Volunteerism and the Good Will of Bulgaria's Govt
The wildfire in Bulgaria's Vitosha Mountain that raged for several days outside the Sofia suburb of Bistritsa has angered Bulgarian eco-activists and volunteers with what was, in their words, an inadequate organization on part of the government institutions.
Why do I believe that?
As a student in the USA several years ago I was lucky to be able to help the relief effort in the states of Mississippi and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
As a volunteer. For the first time in my life. Not because I hadn't had the good will to help prior to that but because before going to the USA I had been living all my life in Bulgaria where – even if you have the greatest desire to volunteer for relief after natural disasters, there is usually no way for that to happen.
For one simple reason. In Bulgaria, which largely owes its National Liberation to several thousand volunteers (known as "opalchentsi") today lacks completely the social infrastructure to use volunteers; it lacks the respective public attitude and culture to encourage them.
Bulgaria has no organization on part of the government structures and/or the NGO sector (with a few exceptions) that can organize, direct, train, etc. the volunteers that could potentially show up in a time of dire need.
That is precisely why I owe one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life – the weeks I spend volunteering after Hurricane Katrina – to what I call the social infrastructure in the US for those kinds of activities.
Not only that – actually, my college had so many students who desired to volunteer for Katrina relief that I had to go through an application process with several rounds. Since I was the only foreigner applying, I got asked why a Bulgarian would want to go help out the people in Mississippi. I told the interviewers that – in addition to my desire to help – I had always wanted to be a volunteer in such situations but that there was hardly any such possibilities in the country that I come from.
Which is all too bad considering that volunteering not only helps in critical times but creates a real, healthy, and civil society that actually gets to have moral values.
Unfortunately, in Bulgaria volunteers can do very little with their good will because there is no good will on part of the Bulgarian government.
Is this a leftover effect from the old communist regime where everything was provided (or supposed to be) by the state?
whilst big business (or well connected opportunists) filled the profitable voids rapidly, there has been very little willingness to make up the social side of the equation.
Capitalism needs some kind of social conscience to survive, and in countries with a long history of capitalism this has been realised and is to some extent in operation. Bulgarian big business need to make the start with helping to put social program infrastructures in place to allow keen volunteers to have the support needed to carry out valuable social projects.
These "entrepreneurs" who have profited from being in the right position in the early 1990's need to stop sitting in their ivory towers and driving around in convoys of shiny SUV's and start to think what they can put back into the country that so far they have only bled dry. There's a lot of very good people in Bulgaria, sadly not many of them are in the 5% with the money.