“Baba” is the Bulgarian word for grand-mother. The ever-loving person who always have something cooked especially for you. She is there to knit you a cozy sweater, to share an embarrassing of your early childhood with your visiting friends. Most of all, she is there to love you unconditionally. Can you imagine a life without her? Well, she can’t imagine a life without you either.
75 percent of young Bulgarians live in the cities according to Eurostat, which leaves the rural eares mostly deserted. Away from their young relatives, elderly people still struggle to live in villages with a meager income, limited access to medical care, and no Internet. The average pension is mostly insufficient, so these small groups are used to sharing and supporting each other. For example, some villagers grow fruits and vegetables, while others care for domesticated animals, so they exchange food supplies and cook for each other. Elderly communities adapted to this reality as they tend to be more united against the hardships.
In addition to poverty and isolation, another big question should be considered when discussing the subject. As last keepers of many Bulgarian traditions, these grandpas and grandmas cook the best traditional meals, tell stories of ancient times, sing the song of our predecessors. They are the living memory of Bulgarian history. What happens when they are gone?
Elderly get involved in modern projects to promote villages traditions
“Grandma’s Residence” is the initiative that gives hope to these people and raise awareness of the problem. An NGO called Factory for Ideas developed a program allowing young people to spend 4-6 weeks in the home of elderlies in most distant and poor Bulgarian regions. In exchange for elderlies’ hospitality, youngsters help them with every-day chores and, most importantly, “upgrade” the villages.
Grandmas from Southern Bulgaria became famous after young musicians visited them as part of the program. Visitors were impressed by grandmas’ singing, so they dedicated time and effort to help promote them. Musicians recorded traditional songs featured by locals and uploaded the album to the Internet. People from all over the country started downloading and contributing to the improvement of the area.
Young Entrepreneurs start new businesses in the Bulgarian South
This initiative is not the only one that helps develop rural regions further. Another group of young entrepreneurs, with the help of elderly communities in the Bulgarians South, developed a local brand of ecologically farmed products in the local villages. “HomeMade Deli” focuses on preparing “fast and healthy food” with Grandpas’ fruits and veggies in the city completely outshines the junk food places. The profit is split between the two parties, and the costumers are happy to receive fresh, healthy food.
A couple of IT engineers from the capital, Sofia, moved to the countryside after being part of a similar initiative. They “brought” the Internet to a small village in Rodopi mountain and with it new businesses to the region. In a TV interview, they share: “It’s incredible what a few photos of gorgeous Rodopi on Google maps can do.” They literally put the village on the map, created the village’s web page, and tourists started visiting.
The Internet is an amazing tool NGO-s used to attract international attention. Volunteers from out of the country arrived in Bulgaria to share that experience. NGO’s guides help them interact with elderlies, learn more about our culture, and create innovations. This is a unique experience that sometimes makes foreigners move to our country permanently like the twenty Germans who repopulated a dying village next to the border with Greece. They already have a farm with more than two hundred coats, and employe most of the locals.
These are some simple examples of how different generations collaborate, tackle poverty, decrease isolation, and build stronger societies. Yong entrepreneurs see these initiatives as a way to unite Bulgarians, help the elderly in abandoned villages, and develop the rural areas. There is so much progress to be made and goals to be achieved, but the start is set.
Photo credits: http://www.konnabazastela.com/bg