The young ambassadors of tolerance of Amalipe Center filled leading institutions and embassies with their messages for a better future

Vice President Iliana Yotova, The Chair of the National Assembly Rosen Zhelyazkov, ambassadors of the USA, Great Britain, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, UNICEF for Bulgaria, diplomats from the embassies of Belgium, Denmark, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Nadia Klisurska and the representative of the World Bank met with students – winners of the youth contest “My opinion matters”. They talked about the importance of youth civic participation, the challenges faced by young people (especially from the Roma community), the importance of education, for better life and civic fulfillment. The ambassadors also shared what motivated them and what attracted them to accept a high diplomatic post in Bulgaria, they were interested in how they could help the Bulgarian youth and the initiatives for the integration of the Roma. They expressed their gratitude to the Amalipe Center for the many initiatives through which they empathize with the problems and ideas of young people and the Roma community.

On May 9 – the Day of Europe and the Day of Student Self-Government, active students from the Amalipe Center network and the winners of the “My Opinion Matters” competition met with the Chair of the National Assembly of Bulgaria – Rosen Zhelyazkov and the People’s Representatives Denitsa Sacheva and Kostadin Angelov. All together took a study tour of the building and learned that Parliament is the place where differences should be bridged and all viewpoints should be summarized and channeled into correct and good decisions for the betterment of people’s welfare and development of the country. This was the first part of the award for youth leaders and creators.

The next day – May 10, the students “stepped into the shoes” of ambassadors, ministers and directors of major institutions. This was a special opportunity for the prize winners in the second and third age groups of the competition “My opinion matters” and active students – peer educators, within the “Intercultural Academy for Civic Participation and Tolerance” Project, implemented with the support of The State Department through the US Embassy in Bulgaria. This initiative provided a chance for young people from villages and small towns to feel that their opinion really matters and to be heard by people with national (and not only) power. Students shared their problems and dreams and asked the questions that concern them most to representatives of institutions that can really change their present. They got to know “from the inside” exactly how these institutions work and what are the responsibilities that arise from the respective positions. The hosts of the young people were the Vice-President Iliana Yotova, the Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Nadia Klisurska, the embassies of Great Britain, the United States, Denmark, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Ireland; UNICEF for Bulgaria, the World Bank representative office for Bulgaria.

Asen Asenov, a student from “Nikola Obreshkov” Profesional school, Kazanlak, had the opportunity to accompany Vice President Iliana Yotova throughout the day, visiting: discussion forum “The demographic crisis – causes, factors, dynamics”; the 50th anniversary of the National History Museum; official ceremony for awarding Bulgarian citizenship to Mr. Hristiyan Pendikov. For the finale, the vice-president invited the student ranked first in the Video category to his office, where they discussed current issues related to integration, education, motivation and adolescent development.

“If my opinion mattered, now this city would look like this” – this is the message of 13-year-old Tolga Tuvai Ridvan from “Traiko Simeonov” Secondary School, Shumen, who drew the Ukrainian city of Pripyat. The boy won second place in this year’s Amalipe Center My Opinion Matters competition in the Image category, in the second age group. As an ambassador of tolerance, Tolga Ridvan visited UNICEF, where he met with Kristina de Broin – UNICEF representative for Bulgaria and her colleagues. Together with Tolga, UNICEF visited two more ambassadors of tolerance – Bogomila Samuilova, 21 years old, and Teodora Todorova, 17 years old, who are long-term active volunteers and youth leaders at the Amalipe Center. The two girls sent messages for more understanding, support and acceptance of children from different ethnic groups and with different abilities. The topic of peace and non-discrimination excites the youth ambassadors of tolerance. They talked about the initiatives they are organizing – discussions and campaigns in their schools and communities.

