Vasilitsa Celebrations in National Authority Institutions

Schools have become major players in the initiative for national celebrations of St. Vasil, organized by Center ‘Amalipe’. Hundreds of students subscribed to the ‘Ethnic Folklore - Roma Folklore’ classes from dozens of schools participating in the program "Decreasing the Dropout Rate of Roma Students’, visited ministries, the Regional Inspectorate of Education – Sofia city, the Regional Health Inspection, the Regional Social Assistance Inspectorate and mayors throughout the country to wish a Happy New Year and to remind us that educational integration efforts require result-oriented support. Thousands of their peers, took part in school celebrations to enjoy the plentiful Roma culture. And all this happened within a day - Friday, January 13.

NCCEII  and the Ministry of Internal Affairs

With the words ‘Oh Vasili Bahtao! Bahtao nevo bresh!’  students from Basic school  ‘V. Levski’- village Karadzhovo greeted the Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues Tsvetan Tsvetanov. He received them in his office at the Ministry of Intenal Affairs, along with the NCCEII Deputy Chair Georgi Krustev and the Counselor Ahmed Ahmed. Students told the legend of Bango Vasil, of the Roma customs and performed the ritual sourvakne with blessings of Romani and Bulgarian. 


 In an informal conversation that continued more than an hour, the Deputy Prime Minister was told about the school V. Levski’. The school principal Krasimira Blagoeva pointed out that they are center for three peripheral areas and  children from three ethnic groups are educated at the school. For a second year, they take part in a Project ‘Decreasing the Dropout Rate of Roma Children’ as mentoring school. As result of their participation in the project in 2010/2011, the school can boast about having null dropouts.

The Chairman of CIEDT Amalipe Deyan Kolev said that Karadzhovo village is located only three kilometers from the known with the September conflict town Katunitza: an example of how it often occurs that places of peaceful coexistence

are only at a glance distance from conflict. When talking about Roma, politicians often refer primarily to persons from Katunitsa but the Roma community is also represented by the children from Karadzhovo village and tens of thousands like them, thousands of students of Roma origin, hundreds of thousands of Roma parents who care about their children’s education and professional fulfillment - it would be better if we acknowledge these publicly known truths, says Kolev. The successes of ‘V. Levski’ school did not come by itself – it is the result of the hard work of principals, teachers and parents, and their efforts need support. They need to be acknowledged as there is no alternative to Roma integration and the efforts in this direction should be appreciated. Specific programs are also necessary to support their efforts. In this aspect, D. Kolev stated that for the fieldwork employees (be it teachers, doctors, social workers), the most important part of the National Strategy for Roma Integration is the Annex ‘Implementation Support Programs’. Minister Tsvetanov greeted the students and their teachers for their good work, promising to visit ‘V. Levski’ school. After being informed about the school facilities and equipment, he promised the school to be equipped with new computer lab and renovation of the playground. Learn, take sports and have fun always like that- success is always achieved with hard work, assured the Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetanov the students.

Ministry of Education Youth and Science


Traditionally, for third consecutive year, students from basic school ‘Hristo Smirnenski’ Byala Slatina accompanied by the school principal Evgeni Angelov, the community moderator of Byala Slatina Miroslav Mihaylov and Teodora Krumova, Deputy Chair of Amalipe brought with the ritual sourvakne, sayings and songs New Year’s messages, building in a symbolic bridge in the Ministry of Education Youth and Science. 

The fourth graders greeted the Minister of Education Sergei Ignatov and the two Deputy Ministers Milena Damyanova and Petya Evtimova. They impressed the ministry officials not only with the beautifully made sourvaknitsi but also with their school achievements and regular school attendance and good grades. They openly claimed to be the best students on account of which they were selected among other students to bring messages and wishes for good health and a better New Year to the minister. 

Teodora Krumova stressed that ‘Hristo Smirnenski’ Primary School in Byala Slatina participates for a second year in 'Decreasing the Dropout Rate of Roma Students’ Program and can boast about having zero dropouts in 2010-2011, being successful  in attracting new students and ending the school year with more children than initially enrolled. 

The achieved results illustrate that via good interaction between teachers, students and parents the dropout rate can be reduced to a minimum: in the case of schools included in the program within the first year it was reduced from 3.6% to 0.98%! 

Teodora Krumova expressed her gratitude for the support in terms of educational integration in the last year, whose outcome was the proposal for State Educational Standard for civic, multicultural and health education. She hopes that its logical follow-up will be the inclusion of these topics in the new School Education Act. 

The Calls for Proposals announced within the Operational Human Resource Development Program as a result of our joint proposals will help dozens of schools, communities and organizations to implement large-scale activities to improve the quality of education for Roma and Bulgarian children. Of great significance is our joint work with the Centre for Educational Integration of Children and Pupils from Ethnic Minorities - stated Teodora Krumova.


