more interviews

Byeditor

Atanas Stoyanov, Brussels

  • Hello, tell us about yourself

Hello! My name is Atanas. I am coming from Bulgaria, from a small village in the north, called Kamen. I grew up in a traditional Roma family with a brother and sister. My life in the village was completely different than today. I have to admit that up to my 19 years I have rarely left the borders of Kamen, and going to the nearby city seemed like a whole journey. Although being raised in a little village, I was lucky  to have really motivated and pushing teachers in both primary and secondary schools. My teachers made me believe that I am good in studies. After high-school I became the first Roma from my group to enter university. I graduated Public Administration in the University of Veliko Tarnovo, then I went for a second degree in Primary Pedagogy with English.

  • What motivated you to study?

nasko_3There was a number of reasons for me to study. Firstly, I wanted to prove myself. To prove myself not before my parents, but rather before my society. Both Roma and Bulgarians find it unusual to have Roma in universities and I wanted to prove them wrong. Another reason is that being 19 already I wanted to become an independent person having own life away from home. And I believe these university years helped me to do so. I struggled a lot in terms of financing my education though. If it was not for the Roma Education Fund to help me with scholarship, I would not have made it that far with studies. My voluntary, and later paid, work with Centre Amalipe – the local Roma NGO in Tarnovo – helped me enormously to grow up as a professional. I remember sitting in front of the computer at the age of 19 and looking for the letters on the keyboard. I was comparatively so behind, well that’s not the case anymore.

  • How did you learn English?

Being a pupil in the village meant that I could study Russian and French but not English. Later in university, I started taking courses and then I started studying for becoming a teacher in English: not because I was keen on becoming a teacher, but because of the language. English is the unique way to express yourself so that the world can understand you. And I am more than happy that I am using English for the betterment of the Roma communities in Europe with my job today. The biggest help for me learning English and consequently graduating Master in Public Policy with an American degree, however is another affirmative action, namely the Roma Graduate Preparation program of the Central European University in Budapest. I went to Budapest to study English in a program designed for Roma and the 2 years I spent there are remaining the best in my life – learnt a new language and met professionals from all over the world. In fact, this is where I met my current colleagues from REDI – we studied together.

  • What is your job within REDI?

Within REDI I am having the role of Advocacy and Communications Manager. The organization, thanks to my colleagues who have worked in it before, has grown up to the point when it requires a person to represent it before the Brussels-based institutions and meetings. There is a lot happening in Brussels: meetings concerning entrepreneurship, micro-financing, Roma people in general. I am happy that I am here to voice the position of REDI at the European level.

  • What challenges you and what motivates you in your work for REDI?

The most challenging for me is to constantly update myself on what’s going on in Brussels, but also, as we call it on our jargon, on the ‘ground’. In order to do my job effectively I am constantly communication online with my colleagues from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania. Although I follow the Brussels scene sometimes I receive an e-mail from abroad telling me what events are actually going on here. The information flow is huge and difficult to grasp, I am trying hard though. What motivates me is that for the very first time my team is consisted of 101% Roma who know lots about economics and finances. We are reaching to many entrepreneurs helping them through technical assistance or access to funding to become better off. Of course all the organisations are claiming that make Roma better off, and they do: in a very indirect way though. Some initiate policy reforms, other protests, third help with work on Roma education, health, housing etcetera. What is the most motivating for me is that in REDI we are helping directly Roma entrepreneurs and our funds are envisaged to go straight to the people who want to grow their businesses. In fact we might be the only Roma organisation distributing money directly to individuals and legal entities.

  • What is the thing that you really want to achieve with REDI?

I would really love to be able to lobby for the establishment of a microfinancing mechanism directed solely to Roma people and Roma people are leading it. At this stage this is a bit of chimera but everything is possible, so we are working on this direction.

  • Wish our followers something

I wish to all REDI-followers to be healthy and financially strong! We are here to help for the latter!

Byeditor

Cristina Marian, Macedonia

 

The Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative – REDI is the first ever institution dedicated to facilitate funding for startups and businesses among Roma people. REDI is focusing on catalyzing new approaches to business development and financial inclusion of Roma entrepreneurs in Central Eastern Europe. REDI is led by a group of well-educated and ambitious young Roma. We present their stories. Meet the TEAM!

Hello, tell us few things about you:

Hi! I am Cristina Marian. I was born in Chisinau, Moldova. I hold an (LLM) degree in Human Rights from Central European University and in Business Law from Moldova State University. I was a fellow with the Roma Initiatives Office at the Open Society Foundation developing the first two Roma lawyers associations in Romania and Macedonia and a legal fellow with the Open Society Justice Initiative, working with the legal empowerment, legal clinics, litigation and advocacy teams. Between 2007 and 2011, I co-ordinated the Human Rights department at the Roma National Center in Chisinau, Moldova. I am a board member of the Forum of European Roma Young People (FERYP) since 2011 and I have co-ordinated the Roma Students’ Initiative, organizing the 3rd Barvalipe Roma Pride Summer School in August 2013. I was a member of the Advisory Council on Youth with the Council of Europe between 2015-2017.

