By Plamena Solakova, YES 2009-2010, Bulgaria, hosted by PAX in Richland, WA
Bank Qubator is a project I created, which was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, through American Councils. It involved the training of 20 young people from my hometown, Silistra, on the topic of social entrepreneurship. Previously, I was trained on entrepreneurial concepts in Macedonia in October 2016 as part of the StartQube Social Entrepreneurship Workshop program, funded by the United States Department of State and the U.S. Emabssies in Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Macedonia, and organized by Amercian Councils. On December 21, I passed that knowledge on to youth from the local charity called Youth Bank during a day-long training. The issues discussed were: what is social entrepreneurship, how do you develop a business idea, how do you find funding, what is a customer base, and how do you come up with a budget. Partners of the training were the Regional Informational Office of the European Union in Silistra, who hosted the group of youngsters on their premises, and local NGO Civil Unity, which works with the Youth Bank volunteers in the city.
The training was conducted through highly interactive methods, group work, and games, which aimed to encourage the teens of 15 to 18 years of age to develop their own thoughts on the city's problems, as well as innovative ways to solve them. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 100% of the students declaring the training day was “superb,” that they were “extremely satisfied” with the content and structure of the workshop and trainer, and that they felt “inspired to make a positive change.” Multiple students indicated they had loved working in groups, which is not a common approach in the educational system in Bulgaria, and that their expectations were met and even exceeded. As entrepreneurship is not taught in schools in the country (with the exception of year 12 in Economics high schools), the topic, as well as the activities, proved highly motivational for the teens to get further economic knowledge and to start developing their own solutions to common social problems in the city.
While I was handing out certificates for the students at the end of the day, I was surprised to receive one myself - from the students. They offered their praise for being “unstoppable”: living and working full time in London, yet still giving back to the local community on a regular basis. I am now the most enthusiastic volunteer and look forward to new events and projects planned for the new year and beyond.