“My dream is to one day be fully integrated.” These are the words of 22-year-old Ivan Borisov, a boy of Roma origin, born and raised in the capital of Bulgaria. You will rarely hear such words spoken by a youth from a vulnerable group. His awareness however, it only complements his ambition to develop.
Ivan graduated from the Professional High School of Textiles and Leather Products, where he strives to excel and achieve good results. His good skills and dexterity lead him to more than one participation in dress presentation contests, he sews and travels a lot in the country, and at some point he even begins to imagine how one day he will do exactly this as a profession.
But at school, Ivan discovers not only his professional vocation, but also his great love. She is 16, he is 17. And unlike most young people their age, who would continue to learn and grow together, they are getting married.
“This is how it is accepted with us, there is no turning back once you have been with the girl, this moment is extremely important from the traditions of the Roma and our parents wanted us to get married,” says Ivan. “I had to stop school and take responsibility for the household, for my wife. I was only in the 9th grade when we got married.” Soon a daughter was born to them.
So Ivan starts working hard. He signed up to study in the evenings so he could make it through his 12-hour shifts. So for 3 years, every day from Monday to Friday, Ivan comes home at 11 pm. Then he gets down to lessons and textbooks. He studies until 5 in the morning and is back at work only after 6. And so until 12th grade.
“I’ve had a thousand reasons to quit and give up, but I haven’t. Because I knew exactly what I was doing and what I wanted to achieve, what I owed to myself and my family. A very large part of my classmates dropped out of class and stopped going to school much earlier, because they are not literate enough and do not know the Bulgarian language well. That was the main reason they couldn’t continue, they didn’t understand the lessons. And I wanted to continue, I had already come this far. At the end, when I saw the diploma in my hands, I cried with happiness, it was just amazing and at the same time even more motivating to continue my education”, says Ivan.
Soon after graduation, the young man saw an ad for free English lessons offered by the Social Alternative Trust Foundation through their First Steps for Professional Development project. At first Ivan didn’t believe it and thought it was some kind of fiction. But he still decides to submit the necessary documents and soon they contact him. “I was very happy because I saw my dreams come true one by one, I also successfully completed the A1 level – and I decided that if the courses continued with higher levels, I would definitely join,” says Ivan. While learning English, in parallel, the boy passes on the English knowledge he has learned to children he knows from a nearby church where he lives.
“Throughout my journey, I have felt the support of my parents. But I am also very grateful to the foundation, and especially to Olya Georgieva. When you fail or lose motivation, it is very important that someone listens to you and gives you the necessary strength to continue, to believe that you can do more,” says the young man.
Now Ivan works as a cook. Very soon he will graduate with a master’s degree in psychology. And what he wishes is to continue not to give up.