We work in two villages in Bulgaria, Tulovo and Tahza, both located near the city of Stara Zagora in Central Bulgaria at the foothills of the Balkan Mountains and both facing similar issues within their communities. Tulovo and Tahza each have a population of roughly 1,500 people, with a nearly even split between Bulgarian residents and Roma residents. The Roma people are primarily living in sequestered ghetto neighborhoods, apart from Bulgarians. Many people depend on agriculture for their livelihood, growing lavender, raspberries, and oil-bearing roses. The Roma population often works in menial services such as sweeping sidewalks or hauling trash if not employed in the agricultural industry. There is a great ethnic divide between Bulgarians and the Roma, and even if the conflict is not overt, there are issues of racism and prejudice that keep the populations from integrating and building strong relationships. The only evangelical churches that exist in these communities are in the Roma neighborhoods and the Bulgarians are either completely unchurched or nominally affiliated with a small Orthodox church in town.
Another issue the communities face is a lack of good education. The local schools provide a mediocre education at best, and most Bulgarian families send their children to schools in larger neighboring towns. Student and parent apathy is prevalent because few people see a need for education. Classes are held in Bulgarian so the Roma population can only attend school if they learn Bulgarian as a second language. Our ministry in both communities has an emphasis on children at risk and reconciliation between the two ethnic groups.
We see potential in both communities for an Education Specialist to join the ministry, working to encourage and motivate teachers toward excellence and improve the learning atmosphere and level of education of the children. We would like to begin teaching English conversation classes in the local elementary school to help both the staff and students. Our vision is that this will also improve the relationship between the school staff and Roma families in the community. There is also ample opportunity to teach English classes or provide English tutoring for Bulgarians in the villages, who recognize that a knowledge of English brings more job opportunities.
Applicants need to come with training in education, and specifically TESL or ESL training/background. A passion for education and the opportunities it brings is important. Experience leading small groups, teaching Sunday School, and working with children would be a good foundation. Patience, creativity and the ability to use a variety of methods and visual aides in instruction are helpful with the residents in this rural and economically challenged location.