Europe and Central Asia featured program: Bulgaria
Bulgaria is located in the heart of the Balkans and offers a highly diverse landscape. The vast lowlands of Danube dominate the north, while the south has the highlands and elevated plains. In the eastern part of the country, the Black Sea attracts tourists all year round. Bulgaria’s location has made it a historical crossroad for various civilizations and is the home to some of the earliest metalwork, religious and other cultural artifacts in the world.
The most famous Bulgarian food is yogurt, with its reputed giﬅ of longevity for those who consume it regularly. Bulgaria’s main exports are light industrial products, foods and wines.
Kostinbrod is in western Bulgaria, about 15 kilometers from the capital city of Sofia. It has a population of 16,278 and is crossed by two rivers: the Blato in the north and the Belitsa in the south. The economy of Kostinbrod was largely based on poultry farming and stock breeding during the Communist period. A number of factories, including a Coca-Cola factory, have emerged in democratic times due to the town’s favorable position and the liberal zoning policy of the municipality. Kostinbrod is also famous for the mineral waters in the area.
During Communist times, the government provided loans for families to buy low-income housing and poor-quality prefabs. After, the responsibility for housing fell to cash-strapped local authorities. As a result, many Bulgarians live in large blocks of flats constructed 40 to 50 years ago that are rapidly deteriorating. Maintenance of these buildings has become a severe challenge for the homeowners.
Despite the new initiatives for making public space more accessible, most of the homes of people with disabilities do not meet their special needs. At the same time, rural areas have experienced a major loss of employment, income and services.
Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria, founded in 2001, is a National Organization of Habitat for Humanity International. The affiliate runs a diverse, innovative program tailored to meet the local housing needs. The organization offers support to low-income, disadvantaged and vulnerable people. Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria works in partnership with local Bulgarian organizations and supplements value to the social services they provide. The organization successfully collaborates with the Bulgarian authorities on the local and the national levels to improve the overall housing situation in the country.
Fighting poverty and child neglect
Due to substandard living conditions, children are at risk of being taken from their families and placed in social institutions. As a result, Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria takes preventive action and runs a program that renovates homes to ensure they are deemed safe, which allows the children to continue living at home with their parents and family. Additional benefits, such as strengthened financial discipline, better hygiene, regular school attendance and socialization are also observed.
Residential energy efficiency
abitat for Humanity Bulgaria establishes partnerships with homeowner associations all over Bulgaria to renovate condominium buildings. The aim is to support low-income families in their desire to live in decent buildings and achieve lower energy consumption.
Microfinance for home improvement
Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria offers low-income families access to energy efficiency loans with reasonable terms and interest rates. Home improvements may include the following items: roof repair, hydro insulation, exterior wall insulation, window repair or replacement, updating bathroom fixtures, replacement of inefficient appliances, etc.
Microfinance facility development
Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria’s microfinance program is for rural areas in selected regions of the country. In addition to immediate housing issues, such as general home improvements, the microfinance facility addresses sanitations needs, such as in-house water, bath and toilets; energy-efficiency improvements, such as solar water boilers; energy-efficient windows framings; and heat insulations. In addition, the project offers a model for prevention of the migration from the rural areas in Bulgaria by providing access to financing to the non-bankable, low-income rural population.
New home construction: New houses have an area of 80 square meters with an open kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and bathrooms. Several construction techniques are used, including the traditional blocks and mortar and recycled, high-energy efficiency materials.
Typical volunteer tasks:
Typical tasks include installing insulation on walls, plastering, sanding, rolling fiberglass insulation in the attic, insulating and painting windows and painting walls.
Teamsarrive at Sofia-Vrazhdebna Airport in Bulgaria and travel by minibus to the project location.
Both long-distance and daily transport to and from the hotel is typically in a 15-person private minibus with a hired driver.
Breakfast and dinner: Served in the hotel or a local restaurant.
Lunch: Served on the work site.
Water: Tap water is not sanitary to drink in Hungary. Purified, bottled water and bottled juices are provided throughout the day.
Hotels are simple and basic and typically located near the project site. Each room sleeps two to three people and includes a private bathroom, though bathrooms are occasionally shared. All facilities are screened by HFH staff to ensure that everything is safe, clean and well-maintained.
Day 1 (typically Saturday): Depart for Bulgaria.
Day 2 (Sunday): Arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria; welcome and orientation with Habitat Bulgaria national office staff member; dinner; check into hotel.
Days 3–7 (Monday–Friday, workdays): Breakfast served before traveling to work site; work from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. with lunch on site; free time after work to clean up; dinner in local restaurants; time for team activities. Special events throughout the week include cultural experiences with host program staff, such as market tours, museum visits, etc., as well as walking tour of host city and farewell dinner.
Day 8 and 9 (Saturday and Sunday): Cultural activities and free time; final team dinner.
Day 10 (Monday): Departure day
Starting at US$1,795 (10 days)
View the standard budget.