Stoyan Pavlov – fellow from Bulgaria

Picture S. PavlovMr. Stoyan Pavlov has been working as an Assistant Director and teacher of visually impaired children in a Resource Center for Support of integrated education of children with special educational needs in Pazardzhik. He has 18 years of experience in his work with children and young people with disabilities and people form minorities. Before his official career Stoyan Pavlov was a volunteer in homes for children with disabilities. In a later stage he took part in their closure as a consultant to the State Agency for Child Protection and in the establishment of new services that enable the normal life and childhood for all children. In 1997 is an educator in a Daycare Center for Children with disabilities. In 1999 he became a Director of that Center, which he managed for about two years. During this time he worked on several projects for creating a supportive environment for young people with disabilities and work with their families. At this period of time he accepted volunteers from different countries of Europe. Since 2001 he was a social worker and supported families mainly of Roma origin from the whole Pazardzhik region. He participated in the establishment of the first child protection services in Bulgaria. In 2001 Stoyan Pavlov started to work in a Special School for Children with mental retardation for a period of about five years. Then in 2006 he became a special educator in the team of the newly opened Resource Center for Integrated Education of Children with Special Educational Needs Pazardzhik.


Pazardjik town

Meanwhile he graduated pedagogy of visually impaired children at the University St. Kliment Ohridski, located in the capital Sofia. He was elected for a Chairman of the Association of the school board of the Resource Center Pazardzhik. From 2010 he has been working as an Assistant Director, who is in charge of the educational activities and a teacher of visually impaired children. He also participates in the implementation of several international projects with the participation of specialists from different countries from Europe and Asia. He is a Certified Practitioner of the Intensive communication methods, which aims to develop the communication with children with severe disabilities and at a low stage of development, to the Institute of intensive communication – Britain. He successfully finished a course on the use of drama and game in a resource office and classroom in Dublin, Ireland. Since 2012 Stoyan Pavlov is a Secretary of the National Association of resource teachers in Bulgaria. It is a Professional community of experts, working with children with disabilities integrated into mainstream education. In his capacity of a Secretary of the National Association, Stoyan Pavlov took part in the organization of debates and discussions concerning the educational policies of the government for children with disabilities. He was a national coordinator of the protest actions against the Commission for Education of the 43rd National Assembly. He participated in the drafting of a new law for education in the section training of children and pupils with special educational needs.



Stoyan Pavlov is a trainer of teachers and professionals working with children with disabilities and children from minorities. A voluntary consultant for several foundations, working with Roma children in Pazardzhik with the purpose of integration of the children in schools and support of their development. By participating in the Professional Fellowship Exchange Program, Mr. Pavlov hopes to improve his skills for working with children and students from different minorities and to increase his skills in relation to developing a supportive environment for people with disabilities. He is interested in the state policy of the USA in the area of inclusive education, as well as the local practices.
In his free time, Stoyan Pavlov works in theater, playing the guitar and singing, listening to music and read books. Mr. Pavlov is highly motivated to develop himself in the field of special education and inclusive practices. He starts to prepare a doctoral dissertation on the education of children with mental disabilities in mainstream schools.
He is married to Petya Pavlova, a sales representative in a large international corporation and has a 14 years old son. Stoyan will have his internship at Access Living Chicago. 

Antoaneta Nenkova – fellow from Bulgaria

toni_passportAntoaneta is born in Pernik, located 30 km south of Sofia. Since 1988 she is living in Sofia. Antoaneta is a Journalist, a Member of the General Assembly and of the Board of Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

She has 15 years of experience as a correspondent of the Bulgarian service of Deutsche Welle (DW) Radio in Sofia. She received her master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Sofia University. From 1992 she is a part of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee – a non-governmental organization for the protection of human rights. Nenkova’s  main  responsibilities as a senior researcher and coordinator of the Children in Institutions Projects of the BHC include  monitoring, analysis and reporting on a variety of human rights issues. Related activities: organization and participation in a series of focus groups, conferences, public debates & events, seminars & trainings, exchange of experience, cross-border cooperation and consultancy. Mrs. Nenkova is also a member of the Working Group “Family and Deinstitutionalization” of the National Network for Children.



