Meet Emils!

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1. Where are you from?

I'm from Riga, Latvia.

2. Tell us about yourself.

I like to play ping pong, sunbathe, and travel to capital city. I’m the world’s best Connect Four player, according to me. I enjoy taking long walks on the beach, and also on the way back from casinos at 2 am.

3. Have you dealt with volunteering before and what did you do?

My first “volunteering” experience was when I was 18. It was in the UK, where I agreed to help a man renovate his bed & breakfast, in return for food and and a place to stay. I was horrible at the job, so the arrangement lasted for only about a month.

A year later I began volunteering in an NGO that supports refugees and asylum seekers in Latvia. I would occasionally help translate and organize cultural events. It eventually turned into a full-time job, where I served as a “social mentor” to several refugee families.

4. What’s the reason for you to make this decision and come to Bulgaria?

I had just quit my last job. It was a customer support position for a design-tech company. I lost all interest and wanted to try something new instead. The opportunity arose to volunteer in Bulgaria, so I jumped at the chance!

5. What is your first impression of Bulgaria? Would you come back again?

I would definitely come back. I was already excited when I saw mountains outside the airplane window, something we don’t get to see back home. I really like the fruit and vegetable shops here as well. I became a frequent customer the moment I saw they sold fresh tangerines and homemade wine.

Even the things that I didn’t like at first, I came to embrace. You’ll notice that most cheese in Bulgaria comes as a solid white block, sold behind a counter. This was quite distressing, since cheese is a major part of my diet. After a long series of trial and error, I have found the white cheeses that I like. Now I’m afraid I won’t know how to prepare a meal without it. It’s something that I’ll certainly miss… The people here are nice too.

6. By participating in our project, what will be the benefits for you?

I have the opportunity now to improve my public speaking and leadership skills. Discussing human rights is difficult when you have to work with teenagers, so it challenges you to think out of the box and be creative.

As always, being in a new environment develops you holistically. You can learn a language, become more confidant, and start sharpening skills that have for years just been gathering dust.

7. What do you think is the attitude of people in Bulgaria about the project? What is your attitude?

People don’t spend much of their time thinking about human rights. Kids in particular are more occupied with their friends, schoolwork, family life. I think it’s great, that even if for just 45 minutes we can have a discussion about what rights are, and how it affects our lives. If children are our future, then we need to make sure that they can think critically about these topics, and retain a sense of empathy for all types of people.

8. What advice would you give those around you to get involved in the campaign?

To be creative. As much time as you spend behind a desk, make sure you have a hands-on approach, and are making an impact. Don’t ever be afraid to tackle big social issues. An uncomfortable discussion can be more productive that an easy one.

9. If you had to describe the Activism For Human Rights project with one word, what would it be?

Powerful!