What is your role in REDI?

I am a Youth Program Manager in REDI. My role is establish a program aiming to train young Roma on social entrepreneurship and develop their skills so they become powerful agents of change, taking control of their own lives. As an outcome, they will be able to set-up their own business, be better equipped to find a job, use their new skills and network to mentor and coach existing entrepreneurs in Roma communities.

What challenges you and what motivates you in your work for REDI?

 

Cristina Marian 1In the last ten years, I have been working on Roma rights issues, helping the Roma in the communities to fight for their rights and restore justice in cases of human rights abuses. I also worked a lot on empowering the young Roma by developing projects on strengthening their identity, activism and commitment to the Roma cause. What I understood throughout these years is that until the Roma community will not grow economically and will not gain its own capital, our fight against discrimination and human rights abuses will take long. In many cases discrimination is linked to poverty. I hope REDI can address both discrimination and poverty through its work and in a long term contribute to bringing social justice for Roma and eradicate inequalities in our societies.

My opinion about community development is strongly connected to the idea that when a community is advancing economically then it can progress in other fields as well. The economic growth has a direct impact over the life of people in communities. In most of the cases, Roma lack the knowledge, skills and connections to build and develop their own businesses or are denied loans, credits. Thus, through the initiative proposed by REDI, I would be more than happy to help my peers in the Roma communities grow a generation of entrepreneurs and create their own businesses.

 

 

 

Byeditor

Asen Karagyozov, REDI Bulgaria

My Dream is to Have a Roma Financial Institution

The Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative – REDI is the first ever institution dedicated to facilitate funding for startups and businesses among Roma people. REDI is focusing on catalyzing new approaches to business development and financial inclusion of Roma entrepreneurs in Central Eastern Europe. REDI is led by a group of well-educated and ambitious young Roma. We present their stories. Meet the TEAM!
Asen Karagyozov – REDI Business Facilitator, Bulgaria

Hello, tell us about yourself
Hello, my name is Asen Karagyozov. I am from Bulgaria. I was born and I live in Plovdiv, one of the most beautiful cities here with a very rich history. I am married with two children. I am working as an Executive Director of the Roma Youth Club Stolipinovo and I am a Business Facilitator of REDi Bulgaria. I am working in the NGO field since 1997 as my father created the first Roma NGO in 1992. I can tell that I am the only one from three brothers who followed the steps of our father. I hold a Master degree in Management and Psychology.

What motivated you to study?
My first motivation came from the side of my father. He graduated university at the age of 45. My father studied Social Work. At the age of 50, he became a Master in Applied Psychology. He is the first ever Roma in the neighborhood who managed to achieve Bachelor and Master degrees. He also managed to inspire his team, including me, to become university students.
Another motivation of mine are my numerous meetings with young people from all over the country. Everyone was talking about education at that time. In 2005, I started seriously thinking about my development and my position within the non-governmental organization. In 2005, I enrolled myself into BA course in Business Administration. I was the only Rom in the group. The insults of colleagues and professors towards the Roma Group motivated me even more to continue my education and to get a Master.

What is your job within REDI?

I am a Business Facilitator with REDI Bulgaria. I am working for the Program since its very beginning. My work as Facilitator allows me to meet Roma entrepreneurs in Bulgaria. I am presenting the opportunities we provide before Roma communities and I am discovering people, who would like to start their own business but who do not a starting point. My job is to provide finances and advise to people who need to develop their own business.
What challenges you and what motivates you in your work for REDI?

Asen_Karagyozov_1In 1997, I was the Program Coordinator of ‘Land – source of income, pilot phase’. This Program was directed towards disadvantaged Roma families. This program was giving Roma access to finances so they can work on their lands. After the realization of their production, involved Roma were able to return the loans. This program so far proved to be one of the best working programs ever implemented for Roma communities.
My challenge and my motivation to work with REDI now comes from the fact that REDI is almost the same program I worked for before. Moreover, REDI builds on the previous program and exceeds its beneficiaries. This is my dream to have a Roma financial institution that supports with finances Roma families. After realization of their production, these families are able to pay the loan back. I can see this happening!

What is the thing that you really want to achieve with REDI?

As I mentioned above, I want there to be a Roma financial institution that gives Roma opportunities to develop business. I want that the REDI Program give more opportunities to Roma farmers so that they are equal players on the market. I want that Roma families have access to finances. It is very difficult to get a loan from a bank in Bulgaria if you are Roma.
Wish our followers something
I would like to wish lots of success and development to the REDI Program! Lots of health, happiness and success to the Team and the Entrepreneurs involved!

 

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