Most of her work as a researcher is on the field, where she meets (un)ordinary people. They are residents of psychiatrics, homes for abandoned children, social homes for adults, refugee camps and Roma ghettos. The core goal of Bulgarian Helsinki Committee is to promote respect and protection of human rights, to lobby for legislative changes aimed to bring Bulgarian legislation in line with international human rights standards, to encourage public debate about human rights’ problems and to promote the concept of human rights among the general audience. Antoaneta Nenkova places a special priority to the rights’ protection of the most vulnerable groups which live in Bulgaria: ethnic minorities, underprivileged groups, persons deprived of their liberty, children and women.

The topics Antoaneta Nenkova has strong expertise are:  Child Care Policy; Minority rights; Immigration; Integration and Educational Inclusion; Media Freedom; Hate speech, Cultural Diversity. In 2014 she agreed to serve as a country expert for the Varieties of Democracy Project which advances the understanding of the historical process of democratization. “Varieties of Democracy” (V-Dem) aim to produce better Indicators of Democracy and is collaboration among the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre Dame, USA.

chicago-skycrapersAntoaneta Nenkova is author of several publications amongst which is Children in institutions, volume 5: Homes for Children with Special Needs. Nenkova is also author of many articles in the Bulgarian printed press and Radiobroadcasts (Bulgarian National Radio, Deutsche Welle) on the Minority realities and Human Rights of the Disadvantaged Minority Groups in Bulgaria.

Antoaneta Nenkova speaks German, English and Russian. Antoaneta Nenkova has been awarded with numerous prizes. Among them: prize winner of the USAID Media competition; Paniza Prize for Bulgarian Journalists. In her free time Antoaneta enjoys the beautiful piece of Albinoni – The Adagio in G minor and extreme sports. Her family enjoys the time together. Her two daughters are students in Netherlands. When they are in Bulgaria the family enjoys skiing, snowboarding, surfing, paragliding. Antoaneta will have her internship at Community Renewal Society (Chicago).

Diana Nedeva – fellow from Bulgaria

PictureDiana Nedeva is projects coordinator, volunteer, trainer. She is working on different projects with focus on empowerment, anti-discrimination, life-long learning, human rights, global education.

She works with several NGOs in Bulgaria and her main occupation is as a coordinator at Caritas Sofia where she is coordinating projects for refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. The life of these minority groups is very challenging. That’s why they need to be supported in order to find their own way to start a better life and learn to be independent.

Ms. Nedeva also works with C.E.G.A. Foundation where she is part of a team organizing Global education trainings for youth leaders, teachers and students.

She started volunteering only 6 years ago, but since then she is actively promoting volunteering. For her this is one of the best ways to discover what is interesting for you, find inspiration, learn how to achieve your goals and find out how you could help the others.

Sofia_04Diana was an EVS (European voluntary service) volunteer in Germany in 2012 and her main tasks were connected with preparing, implementing and reporting training courses and youth exchanges with main topics like anti-discrimination, racism, xenophobia; inclusion and equality.  One of the methods she used is Forum theatre, very powerful tool for social change in her opinion. That is why at the moment she is part of a group which is planning to work with different minority groups in Bulgaria using this method as main.

Ms. Nedeva graduated from Public administration in Sofia. Since 2011 she is participating in different trainings and she is currently one of the participants in Training of trainers (10 months) organized by SALTO and working on developing her skills as a trainer. Her training practice project (which she organises together with 3 other participants within TOT) is for youth and social workers who want to develop their competences in empowering young people with fewer opportunities to become aware of, and act on, their dreams and visions of their own futures.

Chicago BeanThis will be her first opportunity to visit the U.S. She is very excited about the project and eager to know more about creating and supporting the leadership in the different minority communities, how to facilitate coalitions in the community organizing processes and improve her knowledge about organizing campaigns with them.

In her free time she loves to dance tango, play board games, participate in theatre courses, do yoga. Diana will have her internship at Illinois Coalition of Immigrants and Refugees Rights (Chicago)

Asen Mitkov – fellow from Bulgaria


foto: Chad Evans Wyatt

Asen Mitkov was born and raised in Vidin, north part of Bulgaria. He has solid experience in social work, especially with Roma communities. When he has started his work as social work he though it’s his mission – helping others. He has been working for more than 10 years in this field in his own community in the town of Vidin. Hi is styding 1st year Social Pedagogy in South-West University in Bulgaria.

