Five years ago, exactly on 17.02, when we officially started the Award in Bulgaria, the comments and feedback we recieved tended to be extreme. Advice ranged from either “this cannot work in Bulgaria” or “this is great and will be successful”. Those who told us that there was no way the schme could work, said that it was too English, too demanding, too complicated, too different from most of the things happening in school. However, others said that this was a great initiative and every self-respecting school and headmaster would like to offer it to their students. They saw the meaning of the programme, an alternative to the disadvantages of the school system, an opportunity for young people to change themselves and the world around them.
Today, five years later, we now know exactly what it is to create a personal development programme as an independent organisation who are also aiming at business professionalism and structure. I can safely say that both groups from five years ago happened to be right in different ways.
At that point, Ivaylo Penchev, in his role of Chairman of the Honorary Trust, said that we were crazy to think that because the programme is internationally recognised, structured and with clear rules and framework, that it would work in every school in Bulgaria. Teo Vasilev, on the other hand, one of the founders, believed that the Award can easily be part of the Ministry of the education and science and young people developing their universal skills, challenging themselves with action can be a state policy. Five years later we realised that it is not black and white situation, and there are in fact are many nuances.
In the Award we do not do a birthday party. Not because it is not important to celebrate it, but rather because we have a lot of things to do and our energy is limited. But we are good at realising things and learning lessons. So here are our five lessons for the last five years, even though it was hard to stop after just five!
- To be patient. As much as we want to make the Award work in every city and town in Bulgaria, this takes time, finance, people, capacity and persistence. And it is a process – slow, gradual and long, like the process of raising a child.
- To never give up. Actually, some of the people who at the beginning did not share the Award philosophy have been replaced with new ones who truly recognize and share our beliefs. So… the process is slow and is not irrevocable.
- To be independent. It is a great pleasure and responsibility to be independent of a specific institution, organisation, person or event. Sometimes it is hard because recently our financing is not enough but it gives us the freedom to make things according to our principles and views.
- To celebrate the small successes! We celebrate each week, every new participant, every new school, each small step which brings us to sustainability, availability, and quality transforming experience for the young people. Sometimes it is hard to think of something to celebrate but we try. We try hard. And then we celebrate the trying!
- The people are the most important thing! It may sound as a cliche but we cannot deny it. Firstly, that we have one of the most dedicated teams not only in Bulgaria but in the whole world. Secondly, that we have the opportunity and the pleasure to work with great teachers, headmasters, youth workers and activists, who truly believe in the potential of the young people in Bulgaria. Today this is priceless!