Hristo Georgiev, who is a student at Professional high school of light industry, ecology and chemical technologies, Yambol, was among the awardees in the Image category. As part of his award, he visited the US Embassy. Acting US Ambassador to Bulgaria Andria Brulet-Rodriguez welcomed Hristo, his art teacher, and Amalipe representative to the Embassy and expressed his admiration for their exemplary work. During the tour of the Embassy, it became clear that paintings by unknown artists were on display in the lobby and could be purchased. After examining Hristo’s works, the embassy team suggested that the young man also send his paintings, which they could put up and sell. During the conversation, Ms. Rodríguez also shared her story about wanting to become a diplomat. She told why she chose to be a diplomat, who motivated her and what her difficulties were – “because it is not easy to be a diplomat and change many countries, taking your family with you. It was the most difficult for the children, especially when they were small and did not understand why I did it, but when they grew up it was different. Now they are even proud of their mother for being a diplomat and upload stories saying how proud they are of their mother’s work.” During the meeting, Atanas Atanasov had the opportunity to talk more about the problems of educational mediators, saying that the Ministry of Education and science will not submit to the Ministerial Council the NP “Support of educational mediators and social workers”, under which more than 940 people are appointed to the program. Atanasov presented the petition and the great support gathered from social organizations, but also from citizens, emphasizing that within less than two weeks, more than 20,000 signatures were collected from more than 142 settlements throughout the country. Ambassador Broulet-Rodriguez also participated the previous day in the awarding ceremony of the students at the National Library “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, where he congratulated all the ranked students and motivated them not to stop expressing their opinion, because it really matters.

Ayshe Bilyal from the secondary school in Nikola Kozlevo and Miglena Evlogieva, a twelfth grader from the secondary school in Varbitsa visited the Spanish Embassy. Accompanied by Silvia Stancheva from the “Amalipe” Center, they talked with Ambassador Polanko. They discussed ways to overcome negative stereotypes about the Roma community, as well as ways to continue their education. The students and Mrs. Stancheva also visited the library of the “Education” Department of the Embassy of Spain, in the company of counselor Angel Santamaria.

In his capacity as an active young person and a trainer at the “Amalipe” Center, Yordan Yordanov, a student at the “Nikola Obreshkov” Vocational school, Kazanlak, was also awarded. He visited the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy together with Neli Nikolova, a representative of the Amalipe Center, where he was welcomed by Deputy Minister Nadia Klisurska. “It is extremely important to provide an opportunity for young people to get closer to the work of the institutions, ask their questions and share their problems. Only through direct dialogue can we hear them, understand them and be useful for their further development,” said Deputy Minister Klisurska. She introduced Yordan Yordanov to the activities and functions of the Ministry and to the policies aimed at children and the protection of their rights. “The well-being of children and young people is among the priorities in the work of the ministry. With the Action Plan in implementation of the European Child Guarantee, we aim not only to reduce child poverty in the country, but also to give the voice of children and young people the opportunity to be heard,” stressed Deputy Minister Nadia Klisurska.

The representatives of the World Bank welcomed two wonderful young people – Zyumbyula Lambova – a future doctor, a student from Secondary school “Hristo G. Danov” Plovdiv and Sinan Kadirov – a future psychologist, a graduate of Professional high school of agriculture and food technology – Shumen. Zyumbyula is a laureate of past Amalipe Center competitions and one of the most active young trainers and leaders in the organization’s network. Sinan is also an active youth trainer, volunteer and this year was ranked second in the Essay category of the “My Opinion Matters” contest. The permanent representative, Mr. Lese Melgard, introduced the young people to the activities of the bank and the projects with which we are involved in Bulgaria.

In second place, in the video material section, Ivan Ivanov and Lutskan Sedefov, who are students at “Hristo Botev” Elementary School, Maglizh, were ranked. Ivan Ivanov and Lutskan Sedefov, together with Deyan Kolev and Teodora Krumova from Amalipe Center visited the British Embassy. His Excellency Dr. Robert Dixon – Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Bulgaria, talked to the students about the integration and motivation of children from the Roma ethnicity, as well as about the change of priorities, as it is necessary to shift the focus to education first. The Embassy team shared that the young people’s video provoked reflection among them. They congratulated them on their success and encouraged them to continue participating in various initiatives as active citizens because their voices matter. “We hope you leave feeling inspired and motivated to keep dreaming big because, as you said in your video, ‘a man is only as big as his dreams,'” Ambassador Dixon shared at the end of their meeting

The 18-year-old young leaders Asya Stamenova and Hrisa Yankova, studying at the Vocational High School of Food and Chemical Technologies in the town of Pazardzhik, had the opportunity to visit the Austrian Embassy and meet H.E. Mrs. Andrea Ikic-Böhm. The students are very active in their school and community and told the ambassador about their successes, difficulties and dreams. The embassy team showed them the building and told them about the peculiarities of their work, and Ambassador Ikic-Böhm shared with them her path to success and advised them not to stop fighting for their dreams and to develop.

