Chat Club Blagoevgrad was created by 2 volunteers of the Association Euni Partners to encourage young people to be more active in their free time, and help the new volunteers from abroad to easily integrate with the local people by sharing their experiences and centre of interest.
About Chat Club Blagoevgrad
The initial idea was to bond young people like them, coming from different countries, to meet new people and share their stories, to help and support each other. Thereafter, the Chat Club developed into something much bigger. Nowadays, this is a place where young people (volunteers from different countries) meet locals (students from high schools and universities) and encourage them to be more active in their free time. The club offers a space for discussion, sharing ideas, and cooperation but most importantly to exchange knowledge, and know-how and meet new people and create friendships.
Meetings are held once per week, in the evenings, and have a wide range of different activities to offer, including discussions about a particular event or important topics (Global warming, Human rights, Disability, Racism), sharing experiences and training such as First Aid, Public speaking and etc., debates, movie nights, game evenings and intercultural nights.
The event is usually posted on social media channels and at schools and universities with flyers so that everybody can participate in the event. All meetings are hosted in a local café, where the owners provide the volunteers for free.
Duration of the Good practice
2017 – ongoing
The main institution in charge of the Good practice
Association Euni Partners
The geographical scope of the Good practice
Location of the practice
Blagoevgrad, Blagoevgrad region, Bulgaria
The approximate fund for the festival was 40.000 €, which is provided by the International Visegrad Fund, the Austrian Cultural Forum Belgrade within the Austrian Embassy in Belgrade, the Ministry of culture and information of the Republic of Serbia and the City of Niš.
Over 100 young people participated in the organisation of the festival as volunteers.
Evidence of success
The Chat Club was first implemented in 2017 and has been active ever since. It is designed and implemented by volunteers and has managed to stand the test of time despite the fact that its implementation relies on volunteers and their willingness to participate. The importance of the Chat Club is also recognised by the local community which supports its implementation by providing space for meetings for free.
COVID-19 was one of the main challenges encountered so far. Face-to-face meetings were cancelled, and virtual activities were not an option due to the nature of the events.
The human factor is another challenging matter, along with the organizational skills of the volunteers and the willingness of the young people to participate in each event. Another thing that should be taken into account is the venue, where the theme nights are held – either indoor or outdoor.
Potential for learning or transfer
The aim of the Chat Club is to teach young people to be more active and socially engaged in their free time. It serves as a tool for social inclusion of both young people coming from abroad and locals while transferring moral and ethical values that will help these young people in their future realization. It is a great way for sharing new ideas, training, and self-development techniques while using a different approach (usually in the form of games, or presentations) with a fun factor. It is meant to raise awareness on important and current topics, promote volunteering, and can be easily transferred everywhere with minimum costs.
How to start?
Occasional funding may be required depending on the activities, such as the purchase of materials needed for the theme events, printing costs; bags and gloves for outdoor environmental activities, and promotional materials – flyers, posters, etc.
If the venue of the meetings is not free of charge, additional rent costs should be taken into account.
Universities and High schools can be good partners to promote this type of activity, as well as other associations that can help spread information among other volunteers, in order for them to participate, either as lecturers or as a part of a team. Other potential partners can be:
- Youth centres
- The Municipality
- Volunteering organizations