Concordia is an Austrian social project, active in Bulgaria since the winter 2008/09. The foundation also works in Romania since 1991, and Moldova since 2003. The Concordia center in Sofia hosts about 87 inmates, all under 18. The staff are Austrians, Bulgarian employees, and volunteers. The inmates get food, housing and counselling. The center also works with homeless people living in the streets, offering food, and welcoming lunch guest if there is food left after the imates ate. Many clients are drug addicts, but no drugs are allowed in the center.
I spoke some words about their work with Sabine, one of the Austrian staff who has been working in Sofia since this summer, and by now by far outshines me in Bulgarian. She tells me she loves the Bulgarian nature, but finds that society, especially the bureacracy has kept many communistic sides. But the biggest impression is probably the great differences - poverty next to luxury.
A table tennis game at Concordia
Concordia is a Jesuit movement, and Sabine reassures that the social work gets a different depth when it is based on the spiritual believes. But she tells me that Bulgaria strikes her as a "very secular" country. Especially elder people surpise her with not knowing about religion. "We do have a morning service, and I wouldn't say that it attracts the masses. But it seems like those who come are happy about it." Concordia does not cooperate with other churches i Sofia, orthodox or protestant. Sabine says that it will take time to build up that kind of relationships and that Concordia try to be modest in stating their spirituality.
What about the EU? Does the membership bring any improvement to the poorest Bulgarians? Maybe. Maybe a little. The EU membership forces Bulgaria to modernize in a number of ways, and with the membership comes foreign investment, creating jobs. But in Concordia's daily work the differents are slight. Concordia is also not reliant on any funding from the European Union, only private donors.
Concordia's website: http://www.concordia.co.at