His first experience with minority groups was when he started to work in the non-profit organization DROM on a project, aiming at desegregation of students from minority. Asen and his team were providing conditions for access to quality education to Roma children in integrated school environments. He was one of the team members who created the Vidin model of desegregation and integration. Asen’s specific role during the running of the project was to be one of the couches for students. That was the person who supported and motivated them visiting school, observed this whole process and resolved problems if happened ones.

Currently Asen is working in Centre for Working with Street Children (CWSC). The main people of the center are Roma children whose parents and family do not take the necessary care and thus neglect them and placed in social risk. The center provides day care, food and clothing, hygiene and health care, educational support and education, positive choices for their spare time, etc. for its students.

vidin8Particular emphasis in the work is the return and retention of children in school. Thus all these cares is about to achieve better quality of life of the children, their social integration as well as increased parental potential. Asen’s main role is to do the outreach work. He is mainly working in segregated fields and marginalized part of Vidin, in Roma neighborhood, where he detects children from minority who are poor, neglected or begging. Once he identifies those children he establishes initial contacts and searching for their family or relatives, informing them about the Centre, where the children could receive support. Asen is maintaining contacts with their parents or guardians and ensures counseling and mediation.

Besides his passion for social work Asen is passionate for recording videos. He had four months training course  at the non-profit foundation Witness New York as camera man and he participated as volunteer in preparing documentary movie about the desegregation process in Vidin, Bulgaria.

photo: Yang Yang

photo: Yang Yang

Asen is very keen to see examples and practices from the state in the field of Social work, but he is also looking forward to get more acquainted with Community Organizing.

He speaks Bulgarian, Romanes, little Russia and English. He likes cameras and spends his time shooting movies or work in parks and enjoys chatting with friends. He and his wife have two sons: the eldest is attending South West University while the younger has just graduated from secondary school. He enjoys spending time with his family and having joy outside Vidin. Asen will have his internship at Neighborhood Organizing for Changes (Minneapolis, MN)

Antoaneta Bozhikova – fellow from Bulgaria

ani_photoAntoaneta Bozhikova is 30 years, born in Sofia, Bulgaria. She has a brother and sister who both live in Germany. Antoaneta finished humanitarian high school, studying exclusively English and Greek.

She continues with the Law Faculty of the University of National and World Economy. In 2012 she successfully graduated as Lawyer. International law, EU law and American law with Mr. Joseph Benley were her favorite subjects. She has been intrigued by the American judicial system which is very different from the Bulgarian one.

Since 2013 she works as a legal counsel in the Technical University of Sofia. Antoaneta is mainly responsible for all the contracts, which the University signs, Public procurement and international relationships.

First time she has been involved with the non-profit sector was during the high school years. At that time she got involved with Bulgarian Red Cross, where she became a volunteer, organizing different health campaigns and initiatives. She has also organized different events for and by young people, collecting clothes and books for children in orphanages, sports events where children from such institutions played basketball, volleyball or football with other young people.21809579_l

While she went to her mandatory internship to the Ministry of Justice, Antoaneta was introduced to the social democratic political party. She got involved in event dedicated to youth unemployment. Then she started to follow this issue and she received trainings in leadership such as the “Summer Academy For Social Democracy” and “Give Your Voice a Volume”, both organized by Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Antoaneta also participated in C.H.A.R.M. project organized by C.E.G.A. foundation. Since then she was involved in variety initiatives on gender issues and political leadership. One of her recent activities related to volunteering is the mentoring program called “Able mentor” and for 4 months she worked as mentor of a young girl, who wanted to become a lawyer.

For the last two years, Anotaneta is a volunteer in Gender Project Foundation where she is working on projects dedicated to the empowerment of women in Bulgaria.

© 1999 EyeWire, Inc.

© 1999 EyeWire, Inc.

Currently she is engaged in the “Civil Discussion for Change” project tackling the problems in within the legal system, electoral Legislation, direct democracy and other issues. Recently she has been chosen to represent the project aims and goals in front of members of parliament and ministers. To prepare she will undergo special training on how to assert and defend thesis.

From January 2015 Antoaneta got involved and committed herself to be part of Pro European Network, an organization where Alumni from the Professional Exchange Programs are in strategic planning and one of the main topics is Community Organizing.

Antoaneta is a very active person – she likes hiking, jogging, fitness, dancing salsa and Zumba. She is open minded and a friendly person.

