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Monday, April 13, 2009

Camp Project for NGO Svetlina (Samokov, Bulgaria)

Dear friends and family,

    First of all, I want to thank you for your fervent prayer and support as I continue to heal after my skiing accident in late December. It breaks my heart that my work in Bulgaria with the United States Peace Corps was brought to such an abrupt end, and my hope is that even if my path does not lead back to Association Svetlina in Samokov, Bulgaria within the next year, I can still find a way to be a source of encouragement for the children and my Bulgarian and Peace Corps friends there.

    During my short time in the small Eastern European country of Bulgaria, I served as a youth development volunteer and focused on efforts of integration and empowerment among underrepresented youth from high-risk environments. More specifically, I was hosted by a progressive non-governmental organization run by two Bulgarian women with a heart for Roma/Gypsy youth. Each day after school, we lead English, art, and Bulgarian lessons, environmental appreciation activities, game days, and sporting endeavors. Many of the Roma youth drop out of school by the time they reach high school, and marry and start a family soon thereafter, and Association Svetlina encourages academic and social achievement while still aiming to preserve Roma culture.

    My biggest concern after my accident was that the staff at my organization would be unable, due to language barriers, to write the grant to receive funding for our yearly summer camp. "Camp Together We Can Do More," is run entirely by Association Svetlina, and breaches cultural road blocks by inviting equal numbers of Bulgarian and Roma youth to work, learn, and play together for ten days on the Black Sea. Summer camp is a relatively new idea in Bulgaria, not to mention the concept of integrating youths from both ethnic backgrounds is essentially unheard of, and I was greatly anticipating the opportunity to watch the walls of ethnic tension continue to crumble. Another volunteer from a neighboring village in Bulgaria had helped with Association Svetlina's summer camp last year, and she volunteered to assist with the grant writing process when I became unable.

    Even though I will not be able to assist directly with "Camp Together We Can Do More," I would like to do whatever I can to assist the children of Samokov in whatever capacity I am able. For now, this means extending to you the opportunity to become financially and prayerfully invested in this summer program by visiting the following website:

Donating through the Peace Corps website allows your contribution to go straight to supporting "Camp Together We Can Do More," and is tax-deductible. Thank you so much for supporting me so faithfully through your thoughts and prayers, but on behalf of the children and staff of Association Svetlina, thank you for your support of social development in Samokov and Bulgaria at large.


Katie Filkins
(On Behalf of NGO Svetlina)

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