Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

- In Europa Zu Hause [DE]
- L'Europe Chez Soi [FR]
- At Home in Europe [EN]
- In Europa Thuis [NL]

Friday, February 01, 2008

Bulgaria: Children's Homes and Local libraries

Children abuse and neglect

Back in Brussels, yesterday night, I set foot in a country, shaken by the reporting (originally by the English BBC, and reissued by the Flemish-language public TV) about one of the Bulgarian "orphanages",where not only poor orphans, but also children with a mental handicap and children from criminal families are being stowed away, subject to abuses and neglect.
The Bulgarian children's home in question happens to be located in the region I visited last week. Like a number of similar ones, it is located in a village or small town. Many children are of Rom (Tzigan)origin.
(Derelict apartment buildings in NE Plovdiv, central Bulgaria - the families of the abanoned children live in houses like those)

I do not know, if the situation was better before the year1989, when In Romania (where the same scandal existed) and in Bulgaria the state-controlled system was replaced by rather rude configurations of capitalism. The Bulgarian "home" in question is located in the southern part, at the feet of the Rhodopes Mountains. Ethnic and cultural minorities live there together.
A small economic upsurge is going on in the region,because of growing tourism and of settling of Western Europeans, who buy properties (very cheaply) there. More and more, the (changing)local population is becoming outraged at those scandalous institutions in their midst. I saw the arrestation of a monitor of one of those homes reported on Bulgarian television. The man was accused of sexual abuse of little Rom girls. I think, that there is some hope, that the combination of foreign and national outrage will help, to do away with the scandal. A Belgian Government delegation is visiting Bulgaria and the homes at this moment. Tonight Bulgarian TV showed the Belgians being received in a model institution, that has nothing in common with the home the reporting was about. (Thanks for the tip to my Plovdiv friends).

What the local libraries could do
Another reason, why I am talking about this, is, that we had to say "no" to an eventual participation of the local libraries system in that Bulgarian region within the network I was speaking of in the preceding Log. The reason for that is possibly as sad as the children's home scandal is. The local library system is so under-equipped, that it should first be helped to put up some very basic infrastructure and training. Only then, could it think of developing the skills and the methods the Network is about. There is not enough staff and they are underpaid. The staff get training in software, but there is virtually no hardware and no internet.

Why is there a link between bad care for marginalized children, located in poor regions, and local libraries? That is what I intend to explain to some local librarians, colleagues of the Bulgarian ones, here in Belgium. It runs like this:

Regenerating communities is done by a transversal approach. Why? It is easy to figure out: If, for instance, you renovate the apartment buildings, after one year they will be again in a bad state, if you do not do something, at the same time,about unemployment, schools, etc. If children are not well fed, if they remain constrained to their beds the whole day long, better schools will not help. Programmes by the local library will help the people concerned, to see these connections. It is not (only) a police or a criminal matter. Ethnic and racial prejudices could block efforts to find solutions. That is why a four-year programme for equipping local cultural centers and their librarians with the tools to do their work, is one of the essential transversal measures to be taken.

My second trip to eastern Europe has left me with at least two huge tasks here in Brussels.

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