2015 研究助成 Research Grant Program  /  (A)共同研究助成  (A) Joint Research Grants
(Grant Number)
(Project Title)
Exploring the Art of Living Together in 21st Century Ethnically Diverse Europe: Fostering strong sense of belonging, living in harmony with one another, and integrating refugees
Ivan Botev
Faculty of Regional Development Studies, Toyo University
(Grant Amount)
企画書・概要 (Abstract of Project Proposal)


    Waves of people (one million by 2015, UN) are trying to escape the wars and persecution in the Middle East and Africa by making Europe their new home and the tendency is for this to continue. European countries are unprepared in accommodating these refugees the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in the past decades. 
    Bulgaria, due to its geopolitical location, is the first safe European territory reachable by land. Bulgaria though, has the lowest economy rate in the EU, low birthrate, high mortality rate, aging population and "muscle" and“brain” drains, i.e. the country suffers an enormous demographic crisis. 
    The main aim of our project is to contribute to the integration of refugees, who remain in Bulgaria and to recognize them as a resource, which in long-term will also help solve the existing demographic crisis in the country. The specific goals are increased inclusion and implementation of existing literature and creation of new, specific such in the elementary school curriculum as well as in non-formal educational settings, which fosters a sense of belonging and acceptance of others. 
    The model of this project once it proves successful will be applicable in other multicultural and multiethnic countries, where similar conditions exist.

実施報告書・概要 (Summary of Final Report)

This project, carried out in the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, aimed at rekindling the sense of belonging in people of different ages, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc., in the area. It was also aimed at assisting the newest ethnic minority in the country—that of the newcomers from Syria—to more easily make Bulgaria their new home country and Plovdiv—their new hometown. The acceptance of Syrians, escaping the horrors of war in their homeland and making their way to Bulgaria mainly via Turkey, by other ethnic groups: Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Roma, etc. was also deemed vital by our team and included as one of the main points of this research project.

Two things played an important role during the period of the project: the process of creating the final product and the product itself. The final product to be created was a manual, a “how-to” book, in a picturebook format, which we wanted the local people to produce themselves, along with the assistance of our team. For this purpose we collaborated with a local university, the University of Plovdiv, and mainly with the Department of Ethnology there. With the help of professors and students we visited local communities and talked with representatives there, working with them towards finding the “local treasures”—in history, culture, traditions, architecture, people, nature, etc. The aim was to empower local communities through discussions, workshops, and other activities by helping them rediscover the uniqueness of their hometown, take pride in it, and find ways to use it in their daily lives, and to work together towards improving the problematic areas they find locally. The picturebook format was selected not only because of its simplicity and readers’ familiarity with the genre but also because of the power and depth found in the fusion of images and text.

The final product of this research project, the bilingual guide in a picturebook format, is to be used by local communities in Plovdiv but also in other areas in the country and abroad to help improve local issues by giving general instructions about the necessary steps in how this can be done. How people would use this guide book locally depends on the problems they are trying to solve, their financial and human resources, time frame, etc. The picturebook can help people get together and work toward a common goal, thus fostering members’ sense of belonging both among themselves and in the area. This in turn will help empower local commutes and start local bottom-up movements in improving the local living environment and nurturing ties between people.

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