Caroline Barrow – Bulgaria (2011) †

MISSION BULGARIA

AGENT: CAROLINE BARROW
I am a sophomore International Studies major with a passion for traveling, learning about new cultures, and hearing people’s stories. I was born in Krasnodar, Russia and adopted by my awesome family when I was three years old. Because of this, I grew up with a curiosity about what it is like to live in different cultures. As long as I can remember, I have had a desire to travel. In addition, since I spent the first three years of my life in an orphanage, I have compassion for people in less fortunate situations, especially those affected by human trafficking. You see I was born in a place where women become trafficking victims and grew up in a place where trafficking victims are frequently brought, Houston, Texas. This is part of the reason I am passionate about ending human trafficking. Last summer, I got an amazing opportunity to travel to four European cities and meet with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) addressing the issue of human trafficking. I learned a ton, but it left me wanting more.

DESTINATION: SOFIA, BULGARIA
Bulgaria is a fascinating, unknown place where Eastern and Western cultures cross. The Cyrillic alphabet was born here when St. Cyril and Methodius introduced Christianity in 864. After that, Bulgaria was under Ottoman Turkish rule for 500 years, which explains why there are nearly one million Muslims. Communism forced industrialization upon this largely agricultural society, and more recently, EU membership has forced Bulgaria to keep up with the rest of Europe. This unique history has created the multi-ethnic state it is today. Even though there are numerous religious and ethnic groups, Bulgaria is the most peaceful Balkan state.

According to an article published in October by a Sofia news agency, Bulgaria is the European Union’s poorest country. The article also reported that the recent economic downturn pushed over sixty million Bulgarians into poverty. Since there is such a tough job market, many choose to leave the country for work. Many who are desperate for work often fall into the hands of traffickers by taking a false job offer. This situation occurs with many Eastern European countries, which is why this region is notorious for trafficking. According to one UNDOC, there are only three state-run shelters for child victims of human trafficking throughout the country even though the International Organization of Migration estimates that 120,000 women and children are trafficked through the Balkans yearly. More must be done.

MISSION: INVESTIGATE ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING INITIATIVES
This summer I will be traveling to Sofia for eight weeks, interning with a missionary who recently started a Bulgarian non-profit (Reef) addressing many social issues, including human trafficking. As is the case with many NGOs, they need more workers to put their ideas into action. I have the incredible opportunity to help them move forward by interning with Reef.

There will be a number of ways I will help them, including meeting with university students to hear their interest in the issue, coordinating awareness campaigns, researching ways to use social networking sites and other media to reach the public, and helping Reef staff with administrative tasks. Additionally, I am excited about the opportunity to teach conversational English, which will be a great way to meet Bulgarians! Much of my time outside of work will be spent drinking coffee or eating dinner with new friends, swapping stories, and hearing learning about the Bulgarian perspective.

During last summer’s travels, I loved meeting different groups and experiencing the different cultures, but it left me with the desire to travel more and get more involved with the anti-trafficking movement.

This summer I am excited to devote eight weeks to experiencing a new culture while doing work that I love.

PROPOSED DATES
Leave Houston week of May 22

  • Flight will have me landing the next day

During my 8 weeks I will:

  • Take Bulgarian language classes twice a week
  • Teach conversational English 3 days a week
  • Work on Reef projects assigned to me
  • Meet with university students and talk with them about trafficking
  • Enjoy coffee & dinner with new friends
  • Enjoy Bulgarian holidays such as Slavic Culture Day on May 24
  • Travel and see the sights such as the Rila Monestary

Leave Bulgaria week of July 17

BUDGET

Flight………………………………..$1,200
Food ($85/wk X 8 wks)…………..$680
Transportation (in country)……..$80
Cellphone (in country)…………….$40
Housing*…………………………………$0
Language Lessons ($70/wk)……$560
Spending Money……………………$250
Total……………………………….$2,810
*I will be living with one of the Reef staff members for free.

Saved Already
George Bush Presidential Library Scholarship………$500
Personal Savings……………………………………………..$500
Subtotal………………………………………………………$1,000
Still Need…………………………………………………..$1,810

Thank you so much for considering my application. I view this trip as a great opportunity. It will help me in discerning how to work with trafficking in the future and open my eyes to another culture, and I am excited to be helping a non-profit that I greatly respect. The timing for this trip could not be better, and I am fortunate that this trip is relatively cheap. I would be greatly honored to receive the Globetrotter Grant put it towards furthering my understanding of human trafficking in Bulgaria.

(February 2011)

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