Ministry of Healthcare 

Health, welfare and success wished the children from “St. Kliment Ohridski” Elementary School, village of Tishevitsa to the Deputy Minister of Healthcare – Desislava Dimitrova and to the General State Health inspector – Dr. Kunchev and their colleagues from the Ministry of Health. 

The children’s group were accompanied by Momchil Baev from Center Amalipe, the Roma students in Medicine and volunteers from Club K7 of Center Amalipe – Prevention of HIV/AIDS.



The students represented a short program about “Vasilitsa” with reconstruction of the Roma traditions, “sourvakari” and songs in Bulgarian and Rromanes. There were also played some humoristic scenes which was not a traditional in fact but make everyone laughing.  The principal of the school – Mr. Dimitar Kostov explained about how the school is involved in the “Reducing of the drop out of school of Roma children” Project already for a second year as a basis school. In 2010/2011 there are no dropped out kids and even more: at present they have even more student than the beginning of the school year.

On behalf of Center Amalipe Momchil Baev thanked to Deputy Minister Dimitrova and Dr. Kunchev for the collaboration over the past year. He stressed out the importance of continuing the programs for prevent and control HIV/IDS and Tuberculosis in the Roma community and the need for sustainability and sustainable funds for the Roma students in Medicine.

Mrs. Dimitrova and Dr. Kunchev in turn thanked for the pleasure again to be hosts of such a beautiful event. Dr. Kunchev said he believes in his heart in the ideas for further work on improving the quality and the access to healthcare. Mrs. Dimitrova declared a desire to find a sustainable program to support Roma – medical students which seem to be one of the best practices for improving Roma access to a quality health service.

Mrs. Dimitrova gave to each child a gift from the Ministry.

Council of Ministers

Immediately after the Ministry of Health, the students from Tishevitsa village went to the Council of Ministers where they were met at the Cabinet of the management of EU Funds - Tomislav Donchev.  Minister Donchev had gathered all his political offices and directors of departments in charge of EU Funds and other international programs.

With great joy and his characteristic sense of humur, Minister Donchev watched the brief performance of children and listened to their good wishes. In addition to wishes for good health, they called for more funds for the state.

As expression of his gratitude, Mr. Donchev gave each child a present. On behalf of Amalipe, Momchil Baev thanked Minister Donchev for his efforts in the integration process and that throughout the year he continuously laid an emphasis on the necessity and inevitability of investment in Roma integration! The host showed children how his workday goes by on one of the hottest seats in the country by inviting everyone who wants to sit on his workplace and take a photo. After the photo session, the minister suggested the group to show them the building of the Council of Ministers and his favorite place there - the inner garden. The minister invited the students to visit him next year again!


Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP) 

On the occasion of “Vasilitsa” – the Roma New Year, student from “Hristo Smirnenski” Elementary School – Byala Slatina visited the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. There the children were personally welcomed by Minister Totyu Mladenov and Deputy-Minister Deyana Kostadinova. The children represented a special program showing the Roma feasts about Vasilitsa. The children “sourvak” all the guests in Rromanes and Bulgarian, presented songs and dances. The hosts showed their gratitude giving presents and by old Bulgarian-Roma tradition – giving banknote to every one from the “sourvakari”. In an informal conversation which followed the official part, Minister Totyu Mladenov received information from the headmaster of “Hristo Smirnenski” Elementary school – Byala Slatina about the achievements of the school toward reducing the drop-out of Roma pupils. The school is basis school under “Reduction of Roma children dropping out of school” project and it can show excellent results in the educational process: the test-evaluation marks are higher then the average fro the district; there is only one child who dropped out and there are 7 new students (who were not covered by then) Mr. Deyan Kolev and Mrs. Silviya Boyanova from Center Amalipe represented in front of the Minister the activity of the Centers for Community Development, created under “Promoting the fieldwork in traditional and marginalized Roma communities” Project.  The Minister was amazed of the fast and concrete results of these Centers for such a short period. Center for Community Development is a new kind of social service, approbated by Center Amalipe in 6 municipalities all over Bulgaria.  For only 6 month since their existence the community moderators, working in the centers can show concrete and measurable results – children brought back to school and children signed in the kindergartens, solved cases of early marriages etc. “We work on field, directly with families on a base of identified needs and we initiate concrete actions” explained Mrs. Silviya Boyanova. Hew words were supported by Miroslav Angelov – community moderator from Center for community development – Byala Slatina. After the minister was informed what are the concrete activities and what are the areas of intervention the community moderators’ work in, the Minister said he would like to visit one of the centers personally. The visit will be specified the coming days. 

