Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Project 2010

Summer Project 2010 is over but still going on

From 8 to 19 July BHSS, in cooperation with UCCF England and IFES Netherlands ran the Summer Project 2010. It took place in Kazanlak and its theme was “Freedom of Choice: the Role Value Systems Play in Shaping Behaviour”.


The Dutch students arrived on 6 July. After some sightseeing in Sofia they visited the Dutch embassy where they met with the Dutch ambassador Karel van Kesteren. They told him what the theme and goal of our project was and then were able to ask Mr van Kesteren many questions regarding the ambassador’s life and work. Finally the students gave as a gift to him him some Dutch cookies. Trif Trifonov, coordinator of the project, gave the ambassador the Summer Project 2010 T-shirt as a token to remind him of the meeting.

The UCCF students arrived on the following day and the students from both countries had some time to get to know each other and to take some rest before travelliing on the following day. Next day they all traveled by bus to the venue of the project hotel Tonzos, situated in the Balkan mountain range, not far away from the town of Kazanlak. Trif Trifonov led two Orientation sessions on Bulgarian history, present spiritual situation and the Easter Orthodox theology and practice. Jo from the UCCF team led some ice-breaking games.

The Activities

The activities of the SP started on the evening of 9 July with the Official opening ceremony. After some welcoming words and explanation of the goal and the programme, Trif Trifonov gave a talk on “Free to Ask: Why Believe Anything at All”. The other two topics were given later in the programme by Liselot Zuur van Delden, the Dutch team leader (“Free to Choose: Is Jesus the Only Way?”) and David Anthony, the English team leader (“Free from the Matrix: How Can We Find Real Freedom?”). Each team made a presentation of the surveys they had done among students from their own countries on “Personal Position: realities and applicability” and then compared the attitudes to freedom at universities in the three countries. There were four “Freedom and Culture” Multitrack sessions in which each team acquainted the other students with the way the theme of freedom is reflected in their national literature, films, politics, music, etc. Rusi Slavov, Alla Uzhakova and Trif Trifonov were responsible for the Bulgarian multitrack. By reading famous poems and songs about the April uprising, communism and the totalitarian period we showed how highly valued national and personal freedom are in our national history. Dutch and English students learned some important words and phrases, and even performed the songs we sang at the Open Mic Night. The Dutch and English multitrack sessions were also very interesting and helped students get an insight on what attitudes to freedom are in the Netherlands and England .

Besides the three expositions, the other evangelistic components were the three small group sessions. There were 6 small groups, with mixed attendance of Bulgarian, Dutch and English students in each. The three topics “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up”, “Resurrection: life changing or foolish news?” and “Are science and Christianity Incompatible” aimed at discussing how personal freedom could be found by trusting the Biblical witness about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, as well as apologetically remove some barriers Bulgarian students have to accepting the good news. For the first time two of the six groups were led by Bulgarian students. There were many other aspects of the programme that contributed to the whole atmosphere of acceptance and love: the Photo Scavenger Hunt, the sport events (Bulgaria again won the football competition), the dances, the Amazing Race, the water fight, the trips to Koprivstitsa, Sopot, Karlovo, the ostrich farm and Damascena, the social action day, serving at the old people’s house and orphanage, the water park, the Guardian movie watching and discussion, the Open Mic Night, the culture evenings of Bulgaria, England and the Netherlands, the chats till late at night, the “Project Through My Eyes” session at the end of the project…

The Impact

Those students who came for the first time at a BHSS event appreciated the fact that we are discussing spiritual matters since that is not possible at university. They were also touched by the love the Christian students from the three countries demonstrated. One of them said: “Everyone is so open and friendly, so loving that it felt like a different universe. I forgot all my problems and enjoyed every minute of it!” Another one said that he hadn’t expected that ‘everything would be so great here’ and thanked to his friend who had encouraged him to come. Some did not arrive with very high expectations. But they all were challenged to rethink their attitude to ethnic and religious minority groups and overcome their prejudices and feelings leading to discrimination. Students learned that our beliefs and value systems really matter and shape our behaviour, for good or bad. Some found out that some aspects of their beliefs did not match with each other. Through the experience the BHSS student leaders were trained to work better as a team and to are now more confident to put together other events on their own. The organizing committee did an excellent job and learned a lot about running projects as they helped Vanya and Trif Trifonovs in leading some sessions, taking care of the equipment and producing the videos in the last couple of days.


Another important result was the Free Workshops “Free to Express Yourself”. There all the small groups were asked to express through different art forms their conclusions regarding the theme “Freedom of Choice: the role value systems play in shaping behavour”. One group wrote and sang a rap song appealing for freedom for Christian organizations to meet on campus in Bulgaria ; another wrote an open letter to the Bulgarian Minister of Education and the Deans of major universities, asking for the same right of meeting, speech and religious expression. Still another made a video clip using exracts from Bulgarian and European Constitutions which uphold freedom of religion and comparing them with the Bulgarian universities regulations which deny those constitutional rights. Others decided to express all this on posters and paper. We have a quite good collection of ‘expressions’ and will show them to media at the pressconference and to university and educational officials at the follow-up presentations in our countries. This is a pioneer effort so please join us in our prayers that more people will be challenged in their thinking regarding freedom at universities.

And This Is Not All…

Though the activities are over, the project is still going on. In October and November BHSS, UCCF and IFES Netherland will hold follow-up events in order to make a wider circle of people aware of the results and conclusions of the project. A decision is to be made as to whether the three organizations will run a similar project in another of the countries. We are also keen on further developing our link with InterVarsity and run similar events.