Volunteering in Bulgaria is often exploited by using people only for logistical tasks such as arranging venues or carrying materials. A volunteer always starts an initiative with a lot of energy, motivation, and inspiration. Surely, all people that decide to spare time and efforts for a cause they believe in, have certain expectations.
Volunteer work itself brings both direct and indirect benefits. When I choose a certain cause to volunteer for, I seek those that will definitely develop my skills and refine my communication with others. I chose Single Step because I know that everything the organization and its volunteers create and do, is important.
You realize exactly how important it is in different everyday moments:
- When you are in the university and read a text, in which the only argumentation that a homosexual does not equal a pedophile is that pedophiles are sometimes heterosexual
- When you are in a crowded bus and a group of young people starts yelling “gay” and “faggot” as insults, and start pushing each other and laughing, because before them there are a couple of girls
- When during an “experimental” play, they mistake the gender of a girl on the front row and continue to refer to her as a man
- When people with different sexuality are treated as a “taboo” and “marginalized communities” in your classes, and the mentioning of those terms is only for tabloid purposes and as a sensation
There are so many people that need support, that is as simple as hearing them out and encouraging them. It is unlikely that the majority of the Bulgarian population knows what the people in the LGBTI+ community go through. It is as if this is a separate world, which we don’t acknowledge to be part of the objective reality, and which we treat with indifference and overt neglect. People are people despite the minority groups that they belong to. Humans do not deserve to go through suicide-inclined periods, loneliness, and violence because somebody cannot overcome the stereotypical views. Our perception of the different is completely crooked and forces us to seek the contrasts, even more, when they are not present.
The juxtaposition is only in our minds when in reality we are all interconnected and dependent on each other. As a volunteer, I become more and more aware that people need more information about people in the LGBTI+ community, in order to try to understand and accept them. We are not even talking about tolerance, public defense or activism, we are talking about acceptance and lack of discrimination. It is not difficult to be good to people – if you are attentive towards yourself, you act equally to all other human beings.
This is the idea of the pride parade and the organizations defending the LGBTI+ community. It is not about ostentation or display, but rather about supporting the community, providing information, fighting for equal rights, which only the labels and definitions make unequal, overcoming prejudices, and enabling empathy. As a volunteer, you put yourself in the shoes of another person and listen. You cannot always help but you can always put the effort into hearing out the person. This person trusts you and shares sacred and extremely personal details. You have to be open to this vulnerability. Volunteering in this sphere means that you need to not only connect to the situation but provide a holistic approach. In the end, you just want the other person to feel better as if you are talking to somebody you know, who asked you for advice. You are not playing roles and you are not giving edifying judgments. You are just there, aware and listening. Namely silence and time are what sometimes guides you.
Single Step's volunteers are working on the online support chat everyday between 8 pm and 11 pm.