves . If young people recognize themselves in a project, they should get involved. It’s an experience you can have only once in your life, and I think it’s worth doing because it makes you grow so much. You meet people from different fields, you perform different actions.This is what broadened my horizons and helped me to be what I am now.

How would you describe the last year in three words?

Love because there was a lot of love in spite of everything. Contrast it was an extremely contrasting year. Personally, it was quite successful for me despite the background of this whole pandemic. I was able to do things I always wanted to do. Positive from the aforementioned contrast, I choose to be on the positive side, because everyone loses some things, everyone has bad moments. Ultimately, we have to choose for ourselves what to focus on.

What’s your call?

My call is – I have always had a thought, mine personally, that was spinning in my head. It’s that “We don’t have time to be ugly!”. At first, I used to hear people saying to themselves – oh, it’s about external beauty. What I mean, though, is that we don’t have time to be ugly on the inside. Our society at the moment is just so intolerant. We do not accept different people who have a different religion, skin colors, different sexuality or beliefs, political views. For me, this stops the development of society and we forget that we are in fact a whole organism, which in order to survive, each person must give the maximum of himself in order to have quality units. If everyone gives the best of themselves in this way, we will become a group that gives the best of itself, a country that gives the best of itself, a society that gives the best of itself… and then we will evolve. For 150,000 years, our brains have not developed, they have not evolved, nothing has happened, precisely because in some way freedom gives us many limitations. This is something I would say – we don’t have time to be ugly, we don’t have time to judge people for what they look like, we don’t have time to be ugly on the outside either. What does it mean, for example, that you can’t wear a cool dress with high heels and a hairstyle at 10 o’clock in the morning for coffee in Sevastopol. Who said this thing, I want to see!We all need to eat well, drink water, have fun and wear new clothes for ourselves. We do not have time to compromise with who we are. The only thing we have to compromise on someday is perhaps our own opinion and the way it will reflect on others.



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