Shared by the donors: Hanna and Tim, who asked their guests to donate to the “I Want to study” fund instead of wedding gifts

As we already wrote in 2022, the Amalipe Center launched a Fund for students who are on the threshold of higher education and have the desire and motivation to continue studying, but do not have the opportunity due to reasons beyond their control. Through this campaign, we aim to help current students or university-ranked seniors to cover their semester fees, dormitory fees, study aids or other expenses related to their higher education. However, this can only happen thanks to the wonderful donors who support our cause.

Today we want to introduce you to the first of them. They are Hanna Gjelten Hattrem and Tim Brignall, who donated BGN 2,827 collected during their wedding celebration. Years ago, living in the village of Vodolei, they became empathetic to the problems of the Roma community and the activities of the Amalipe Center. Years later, they decided to offer their wedding guests instead of bouquets and gifts to donate to the Amalipe Center cause. So they set up a GoFundme page for donations and invite their friends to transfer there the money they would have otherwise set aside for the wedding. Hanna and Tim are happy to be able to help the Bulgarian youth. You can find out more about them and their motivation from the interview we conducted with them

Hi Hanna and Tim, tell our readers a little more about yourself?

Hello, I (Hanna) am from Norway. Tim is from the UK. We met as students while studying in London. Tim studied sculpture (art) at Camberwell College of Art. I studied art history and archeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). We met when we first moved to London in 2009. At first we were just friends. We started a business together with a gallery and tea shop in London. It wasn’t until 2015 that we actually became a couple. We lived together in Amsterdam and Norway and spent several years in Bulgaria. Tim now works as an art technician at the Munch Museum in Oslo. I work as an art critic and student advisor at the National Academy of Arts in Oslo

How did you end up in Bulgaria and how long did you spend here?

Tim came on vacation to Varna with his friends from school when he was 18. When he graduated from university, he expressed a desire to buy a house to be a renovation project, but also to learn to grow vegetables and make nice place to live and an art studio. Buying a house in the UK can be very expensive and if you want to work as an artist it’s hard to make ends meet there.

Tim: I remembered how much I liked Bulgaria when I visited it in Varna with my friends a few years ago. Initially, I planned to buy a house with my brother near Plovdiv. We went to look at several properties. Then my brother gave up on the project, but I decided to keep looking. In 2014, I came with my family on vacation to Bulgaria and then I found a house that I liked in the village of Vodolei near Veliko Tarnovo. I lived there for about a year and Hanna visited me in the summer of 2015. Then we moved in together in 2017 and stayed for almost 2 years.

How did you find Amalipe Center and what do you know about us?

While living in Vodolei we became close friends with the neighbors and the people of the village. Most of them are Roma and we learned a lot about the situation of the Roma in Bulgaria. We also heard people often speak quite negatively about our village and make generalizations and discriminatory remarks about Roma when they hear where we live.

Hanna: After my first visit to Bulgaria, I had to write my master’s thesis and I decided it would be about how the Roma are stereotyped in literature, films, media and how these negative stereotypes contribute to the spread of a negative image of the Roma worldwide. Tim, for his part, who is an artist, decided to make a series of paintings of people from our village and was very intrigued by the history of Roma stereotypes in art. His paintings were an attempt to make portraits of our friends and neighbors as ordinary people without trying to emphasize any particular Roma stereotype. The paintings were shown at the Heerz Tooya gallery in Veliko Tarnovo, and for the opening, journalists interviewed Tim and asked him why he painted Roma and what his experience with Roma was – implying that he would say something negative to them…

Our friend Galin Popov mentioned the Amalipe Center to us and recommended us to contact you because we share many of the organization’s concerns and goals.

You are one of the largest donors to the I Want to Study(Higher Education) Fund in 2022. The way you raised your donation is extremely interesting – instead of gifts for your wedding, you asked your guests to donate funds. How did you decide to do it?

We are very lucky to live in Norway, where we have stable, well-paid jobs, have a child who can go to a state-funded daycare, later school, and live a safe, comfortable life. It’s normal to get wedding gifts when you get married, but when our guests asked us what we wanted for gifts, we realized we really didn’t need that much. So we decided to tell our guests that if they wanted to give us gifts, we would prefer that they do so to an organization that we feel is doing meaningful work and with which we have a personal connection. We hope that the gifts from our guests will make a big difference to the recipients of the fund we have donated to.

How did your wedding guests take your idea?

Our guests were very positive about the idea and we received many donations. It also gave us an opportunity to talk about why we think the work Amalipe is doing is important.

Since you lived in Bulgaria, what do you think about the situation here and about the Bulgarians?

We really liked living in Bulgaria and we miss it a lot. Unfortunately, we haven’t been back in a few years due to the pandemic and because we have a baby. It is a beautiful country with very generous people. Unfortunately, there are also many difficulties and many people who struggle. The situation for the Roma is often very difficult and there is a lot of accepted racism against them in Bulgaria. At the same time, many people are struggling and many young people feel they have to move to Western Europe to work.

We were very grateful for all the wonderful people we met who helped us with everything from growing vegetables, making burkani (jars), making rakia (traditional alcohol), helping us renovate our house and putting up with us as we struggled to communicate in broken Bulgarian. 🙂

It is also very inspiring to see all the young people in Veliko Tarnovo and in the villages who are building their lives, building businesses, working in the field of art and culture and providing interesting events for the community.

What would you advise young people of Roma origin who experience various difficulties in their lives and often give up on their dreams?

We would say: education is the most valuable tool and investment you can ever give yourself. Even if it seems boring, pointless or difficult – it can open up so many more opportunities later in life. Stay in school as long as possible.

Ask for help. If you’re going through something difficult at school, at home, or at work, try to find someone to talk to about it. Maybe a friend, a teacher, a neighbor. There are many people who may be willing to help or give advice. And if you have a dream, maybe they can help you find a way to achieve it.

Thank you Hannah and Tim! The entire Amalipe Center team thanks you heartily for your shared words and your donation! Thanks to you, we will help young people on their way to education!

If you also want to donate to the “I want to learn” fund, you can learn more here:

The “I want to study” fund collected over BGN 7,500 to support students in need. Find out how you can help too.