Photo workshops for Nadejda's children and teenagers

19 June 2023

Action Education and Médecins du Monde Bulgaria ran photo and multimedia workshops for children and young people from the ghettoised district of Nadejda, from 7 to 13 April 2023. These practical workshops brought together around forty participants, who were very enthusiastic about the idea of expressing their point of view on their environment.


Their names are Eva, Anguel, Zdravka, Stefko, Alberta... The youngest is 7, the oldest 15. Camera in hand, they go around their neighbourhood and capture what catches their eye. All from the Nadejda district, they are taking part in a week of introductory photography and video workshops.


Very precarious living conditions

Nadejda is a segregated district of the town of Sliven in Bulgaria. Surrounded by walls and barbed wire, it is linked to the rest of the city by a tunnel that runs under the railway line. The majority of its inhabitants are Roma and live in extremely precarious conditions. 73% of the district's residents have no bathroom or shower, 66% have no toilet and many others have no access to electricity or even drinking water. The children have no safe place to gather and play with each other. They often have no choice but to wander the streets or play on the railway tracks.

Since 2021, Action Education has been working in partnership with Médecins du Monde Bulgaria to develop the POWER projectaimed at empowering the residents of Nadejda. Daily educational and psychosocial activities are carried out with local children and young people.


Expressing yourself through photography

The workshops, designed to be fun, began with a first session aimed at younger children. The children were invited to reappropriate existing photographs by designing and drawing the out-of-frame part of the images. 


drawing and photo of a child during the Nadejda photography workshop

Discussions also took place on the basis of photographs shown to the participants, enabling them to learn how to read images and learn about other cultures. Emphasis was placed on the possibility of expressing oneself through photography. Over the next two days, after a short session on how to use the cameras, participants were given the opportunity to talk about their daily lives.

The outdoor workshops took the children and young people to all the districts of Nadezhda, including the most deprived part to the south. Four Roma communities coexist in Nadezhda ("Turks" in the west, "Musicians" in the north, Gradetski in the east and Vlaho in the south), with tensions between them, adding to the rejection of people who are already highly discriminated against. Some young people were surprised to discover for the first time the living conditions of their neighbours to the south.

One day was devoted to producing a short video in the form of interviews. Several children and young people played the game and asked each other what could be improved in their environment. Two answers frequently came up: improving cleanliness and creating a play area for children.

Nadejda's children in front of a camera

On the final day, participants were invited to pose for a series of portraits, with everyone invited to bring their favourite toy, book or animal.

The first exhibition of the work of Nadejda's children and young people took place in a gallery in the town of Sliven. The young people, who face discrimination on a daily basis, were very proud to see their images exhibited in a prestigious venue.

Petar Malinov, project manager for Médecins du Monde in Bulgaria, explains: "Very often, nobody asks these children what they think about what is happening around them. However, when we do ask them, they are very happy to give us their opinions. It's important to find the right way for each child to express what they think about the world around them. For example, if a child cannot express himself in words, but can do so in photos [...] or in any other artistic way, he will be able to interact more actively with the people around him. [...] They will be able to share what they think about the world around them and find support and interaction from a wider range of people."

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