She speaks English, Greek and little bit of Russian and German languages. Currently she is taking French language courses. Antoaneta will be doing her internship at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (Chicago). 

Testimonies from Bulgaria

Nevena Pashova – Sofia, Bulgaria
Internship with Pioneer Valley Project, Springfield, Massachusetts 

BU_Nevena Pashova„The experience in the USA is a lifetime experience for me. I saw the difference between the people here and the people in Europe in the positive way. I have had the most incredible and inspiring host family, host organization and colleagues. The time spent in the USA helped me develop myself in a professional, personal and cultural way. I’ve learned about the power and that the power is based on the relationships between the people in the community. It is always with the community and for the community; it is not about the individual person, but for the power of the whole community. Thank you very much for this great opportunity!”

Dilyana Gyurova – Sofia, Bulgaria
Internship with the Seed House, Wichita, Kansas

diliyana“Community Organizing was a brand new concept for me, when I arrived to the U.S. about a month and a half ago. Now, after having had some short but intense sessions with the many mentors, activists and other resource people that the Professional Fellows Program connected us with, but mostly after having experienced it myself during the fellowship in Wichita, Kansas, I can honestly say that I have my own understanding of what Community Organizing is.
The experience in the field was the one that helped me a lot to reach that – I really enjoyed door-knocking, but even more the whole process of planning, conducting and disseminating campaigns. I would like to finish with an example that was brought to me by my wonderful host, Laura Dungan, who told me about her work with Shel Trapp, an example that best underlines the concept of Organizing that I perceived – in one of his books Trapp is photographed from the back on purpose, because it is not the organizer, but the people who are the ones that matter.”

Kirilka Angelova – Yakoruda, Bulgaria
Internship with Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Chicago, Illinois

Kika“I found this fellowship to be a life and work experience. To engage and to involve, to see how people organized themselves for a better life, to see the people power, to feel the truly engagement of the community leaders, to understand more about USA life, to see all this amazing places, to have wonderful time with the group and all people who I met since I am here – great people, professionals and community organizers – this is priceless. I found all the programs very inspiring and interesting. I am very grateful and satisfied. This was a life-changing experience in a good way and of course a great opportunity. Thank you very much! It is never about us, it is about the community! With all my respect”

Ivana Raposova – fellow from Slovakia

Ivana Raposova
Bratislava, Slovakia 

Ivana Raposova works as a Junior Research Fellow in the Centre for Research of Ethnicity and Culture (CVEK) an independent research institute dealing with the minority issues and minority rights in Slovakia. Ms. Raposova deals with the issues affecting the quality of life of a variety of minorities in Slovakia. She is mostly interested in the situation of Roma and migrants.

Ms. Raposova is currently doing a research on good practices in inclusive education at Slovak elementary schools. She also takes part in the campaign “Slovakia for All”, which aims to bring together minority community leaders and human rights activists across Slovakia and help them to find the common ground, unite and strengthen their voice. It is precisely this latter activity that she incorporated into her pre-departure activities, and in which Ms. Raposova could benefit tremendously from the GLC training later on, as the minority communities in Slovakia are generally politically, as well as publicly, underrepresented and very fragmented.

In the past, Ms. Raposova used to be a youth leader working actively with the group of children and young adults in YMCA. She used to organize regular meetings, trips, summer camps, as well as the trainings for other youth workers. In 2013, she spent 4 months in Nepal teaching English in the rural community school. During her volunteer years, Ms. Raposova has attended several trainings in leadership, youth work and experiential education. However, she has not had a chance to participate at a training focused specifically on community organizing. Given her current occupation and interests, this competence can be crucial for her future work with the minorities in Slovakia.

Bratislava, Slovakia

By education Ms. Raposova is a Sociologist. She has acquired her Master’s Degree from the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, where she is currently persuing her Ph.D. As a part of her studies Ms. Raposova spent one semester at the Bosporus University in Istanbul, Turkey. Her current research interest is directed towards community urban festivals as means of overcoming social tensions and creating inclusive common places. She prefers ethnographic qualitative methods trying to understand the perspective of the people. She speaks English, German and Czech.

Ms. Raposova has been to the United States already three times, always working during the summer through the “Work and Travel program”. She always loves coming back and discovering new and deeper layers of the complex and diverse American society. She would like to use the opportunity to visit the States once more to acquire a better understanding of the American civil society, especially how the NGOs operate and how the community work is being done.

