To Better a Community: 10 Years of Volunteering
Ten years of grateful volunteering in role-modeling orphans, helping children do their homework, drawing pictures, tying martenitzas, crafting charity cards and pamphlets. Ten years of designing bracelets, turning lights off for an hour, cutting red ribbons and baking cookies. Ten years put in a basket full of good deeds that have made the PTPI “Better Community Club” the humanitarian column of social and cultural awareness, tolerance and responsibility at AUBG.
In a cordial celebration marking the 10th anniversary of the PTPI “Better Community Club” on Nov. 26 in ABF’s Aspire Center, AUBG’s leading social volunteering club brought together students, faculty and club alumni with one mutual goal – to honor the club’s history of successful initiatives that have engulfed the better community team for a decade.
The event was split into a talk session, hosted by the club’s advisors, Professor Sabina Wien and Professor William Clark, as well as by some club members, and a reception captioned “Volunteering for a better community! Ten years of successful projects!” The two-hour anniversary gathering also proved a convenient rendezvous for the former club presidents Margita Kolcheva, Class of 2016, and Yavor Kiryakov, Class of 2012. The latter was one of the few to take it to the microphone with words of gratitude for the progress done by the club.
“If you want to have a sustainable tomorrow, you should always give as much of what you have today(time, energy, ideas etc.) and always put those into a framework well-thought,” said Kiryakov, referring to the vibe shared within the community since his joining of the club back in 2008.
According to him, PTPI “Better Community Club” has proven itself as a sustainable, social enterprise, because it has always found ways to fund its projects by itself and rely very little on the Student Government funds. The club has a very modest yearly bucket amounted from external donations, professors and members.
The occasional fundraisers have supported those in a social need, like the charity “Hope” in 2011 in help of Stoycho Angelov*, a local boy diagnosed with malignant tumor, or the one organized for Nenad Kostadinov last year, a deceased student from the South-Western University “Neofit Rilski” in Blagoevgrad (SWU) diagnosed with mucinous carcinoma cancer. Those initiatives have also spanned to include fundraisers for groups of people in need. Examples are the two local “Social Home Kids” projects, both still running, given their roots lay back in 2008, with eight benefit concerts that now lay back in time and a ninth being planned ahead.
Margita Kolcheva, former president of the club, shared another one of the successful campaigns the club has run that has filled her heart.
“I cannot miss to mention the annual Food and Clothes Donation campaigns. I liked them both as they served as an example how even a small community of around 1000 people can manage to help the people in need a lot,” Kolcheva said, “Rooms full of clothes and piles of boxes full of food and all the work around sorting them and bringing those donations to the ones that need them, made me proud not only of the club, but also of the impact it has on the society.”
In her words, what distinguishes the club in its role, compared to other AUBG clubs and initiatives, is the impact it has on the society outside of the university while still trying to bridge the AUBG people with the local community. This essentially turns the moral of working without expecting something in return into a two-way process in which AUBG and the Blagoevgrad community collaborate for a better future.
Until this year, the PTPI “Better Community Club” has been the organizing body of numerous initiatives, including the Social Homes projects in Blagoevgrad and Stob, the annual Christmas Bazaar Bake Sales, the ANTI-AIDS campaigns, the Environmental Earth Hour Week, the Whittaker ELI Sponsorship, the Food and Clothes donations and many other fundraisers.
Through other clubs’ engagements, external benefactors and community charities, the club has accumulated an estimate of 25,000 levs over those 10 years of existence. This semester’s greatest success for the club was in October, when the club raised 590 leva for a local girl in need. The upcoming plans of the current president involve the Charity Bake Sale on the Dec. 6, the Toy Collection initiative on Dec. 5-11.
“Some other initiatives planned are collaboration with Able Mentor‘s program, continuation of visits in social homes, collaboration with other clubs and structures for the organization of Environment Week 2017, food and clothes collection at the end of Spring semester,” announced Marko.
Nonetheless, both Marko and the club’s advisor Wien expressed their worries for a certain lack of enthusiasm for social volunteering from within the club, the AUBG students and the other clubs.
“One of the shortcomings is the fact that some members are not active during the whole year. This comes from the fact that the club is open to all students and there are no interviews at the beginning. In the future I envision a bigger club with more active members, as well as more new projects being initiated, ” said Marko.
“Clubs suffer from absenteeism. Students travel during the weekend and imply they don’t have time for such initiatives. [Nonetheless] PTPI is less connected to the AUBG Community than other clubs,” shared Wien.
Wien is de facto the longest-serving AUBG club adviser. Her bond with the PTPI “Better Community Club” stems from her first initiative in the spring of 2007, when she helped the channeling of a donation for underprivileged children from a teaching friend and a former classmate Mihaela Zlatinova, who now lives in the US.
“Next year I will be the one celebrating my 10th anniversary in the club,” said Wien.
“Pictures [of the club’s projects] are lagging behind what we do. I want to create a book of memories,” said Wien. Her aim is to make a photo archive and a collection of letters from old members so that to preserve the continuous work of the club through such visual memorabilia.
As a touching memory, Wien re-told a heartfelt story about the aforementioned Stoycho Angelov*, diagnosed with malignant cancer. Years after the club fundraiser for the local boy, Wien went to a dentist in Blagoevgrad for an oral health check. Upon entering the waiting room and having seated there for a while, Wien noticed some of the wall frames had photos of the same child Stoycho. As she met with the female dentist and asked her about the boy, the doctor said that this was now her grown up son. He was now healthy and ready to study in a medical school.
*The name may or may not reveal the actual real name of the child due to reasons of confidentiality