Social Assistance Agency (SAA) 

Students from “Vasil Levski” Elementary School – village of Vidrare and “Hristo Botev” Elementary School – village of Dzhurovo brought their congratulations to the Executive Director of the Social Assistance Agency – Ivaylo Ivanov. Children were welcomed at the conference hall of the Agency where they were expected by the executive directors Yanita Manolova, Darina Yankova as well as the directors of the different directions. The students “sourvak” them in Rromanes and Bulgarian, sang songs and recited poems. Maya Pencheva – headmaster of the school in Vidrare presented to the servants of ASA  the results the two school achieved on motivating the children to stay at school and preventing the drop-out. The both schools work on “Reduction of Roma children dropping out of school” Project. The school in Vidrare is already for a second year in the project, this year it is a basis school and for 2012/2011 there is no one drooped out but also there a lot of new students involved.

Silviya Boyanova from Center Amalipe represented the results of the 6-month functioning of the Center for Community Development – innovative social service based in the community and working for development and modernizing of the Roma community. For such a short period the 6 centers in the six pilot areas of the country – Kameno, Novi Pazar, Peshtera, Etropole, Byala Slatina and Pavlikeni achieved a lot of results as: a lot of children dropped out of school are back including 12-year old girl who never visited school; dozens of children signed in the kindergartens; cases of prevention of children abandonment; campaigns held on prevention of early marriages, a lot of them successfully solved. Silviya Boyanova underlined that the most important factor which helped these results to be achieved is the fieldwork of the community moderators employed in the Centers. Other important thing is the partnership – the common efforts of the local institution on prevention and protection – kindergartens, schools, social and health services and the municipality administrations at local level. In order to be achieved sustainable results there is a need of institutionalization of this social service and its turning into state-delegate activity which will allow a better social inclusion and higher employment in the Roma community. 

CEO Ivaylo Ivanov congratulated the children and their teachers for their achievements; Once acquainted with the operation of the Centers for community development he promised that his institution will give a full support for such social service based in Roma community.


Regional Direction Social Assistance (RDSA) - Sofia


Later on the day, on January 13, the children from “Vasil Levski” Elementary School – village of Vidrare and “Hristo Botev” Elementary School – village of Dzhurovo greeted alsoRegional Direction „Social Assistance” (RDSA) – Sofia-district, and especially its Head – Mrs. Nataliya Kancheva. The children were welcomed in her cabinet where everyone enjoyed their program. They “sourvak” everyone by saying “Bahtalo o Vasili! Bahtalo o Nevo Bresh!” The students also gave to Mrs. Kancheva a special feast-bread for a strong health and fertility during the New Year. While the students were playing the legend of “Vasilitca” part of the servants became with water eyes and wished to the children to achieve all their dreams.

Nataliya Kancheva mentioned there are established very good work relationships between the community moderators working in the Center for community development in Etropole and the social services there. She shared that she has a direct experience on the work of the Center and that only the direct contact could lead to the social inclusion of the community. She also stressed that the RDSA-Sofia-district are very glad to be part of “To touch the untouchables: fighting with anti-Roma prejudices and stereotypes” Project and that finally the three institutions (Regional educational Inspectorates, Regional directions “Social Assistance” and Regional Healthcare Inspectorates) started to collaborate between each other. In the frames of this project there are trainings for social workers, doctors and teachers. For us is very important to earn the community trust and to ensure the Roma that institutions work for them and not against them.  Only then we can achieve good and sustainable results, Kancheva said.


Schools have become major players in the initiative for national celebrations of St. Vasil, organized by Center ‘Amalipe’. Hundreds of students subscribed to the ‘Ethnic Folklore - Roma Folklore’ classes from dozens of schools participating in the program "Decreasing the Dropout Rate of Roma Students’, visited ministries, the Regional Inspectorate of Education – Sofia city, the Regional Health Inspection, the Regional Social Assistance Inspectorate and mayors throughout the country to wish a Happy New Year and to remind us that educational integration efforts require result-oriented support. Thousands of their peers, took part in school celebrations to enjoy the plentiful Roma culture. And all this happened within a day - Friday, January 13.



Embassy of the USA 

‘Accept warm greetings from our small village! Happy New Year! Bango Vasil came to you!’ Thus, students from schools in the villages Vidrare and Dzhurovo greeted the U.S. Ambassador H.M. James Warlick. On occasion of St. Vasil, he received from the schools homemade bread, which he split and gave to all the Embassy staff and journalists who came to report on the feast.

