She is natural, forthright, warm and colorful, coming from the historical lands of Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal with a background of Anthropology and on-going master course in African studies. Bianca decides to take a gap year from her studies to chill a bit the pace of her life and to do something meaningful. She is just 22, but you can hardly guess so, as she already has firm political views and is an active member of a party, standing behind the defense of human rights.

In today’s interview we are introducing you Bianca, her inspirations and volunteering experience so far in Sofia.

Hello Bianca, will you tell us first was it difficult to choose this project, did you have any other options in mind?

Yes. Of course, when I was looking I saw other projects, but when I saw refugees I was like – “there is something calling me and I need to answer this”. I remember that I applied after time because the deadline had already passed and I was – “okay, maybe I will still try, I don’t have nothing to lose”.  It was funny because Kat said: “Okay, but do it today, we don’t have time” and here I am. (laugh)

Nice! So, you were interested in working with refugees?

Yes, yes, maybe because I knew that in Bulgaria the refugees that we have are from other countries not so much from Africa but still I was doing my Master and I was really reading a lot about it, about the refugees’ situation. And I wanted to do something about this, I wanted to make a change for them. Of course, a small change because I am not capable of doing much now, but yes, when I saw the project with refugees I was – “okay, I am going to try”.

Was it easy for you to accommodate to the work and the life in Sofia, was this your first time coming here?

Yes, it was my first time coming to the Balkans. (laugh) Yes, of course I had some kind of shocks, cultural shocks, not big ones, but still small things that you are always “Oh my God….” In the beginning I didn’t know how to approach so much people in the streets, if it is the same. I mean, Portuguese are kind of people that are more, I don’t know, like super nice, we talk a lot with others we don’t know so much and here in Bulgaria I saw some differences, maybe in Sofia, because outside in other villages in Bulgaria I saw people more receptive, let’s say. So yes, in the beginning it was a bit complicated but I had our, my friends, my peers and I think it was pretty much okay. We were helping each other – “Don’t do this, do this”. (laugh)

Did you have chance to make friends apart from the CVS team?

Yes, I made a lot of friends, but not so many out of the volunteer atmosphere.

What is the most inspiring thing for you in the work you are doing?

To be honest – going to the camps. I really appreciate going even with the language barriers. I am really grateful to have the opportunity to talk with them to make their days at least a little bit better, I am hoping so. And I don’t know – just communicating, trying to give them a bit of myself and receive as well. So, more in that sense, but of course the other type of work –  I know it is also needed and I really have good time preparing our events and being  there. It is nice when the event we are talking about for so many days becomes real. It’s super nice.

You are also passionate to launch a youth magazine during your project here giving voice to the young people to share themselves and their position. And you are just 22, you had decided to come to a completely different country with a new language to help other people that you don’t know. You certainly have a great motivation behind all of this, would you share a bit more about it with us?

Okay, so I will try to do my best. (laugh) Yes, I don’t know, maybe more or less from the time I entered university I started to become more politically conscious about the world, in general human rights. So I got involved in some collectives for discussions and I did even small volunteering. Of course small, I can not say so big like CVS or EVS. But small events about Palestine and the situation there, to talk to people from there, because one thing is to read from magazines, another is to understand it from the people that live in that context. I was really passionate to do something for the others. I don’t know, that’s everything I can say (smiling)

Thank you. Do you already have any plans what you want to do after your project?

Yes, after this project I was planning to (it is not a big plan) but I was thinking to finish my master because it’s something that I really want to do. I am writing my dissertation and right now I am more inspired. I have my time just to be a good person, to chill a bit. I want to do volunteering as well but I will need to divide my time with the writing of the dissertation and maybe working and volunteering. I also want to apply for other projects, maybe less formal volunteering – just going and helping with whatever I can. I really like, for example to work with communities in the way I gather fund raising and organizing events bringing people to discussion. I think that is more my field, let’s say.

That’s wonderful! And would you tell someone who has never been a volunteer before.? What are the benefits of being a volunteer according to you?

I think the benefits are a lot and sometimes we don’t have the time to think about the benefits when we are there, because there are so much things going on and it’s stressful sometimes to be in these kind of areas and to try to make a change in the world, because it’s not easy, but I think in the end it’s amazing. We met a lot of people from different realities, backgrounds, cultures. It’s amazing the sharing of ideas and other things like plans, dreams, ambitions, it’s really amazing. If a person is thinking should I become a volunteer, I think yes, they should for sure and they should overcome the fear of going out of their comfort zone because it’s amazing – yeah and in the end we will be missing it so much.

Was there anything really challenging for you during these 8 months since your coming here?

Maybe the colds. That was something extra for me (laugh) I never saw so snow before so. It was super funny the first day of the snow we were like kids “Oh my God that’s snow”. But after some days we were more I don’t have clothes prepared for these colds. (laugh) Of course, sometimes we need to become more  flexible, I talk for myself of course.  I think sometimes  we have different kind of expectations  and ways of communicating that cannot be the proper ways to talk in a group  and when we don’t see the things that we expect we can become a bit sad, maybe a bit more stressed, not so happy  but I think the communication is always the answer. If we communicate, if we try to be understanding – I think that’s the answer for everything.

This is a nice message. Are there any other tips you would like to share to the future volunteers?

,I’d tell them not to be sad if they see sometimes that the things they imagine don’t happen but on the other hand for them to try to make some things happen, things that can see – this I can do, this I can talk with my mates in the organization and I can make it happen even if it takes me two, three or four months to happening. Communication is always the answer to tell your superior others how do you feel, how do you like to do these things . And to take initiative is always a good idea because if we sit and wait for someone to bring us the things that we want that might never happen.

Thank you Bianca for your time and sharings. It’s been a pleasure. We wish you many more inspirations and fulfillment.

Enjoying Rila’s lakes
At the party of Open Space Foundation, gathering all the volunteers in Sofia
Under the Sun of Istanbul, a spontaneous hitch-hike trip with my mate Bea
Discovering Bulgaria 🙂

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