Growing up in one of the poorest regions in Bulgaria, it might seem that there are only a few directions one’s life could take. Marrying young, having children, staying in a small town, and being close to the family, is where life usually takes you. Moving away from this pattern is hard, and requires great support from one’s family, peers, teachers or from the community. This is a story of a young Roma woman, who grew up being told what her life would look like, but never gave up on her dreams, despite all difficulties she had to face.
For Radostina Kamenova from the town of Montana in Bulgaria, life did not look much different than that pre-set path. Since childhood, she would always dream about what life could be like.
“Being a schoolgirl, I dreamed of working with children. In my teenage years, I danced in the Roma folk ensemble “Sham” and imagined how my little students and I would sing together and learn the rhythms and how I would read them fairy tales”, she shares. “The tradition that exists among the Roma population sets the path for the girls to marry young and become mothers and housewives. This is also how my adult life started”.
After graduating from high school, getting married and having a child, Radostina never gave up on her dream of working with young children.
“At first, my husband and my family did not fully support me, as they thought I am not able to study at the university or work and continue with my duties as a mother, wife and housewife at the same time”, says young Roma woman.
Six years ago Radostina started working at a Family-Consultation Center in Montana. Seeing that work does not interfere with her day-to-day tasks, but mostly realizing how important education is for a person’s growth, Radostina’s husband and family encouraged her to apply to university.
“I admit that four years of university were not easy for me”, she shares. “I had to combine my studies with work and take care of children, but I never gave up on my dream, thanks to my family who supported me the whole time.”
Last year, the representative of a local NGO “Association Stars”, Orlin Orlinov told Radostina Kamenova about the REYN Internships, and that they are a great opportunity for young people from various fields of study. Having this possibility would mean completing an internship in a kindergarten to gain practical experience in the field.
With Orlin’s help, Radostina applied for the internship and got it. She participated in the Program in the summer of 2022 at the kindergarten “Sun” in Montana. Its principal, Natalia Tsvetanova, welcomed two additional interns simultaneously and shared that she was very happy with the opportunity to work with young, motivated people who were amazing role models for the children. In 2022 Radostina Kamenova graduated from the university with a Bachelor in Preschool Pedagogy in English degree and was hired by Ms Tsvetanova as an English teacher, after successfully completing the internship.
The REYN Internship program is an initiative of REYN Bulgaria, hosted by the Trust for Social Achievement Foundation. The program aims to give an opportunity to Roma university students from different fields of study to gain practical experience in working in kindergartens and working with disadvantaged children. The length of the internships is usually between 20 and 50 working days, and they are conducted as a triparty agreement between REYN Bulgaria, a local NGO that supports the interns locally, and a kindergarten that hosts the interns for the duration of the internship.