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Baba Residence


Baba Residence


Sofia | Bulgaria


Ideas Factory is one of those organizations which, found by chance, answered enthusiastically to our email: “Sure, come, let’s collaborate!” Those few days we spent with them gave us the opportunity to discover their projects and to understand the intentions and passion behind. Among the three main projects organized by Ideas Factory, we got fascinated especially by Baba Residence.

Frederique Mayer: Baba means grandma in Bulgarian. The concept is to put together two very different groups, being young urban people and older rural dwellers. Ideas Factory sends once per year, in September and for the whole month, young people to a few different villages.

The youngsters stay in the houses of older people. Their main task is to listen and collect stories, although meanwhile they also participate in the life of the village, helping with any need.

Yoana Stoyanova: When I participated in the project, before starting to work in Ideas Factory, one of the issues which villagers asked us for was repairing the roof of the church, completely covered by moss. We spent the first week on cleaning, climbing every morning to the roof. And there was always somebody around, some people brought tools, some food, others just worked along with us. That’s how, little by little, we built trust, they saw we came not only for taking something, but also to give. To communicate with each other.

But before this becomes possible there is a long process of preparation, visiting the village, explaining the idea and building trust.

Yoana: Building trust is a very long process. Ideas Factory usually meets with local people much before the project, to explain the idea to the mayor or other key people. Then, next meeting for getting to know the older people and tell them about the meaning of the project, ask for trust and acceptance of hosting others. Then, we also go and participate in specific holidays of this village, helping with different things. And only at the end they decide if they open their doors for young people to come.

At the end of the month the young people spend in the village, they organize an event together, a sort of final check of the quality of the relationship they managed to build. Coming back to the cities, the participants work for a project chosen for the particular village, based on specific needs and ideas.

Militsa Dzhandzhova: My project with the village was about art, we wanted to show new ways of art to 6-10 years old children. They had some programs at school but it was not enough to develop their own skills.

Yoana: This village was actually an exception, usually there are only old people. The projects we choose for them are based on the specific culture of a village. Villages can be so different… some are Catholic, some Muslim… There was one girl in a Muslim village which is still working with her “granny”. At the beginning it was very difficult for her to build a relationship, they didn’t trust her, for example they didn’t want to show her the loom, which they still use for weaving. But at the end they accepted her, taught her how to use it and they started to work together. She is offering them different new designs, collaborating in finding the way to share villagers’ work with other people. She also organized together with Ideas Factory a crowdfunding campaign to record songs sung by women from this village. These are the results we are looking for.

And those results, especially when achieved by people who haven’t been involved in any kind of social activism before, are one of the driving forces of Ideas Factory’s workers.

Yoana: The general idea of all the projects, Baba Residence, but also Social Innovation Challenge or Empatheast, is to connect things which don’t seem similar or relevant to each other. For example people working in administration and offices with creating a social impact. Those people, they also have skills to share, we don’t want to involve only people who already work in the social field.

Ekaterina Leondieva: One of the problems is that people don’t know they can contribute. That’s why we try to communicate to different kinds of people about what we do, so more and more of them can see that there are other ways, not only working for the UN or other huge organizations whose practices are, at the end, questionable. People can do something meaningful, start something by themselves. It’s up to us to make it happen.

Even if making it happen is quite challenging.

Yoana: I think the most important thing is the connection with different people, other generations. Going to villages, streets and talking to people. It’s hard, I’m still learning it, how to build a real connection.

Militsa: It’s crucial to believe you can make a change. Dream about it.

Ekaterina: You need education to help people see the core of the problem.

Frederique: And listen to your heart. Everybody has empathy and the ability to build human relations. Try to find it back. We are all just human at the end.


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