Maya Pencheva, principal of ‘Vasil Levski’ school in Vidrare expressed her  gratitude for the warm welcome and the opportunity to return the visit which the U.S. Embassy and Deputy Ambassador made at the school on September 15, 2011 when they were guests at the opening of the school year.
Teodora Krumova presented the results ‘Vasil Levski’ school managed to achieve after one year involvement in the Program for prevention of the dropout of Roma children from school, funded by the ‘America for Bulgaria’ Foundation. Last year, "Vasil Levski" was a pilot school in the program but after showing excellent results through active involvement of the parents in school life and reduction of the number of dropouts, this year it became a mentoring school. Teodora Krumova stressed that the good interaction between teachers, pupils, parents and the community as a whole can minimize the dropout rate.

Ivan Todorov community moderator at the Center for Community Development  in the town of Etropole, stressed that the Roma community has enormous potential and its utilization is the key to actual integration.
Guests at the celebration were the children of Embassy employees. Despite the language barrier, they quickly found common language with the young students from Vidrare and Dzhurovo and showed once again to us adults that children have no prejudice and their child's language quickly removes linguistic barriers.


Embassy of the Republic of France 

To the Roma New Year celebration for a second year joined the Embassy of France. The Ambassador H. M. Philip Autie received the students from the Ethnic Folklore –Roma Folklore group at 171st school ‘Stoil Popov’ Sofia warmly and friendly.

At the ceremony were the Ambassador and his wife Mrs. Marian Autie, Benoit Knopper  - First Secretary, the Consul Mehmet Meydan, Associate Lidiya Gouneva, the first adviser to the Ambassador Mrs. Marian Chare, press attaché Mrs. Nina Kunova. The group of students was  led by the school principal Mrs. Tatiana Mihaylova and primary teacher - Mrs. Angelina Philipova.
After a brief conversation with the school principal, the Ambassador Autie pronounced a welcome speech. He explained to the four graders from 171st school that embassies and consulates are protected areas of the state on the territory of another country and that children now are theoretically on a small piece of the Republic of France on Bulgarian land.
Svetlana Boyadzhieva from CIEDT ‘Amalipe’ expressed her gratitude on behalf of the organization and said a few words about the school and the project ‘Decreasing the Dropout Rate of Roma Students’ to which a particular interest has been shown.

The Ambassador expressed his desire to visit Amalipe office in March, to get hands-on experience of its team and activities.
Within the brief celebration a four grade  girl told the story of lame Vasil, followed by sourvakne in Bulgarian. Eventually the handmade and richly decorated  sourvaknitsa has been given to H. M.  Philip Autie as present. The school director explained the symbolism of the tree of which it is made and the  fruit on in. There was a small treat for children and guests and presents for the young participants. Students could not help being excited of the honour of being guests to the Embassy of the Republic and France.


Embassy of the UK


On January 13 the children from ‘Ethnic Folklore - Roma Folklore’ groups of ‘St. Kliment Ohridski’ School - Bukovluk village, ‘St. Cyril and Methodius‘ School - Tarnene village and ‘Anton Strashimirov’ School- Bohot village were guests in the British Embassy in Sofia.

The three schools are a team working in the District Pleven under a Program ‘Decreasing the Dropout Rate of Roma Children’ developed by Amalipe and funded by ‘America for Bulgaria’ Foundation. They participate for the first year in it, the school in Bukovlak being mentoring and the other two – pilot schools.
The hosts welcomed young guests and showed great interest to them. The children, on their turn, answered their questions. They told the legend of St.Vasil, what the cart wheel symbolizes, they sang songs dedicated to the celebration in Roma and Bulgarian language and wished their hosts good health with the brand new homemade surouvaknitsi!

The host, on its own part, Mrs. Catherine Barber, deputizing the Ambassador, together with her colleagues made a walk with the children in the Embassy halls and corridors. Students had the opportunity to enter each office, to learn what each employee makes, what their duties are and what their daily tasks are. They saw pictures of beautiful Great Britain and the new posters on the occasion of the "Summer Olympics in London 2012", and got an impression of what it feels like to be an ambassador by staying in his office and on his seat!





From the British Embassy the group headed towards UNICEF Representation. All from the host institution had already gathered in the hall looking forward to see the young survakars. Tanya Vanova from CIEDT Amalipe introduced the three schools, the program which they implement and the to-date objectives and results.

After reciting the poems dedicated to the celebration and wishes for health and good luck, a little more about the legend and how St. Vasil is celebrated by Roma told Borislav Borissov and Stefka Petrova - medical students and fellowship grantees in a scholarship program supporting Roma students studying in medical universities.

Tanya Radochay, UNICEF Representative for Bulgaria wished success to the students, the schools and Amalipe in their humanistic and challenging task: "Children should grow up informed, educated, healthy, responsible and active citizens. Thank you for the wonderful initiative and that you cooperate in our mission to work for the interest of the children. They shall feel safe in their development as young Bulgarian citizens’.

 She also wished to visit these schools on site and to feel the real environment ,to feel those vibrations brought by young students.