Each month we will be profiling one of our board members or staff to help you get to know them.
What is your role with SRA?
I am a “learning” volunteer and true believer that rural living holds simple answers to many of the problems that modern men create themselves.
I took part in AGM last September and then went for the European Rural Parliament in the Netherlands. Later in December I went to a cross party working group at Holyrood on the status of European workers in Scotland post Brexit. Next day seminar was on Apprenticeships and Skills Development in Scotland. Finally, it was the Rural Enterprise Roundtable at Scottish Enterprise headquarters, where it was discussed the possible Brexit implications for Scotland’s rural economy and the positive effects of broadband access and speed on the rural economy.
How did you get involved with SRA?
Beginning of the summer, last year, it was time to write my dissertation. On the one hand, I was very moved by the topic of individual and community empowerment, and on the other, the widely questioned role of the Nation State in the postmodernity era. To throw some more in the mix, the last couple of years I also became more concerned with sustainability politics. Rural was coming more and more often as an answer to everything. I read about the LEADER principles for rejuvenation of rural communities, the land buy-outs in Scotland and other such enterprises of local leaders to raise the spirit. So, googling around I found the manifesto of SRA. After reading though it, I felt I had my eureka moment, I thought to myself, this is it, those are my kind of people. So I contacted Fiona, asking if I can get somehow involved. She said yes.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was raised in the small town of Vratsa, Bulgaria. However, my family has always stayed very connected to the countryside. I used to spend my free time with my grandparents in the nearby village. So, we had all kind of fruit trees, garden with veggies, flowers, vineyard and a few chickens. My grandma was a teacher even when retired. When I was born my grandpa retired from the mine and became a beekeeper.
I was nineteen when went away to university. Next four summers I spent in Newport, Rhode Island, on a student work and travel exchange. I loved it for its peaceful surroundings and historic beauty. Every time I returned there, it felt like home. People remembered my name and gave me a welcome hug on the street. Happy days. However, upon graduation from the law school I felt very much obliged to find a job in the legal profession. I started as paralegal in Sofia, only to realise after a year and a half that I do not quite fit into the picture there.
I did a bit more trotting around the globe for about a year, being part of the crew for luxury a cruise line. It helped me save up for my further studies. Then I moved to London. However, in couple of months I was certain big cities do not attract me at all. Luckily, University of Aberdeen had a January intake as well, so after Christmas, I found my way to Scotland.
What’s the best and worst thing about where you live?
Aberdeen feels already like home. I’ve spent here the last 3 years. It is peaceful and beautiful near the beach. Everything is walking distance really. Yet it isn’t rural… I feel I want to have a garden, go for a walk in the woods, pick mushrooms and walnuts in the fall, that kind of thing. I want to be part of a smaller community, where people know their name and life stories.
What do you do in your spare time?
I recently rediscovered my passion for painting. It gets very messy but once I hang it on the wall, it worth the effort. My other thing is astrology, I am so passionate about trying to uncover people consciousness and subconsciousness. I love solving puzzles. Once we know what we are made of, people can accept and empower themselves for whatever they are destined to do. Human psychology fascinates me a lot. Community, as a collective mind, operates in very similar way, once the problem or fear is acknowledged, people can come up with resourceful thinking.
What rural issues are you passionate about?
Well, as someone who is looking to settle in a rural area, I would say job opportunities and diversification of rural businesses is one thing that will make it easier for new comers. And vice versa, people moving to rural areas, have to be somehow eager to engage with the community and entrepreneurial. What can be done in the city that cannot be done in rural setting? Why do we need big glass buildings and polluted air to perform tasks we can do from our kitchen or garden or walking distance places? Indeed, access to broadband here is really crucial, it helps many stay connected with loved ones from other parts of the world. Living in the networked society makes it hard for anything to happen if you are not connected by all means.
Another thing I am passionate about is gardening and good food. Organic local markets can be a big part of rural economies. I wish there were more people having their own fresh produce at their doorstep. Food and gardening is something people should start taking more pride in. It keeps you fit, entertained and fed. Not to mention that it makes you so much more resilient. Also, reduces greatly the plastic packaging used in supermarkets.
What, I love to see are really sustainable and affordable homes with designated gardening areas for everyone that wants to grow their own vegies.
And finally, education. Schools, no matter of what calibre, mixed classes, or alternative forms of study at home, outdoor activities, all these have to be main focus within the family and the community. And the rural setting really gives opportunity for people and generations to get together and learn from one another. Parenting and grandparenting is the most important and accessible job one can do for society, and the smartest investment for the long run.
Closing down services of various kinds in rural areas opens opportunities for new form of enterprises to thrive. Now more and more community hubs are being built to perform important community and social functions. Perhaps this was needed on the first place, namely, getting people under one roof. I like to think of it as a second chance.
Where did you last go on holiday?
I went to Bulgaria, visited my family and finished up some necessary things. Between school and figuring what I want to do in life, I did not think much of holidays. Well, I am going to Majorca next week to see my cousin’s toddlers for first time. It will be my first serious exposure to sun since 2013.
What are some small things that make your day better?
Walk at the beach, chat with a friend, a few tasty and healthy bites. I love inspiring people. If I can make positive impact on someone today, that keeps me warm for long.
What would you say to someone interested in volunteering with SRA?
Just Do It! Everyone I have met had an impact on me. It was a great learning experience about the people of Scotland, those that are passionate about the future of rural communities. I was welcomed warmly and do not have enough words to express my gratitude for the knowledge and insights I gained, the confidence and believe that things can get better. There is always a lot more to learn, but hey, everyone is learning about you, too.