Organizing the Disability Community: Cultural Differences Between Bulgaria & the United States
Posted on April 26, 2012 by Peter Lasarov
In April, Paraquad had the pleasure of hosting Peter Lazarov, a Citizen’s Legislative Advocacy in Minority Communities Fellow from Bulgaria. Peter is a Chief Coordinator on issues relevant to assisting people with phyisical disabilities. He is also a Health Expert on Public Health and Health Policy to the Movement for National Unity and Salvation.
The cultural differences between USA and Bulgaria are a fact. Here are some of them briefly in accordance with my opinion:
Optimism: It relates to the ability of people to advance professionally and to feel they are socially protected. In my opinion, in Bulgaria unlike USA, these two criteria do not meet the real needs of society for complex reasons. This prevents people from developing their potential and realizing that the state guarantees them a basic but adequate and working social system, which I think is well developed in the USA.
Effective teamwork: American society has clear priorities and long term goals. Each team member knows his exact position and commitments. There is a work discipline and responsibility for the final results. People are active, and they do believe that they are able to resolve problems with joint efforts. These concepts and methods of work are not clearly defined and developed in Bulgaria.
In my opinion these differences may influence in the following ways.
When people have lost their optimism, they do not see a clear sense inthe future and this makes them apathetic and not well organized. This creates some difficulties for these people to be motivated and encouraged to move forward and fight for positive change in their life.
The lack of a good organization and work in a flexible team where everyone has the proper understanding and responsibility as to what depends on him,often causes inefficient use of material and human resources, organizational dispersion of energy, and vague indication and formulation of objectives to be achieved.
On the one hand, these differences are a barrier towards smooth and rapid implementation of new work and ideas taken from the US society, but they challenge the organizers to provoke new thinking and awareness of potential people to participate actively in solving problems relating to their community. Copying a foreign experience does not lead to the same objectives, but the basic ideas and best practices can be used while taking into account our national characteristics in the development of programs and methods of working with people in the community.
Throughout my stay and training at Paraquad, I had the opportunity to see and examine closely new and interesting working methods with disabled people. I realized and looked from a different angle the possibility that people with disabilities can be encouraged and organized to participate actively in solving their own problems in the community. I gained valuable knowledge of topics and issues related to:
- Community organizing
- How to motivate people to be active around policies related to their problems.
- Methods to communicate and establish effective contact and communication with people with disabilities.
- Methods and activities including building legislative support and advocacy, informing and mobilizing grassroots advocates and shaping public policy through the legislative process .
I met very nice and intelligent people at Paraquad. A team of professionals who are really very good and dedicated to their work, working with joint efforts and in an organized manner. They are people with strategic thinking and the power to solve community problems. I am very proud that I had the honor of being a part of this great team! Thank you all for sparing your time for me, sharing your valuable experience and opening my eyes to new possibilities and approaches to working with people with disabilities in Bulgaria. When I am back to my country I will share and develop these experiences in the name of an independent and dignified life for people with disabilities in Bulgaria. I truly hope that we will continue to develop the mutual collaboration between our organizations in the name of our common cause.
Thank you again for everything! A special thanks to Kirsten Dunham, my personal mentor.