This interview was first published in Mladiinfo’s Artcle zone!
Interview done by Emilija Georgievska
Magi Nazer is a 19-year-old girl from Bulgaria with an amazing background in the NGO sector. In fact, I am pretty sure that you would never expect for such a young person to have been to Thailand and Bali. Well, this girl right here definitely breaks the stereotypes we usually have about young people and serves as an example to many people who cannot leave their comfort zones. So let us see how did Magi manage to become what she is today and learn a lesson about how to achieve the goals of our lives.
1. Magi, can you share some background information about yourself? Where do you currently live and what do you do?
Hello, Mladiinfo and thank you for this opportunity to share my story and forward my knowledge! As you have mentioned I am a 19-years old, born and raised in Bulgaria, but with Palestinian origins. I graduated from the National HS for Ancient Languages and Cultures in Sofia in 2012 and I am currently having my gap year prior to going to college and I live in Naples, Italy.
Here I work in a hostel for food and accommodation, a position I found through a website called helpx.net which helps travelers explore different communities through voluntary work in farms and hostels. I aspired to take a gap year ever since 11th grade when I was send to a training for EVS coordinators in France where we explored the benefits (as well as the social constraints) of taking an year off to travel and explore yourself and the world.
My desire to become an EVS volunteer and my inability to find a placement in Italy taught me a valuable lesson that we should not focus on the concrete ways we can achieve something but rather be aware of why we want to do what we want to do and open ourselves for the endless opportunities that there are to make it true.
Now I am very happy with the outcome and I enjoy my time here, organizing workshops and community events in the hostel, writing a book, meeting people, learning to cook and ultimately- being able to practice new skills and habits.
2. For how many years have you been involved in the non-formal education sector and are you part of any youth organization right now?
My dedication to non-formal education grew out of my previous and lasting passion for community service and volunteering. I organized my first fundraising activities when I was about 10 years old to support a local boy who needed surgery. Later on, when I went to study at the Classical lyceum of Bulgaria I found many people who responded passionately to my experiences of helping people. The idea of having an organization which has events year-round started to form and soon I started organizing events in institutions for disadvantaged people (elderly people, kids and youngsters deprived of parental care)on a weekly basis. All of these would not be possible without the involvement of many volunteers as well as many locals who helped us by giving us balloons, chocolates, etc. We were growing and so was the organization. Soon many young people from outside school were also taking part in our actions and we also organized street events as Free Tea and many others to promote volunteering and to try to reach the people and forward our message for more smiles, positivism and acts of kindness among people. Though we regarded all of those events as community service, they all represent non-formal education in its essence as we were learning intensely, sharing thoughts with people from a variety of backgrounds, finding ways to support our projects and inspire others.
One of the most important things I realized along the way was that whenever you help others, you help yourself. This is why in the following years volunteering and non-formal education became part of my everyday life as well as part of my overall °mission° in Life: to assist people in their path of self-development and in their quest for happiness and better possibilities.
3. How was your involvement and dedication in youth projects born? What was the crucial point or decision that led you to this path?
I recently realized that whenever I take part in some practice or I get familiar with some new way of thinking I always have the urge to master it and forward it. When I went to my first youth exchange, I felt so inspired and so empowered that I started to research how to organize youth exchanges through my organization till the very first moment I came back home. I wanted to give the possibility of my friends and fellow volunteers to have such an experience themselves. And that’s how I got enthusiastic about non-formal education. I believe that communication is the most powerful tool towards transformation and this is why whenever I arrive at some understanding for Life and Love I try to share it with as many people as possible. Because when you °invest° in the community, you invest in your own development- everyone is your teacher and everyone challenges you to improve yourself- in one way or another. It is a beautiful cycle.
The first exchange I organized made me face many outstanding challenges. I had to learn to let go of my Ego, to listen more to the others and be sensitive to their needs. I learned that being a leader is not about doing all the work yourself. Rather it is to be aware of the dynamic of the group and of the potential and skills of every individual, so that you can involve everyone as much as possible and thus create a learning experience for all. Plus it is more sustainable. I am still practicing and learning- throughout every project and with the help of all the people I meet.