Charlottesville, VirginiaMs. Raposova would prefer to work with migrants, refugees, Romas and youth. The acquired knowledge and skills she would like to use in order to professionalize her own work with the minority communities and their representatives. She possess strong organizational skills; she has a team-player soul, and she has a passion for education, both, as an educator, as well as a constant learner.

In her free time Ms. Raposova loves travelling, getting to know new cultures and cuisines, doing yoga or jogging. She is vegetarian trying to avoid the dairy products.

Ivana will have her internship at Virginia Organizing (Charlottesville, Virginia) together with the fellows Peter Petek and Cristinela Ionescu

Maria Magdalena Ilie – fellow from Romania

Maria Magdalena Ilie

Bucharest, Romania

Maria Magdalena Ilie works as a Social Program Coordinator in the business sector, being responsible with the development of the social department of the company and Corporate Social Responsibility-CSR related activities. She is also working in a Romanian national NGO, where she holds the position as President (The Romanian Association for Community Support and Initiative). The NGO is focusing on community work and the development of grass-roots organizations and local initiative groups.

Part of this activity is working with a local NGO (The Saint Stephen Association). This NGO focuses on a disadvantaged community and serves a number of over 100 persons per month delivering social services through a large spectrum of social services from Day Center to awareness programs on specific issues identified in the community. Ms. Ilie’s role is to engage with the youth and develop social services starting from the needs identified by them and related with their minority background. There is a large number of Roma youngsters who experience exclusion, bulling, marginalization and these are directly influencing their performances in school and also their participation in the community. Ms. Ilie’s main goal is to give these youngsters o voice and a way of expressing, integrating and activate in their community and society.

Memorial of Rebirth,Bucharest, Romania
photo: Nico Trinkhaus

With over 10 years experience in the NGO field, Ms. Ilie accomplished a lot in the field of inclusion and community work facilitating the access and participation of different vulnerable groups, such as: people with disabilities, unemployed, youth, Roma, seniors, prisoners, etc. She was key expert in a number of European Strategic Projects implemented in Romania in partnerships with other organizations from Austria, Germany, Hungary and Republic of Moldova. She also was engaged in organizing and coordination of large awareness events and professional gatherings (e.g. The International Conference in Social Work, 2010, The South-East Conference in Social Work, 2009), but also smaller community events focusing on specific issues (e.g. Christmas Fair – fundraising and community participation event – December, 2014).

Ms. Ilie was the youth leader of the Romanian group in an exchange program and united 5 countries and more than 20 youngsters in a multicultural environment, involving the teams in promoting human values as: acceptance, leadership and positive engagement.

Ms. Ilie has a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology and Community Development at the Bucharest University, Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, and numbers of trainings in the field of project coordination, training of trainers and volunteer work with minority groups (e.g. Roma community and youth with disabilities). The most notable experience was being a volunteer in Ireland, Dublin and working with a community of travelers from Finglas community a disadvantaged area from Dublin 15 district.

Ms. Ilie is proficient in English. She has developed a platform in English, where she is writing about social change and social activism with powerful global impact (

Ms. Ilie strongly believes in the community role of addressing and solving the most pressure problems, and this is her strongest point in wanting to participate in the fellowship program. She believes in practice work and models and empowerment that come from the people who deal with the same problem.

Chicago, IL

Ms. Ilie visited the United States before as a tourist. She never had the chance to see how the people deal with real issues and how the organizations and institutions get involved and help them solve the problems. She believes that this could be the appropriate model in engaging stakeholders in Romania. The U.S. government did not support her previous visit to the U.S.

There are few local opportunities for Roma youngsters. She believes that the U.S. organizations could provide best practice models and interaction with professionals from this field in order to apply and develop programs aimed to encourage and increase youth participation. Her focus is on designing and developing programs for Roma youngsters. The group she is addressing during her fieldwork in Romania is a group of youngsters who experience specific issues related with xenophobia, bullying, and exclusion. Ms. Ilie has a long-term involvement in this community, as this is also part of the work with the local organization she is supporting in developing social services, through trainings, fundraising activities and capacity building activities.

Ms. Ilie is very involved in outdoor and educational activities for children, as a parent. She is taking piano lessons, as she enjoys music. She also is interested in multicultural communication, organizational development and self-development.

Maria Magdalena will have her internship at Jane Addams Senior Caucus (Chicago)