The Embassy of Ireland welcomed its Tolerance Ambassador Rosen Paskow. The ninth grader from “St. George Pobedonosets” Vocational High School of Agriculture in the town of Suvorovo was personally welcomed by Her Excellency Martina Feeney. The winner of the prize place in the “My opinion matters” school competition attended a working meeting with the employees of the embassy, and also had the opportunity to get to know the work of the various departments. Rosen impressed with a rich common culture, civic standing and excellent English. Mrs. Yonka Danova was also present at the meeting, who on behalf of the Amalipe Center thanked HE. M. Feeney for the longstanding partnership, support and advocacy.

Ambassadors of tolerance Ayshe Bilyal and Miglena Evlogieva also visited the Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark, where they were welcomed by the deputy head of the Mission for Bulgaria Mrs. Birgit Sarah Kondrup-Palmqvist. There they raised important issues concerning girls in the Roma community and sent their messages of equality and tolerance. They received valuable advice and promises of more meetings.

17-year-old Teodora Todorova – Ambassador of Tolerance from Secondary school “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, Smyadovo, visited the Embassy of the Netherlands. She met Ambassador Simon van der Burgh and learned more about his work and the activities of the Embassy. Teodora is a student in the 10th grade and an active participant in leadership academies organized by the Center “Amalipe”. As a young person and prospective student, Teodora, accompanied by Ambassador Simon van der Burgh and members of the embassy, was introduced to the president and vice president of ELSA (European Law Students Association Bulgaria) Kristina Todorova and Velina Stoyanova, who provided more information about the work of ELSA as a student organization and its activities with a focus on important topics, such as human rights, environmental law, etc. The young students were impressed by Teodora and shared their advice for her upcoming goals and responsibilities. Ambassador van der Burg shared that he is proud that the Embassy of the Netherlands is among the host institutions within the Amalipe initiative, organized to promote equality and tolerance in Bulgarian society, and that they will continue to make efforts to help this happen. The Embassy team also shared a number of projects and activities they are working on with the aim of sharing good practices from the Netherlands in Bulgaria, such as improving the road situation and reducing accidents; transfer of good economic and social practices.

On May 10th, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany received the ambassadors of tolerance. The students of the twelfth grade – Zyumbyula Lambova from Secondary school “Hristo G. Danov” Plovdiv and Sinan Kadirov from Professional high school of agriculture and food technology – Shumen, were personally welcomed by H.E. Irene Maria Plank. The students had the opportunity to familiarize themselves closely with the activities of the German ambassador in Bulgaria, as well as with the functions and employees of the various departments in the embassy.

Hristo Georgiev from Yambol, together with a representative of his school and a member of the Amalipe Center team Atanas Atanasov visited the Embassy of Belgium, where they were welcomed by Vianne de Vouters – first secretary of the Embassy of Belgium in Bulgaria, as well as Jeremy Tirion, first secretary of the Embassy of Belgium in Bulgaria. During the meeting, the hosts congratulated Hristo on his graphic images that won him second place in the “My Opinion Matters” contest. Atanas Atanasov briefly presented the contest itself, how many participants applied, how many categories and how many winners there were within the contest. Hristo showed his prize-winning drawing and explained the message of the image itself. During the meeting, Atanas again pointed out that the Ministry of Education and science will not submit to the Council of Ministers the NP “Support of educational mediators and social workers”, under which more than 940 people have been appointed. Athanas presented the petition and signature in support of the mediators. He also shared that the Amalipe Center as well as all educational mediators would be grateful if the Belgian Embassy would also support them. In their response, the ambassador’s first secretaries said that they would certainly support this program and would send a letter to the Minister of Education and Science regarding the sustainability of the profession. In addition, the participants had the opportunity to take a short tour of the embassy, thereby getting to know the activities of the embassy in Bulgaria. The embassy once again shared that they are grateful to the Amalipe Center and can always find support for future initiatives in their person.

The Ambassador for a Day initiative is organized by the Amalipe Center for another year. It gives the best performing students in the student essay, video and image contest a chance to be “Ambassadors of Tolerance” in key national institutions and diplomatic missions. Traditionally, the initiative takes place on April 8 – International Roma Day, and, due to the political situation in the country, in 2023 during the days of student self-government and Europe Day.

In 2023 the initiative was part of the “My Opinion Matters” competition within the “Intercultural Academy for Civic Participation and Tolerance” Project, implemented with the support of the State Department through the US Embassy in Bulgaria

The “Intercultural Academy for Civic Participation and Tolerance” project is implemented with the support of the State Department through the US Embassy in Bulgaria. 

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The world could be a better place if children’s opinions mattered: the winners of the My Opinion Matters 2023 contest