Currently, I try to improve my Metadance practice- an improvisational dance workshop which aims to help the participants establish a deep and lasting connection between body, soul and mind and lead to new insights.
An amazing opportunity I had which I value tremendously was my job as an informal educator in a school last year when I worked with two student groups. I had Metadance classes with a group of second graders which was very interesting as I did not think that my tools would work with children of this young age, but yet I was glad to see the positive response of the group and to hear some profound insights about the way we communicate with others and experience ourselves in a social context from some 8 years old children. My other group of °Young travellers° aged 13-14 inspired me and challenged me continuously. Trying to motivate them to learn in all possible ways I was bringing travelers to make presentations, organizing field trips, having workshops or discussions on movies and videos with them and I was incredibly happy to see that they valued our time together and they felt very stimulated.
4. And now let us talk about one very interesting fact about you. You have so far visited Thailand and Bali, two exotic destinations that are part of the ‘must see’ list of places of many people. How did these opportunities come about? Can you explain a bit more about the types of events you were part of there?
I learned about both these events through Mladiinfo’s website. Mladiinfo is my favorite youth-friendly internet platform as it gives me the opportunity to get familiar with all new international possibilities for young people within minutes.
I have been a passionate mladiinfo user for more than 2 years now. During this time I got awarded for an article in the mladiinfo article contest and was accepted to two major global events that I learned about from your web site.
The first one was the Global Peace on the move fellowship, organized by the Peace Revolution organization. As a representative of Bulgaria I got the chance to travel to Thailand and partake in a 2-week long meditation retreat at a beautiful island in the middle of the jungle. We used to get up at 5 a.m. for our morning meditation, do yoga, have 3 more hour long meditations guided by actual Thai monks, participate in presentations about Buddhism, Buddhist culture and spiritual leaders as well as to engage in various other activities to purify our minds and learn to control them.
This was a magical and truly life-changing experience which introduced me to amazing individuals from around the Globe and set up the prerequisite for an extensive shift in my perception on life.
The second opportunity that I got was to be a youth delegate of the Global Youth Forum, organized by UNFPA in Bali, Indonesia throughout December 3-6th. This was a historical event which gathered young activists and leaders to discuss challenges which young people face in order to prepare recommendations for the Global community to be implemented in the following years. For me this was the first time I got to think about making social change and improving the state of societies through policy making, so it was definitely an experience which broadened my knowledge in addition to giving me the chance to speak up my mind, make my voice heard and build friendships with other young change makers.
5. My previous question actually leads to the reactions of the environment where you come from regarding your activism. How did your family and friends react when you decided to travel so far from home at an early age? Basically, how are these types of enterprises regarded in the Bulgarian society?
There are always people from both sides- ones who supported me unconditionally and others who simply did not understand it. Many people asked me why I had to travel so far to practice meditation, for example. I realize it is not required by all means, but I like to cite yet another memorable quote which I was told by the monks: “A fish cannot know it is in the water, if it is not taken out of it.” I needed this trip to experience the world in a different way, to feel Peace with my mind and with my body, so that I would know what to aim for back home. But of course the real work is when you have to deal with all your emotions back at home, surrounded by all the people who will challenge you almost every minute of every day, while working or studying and having to deal with the public traffic, noise, pollution. Yet it is a great thing to have had my Thailand experience and my alternative to perceive.
I try to be as authentic as possible and to inspire the others through my example and I am ready to face any reaction, to answer any questions. I make my knowledge available to anyone who is interested and leave them decide whether they want to accept the challenge or not : )
6. A person with such a background must have a specific vision and goal in life? What are you future plans? Do you work on a new project or plan a new trip?
I have realized a few events during my stay here in Naples- a Human Library, a Bulgarian evening and some other local cultural events in coordination with the couchsurfing community here. In the end of March I will be a leader of a youth group and will lead workshops of Metadance at a youth exchange in Portugal which aims to challenge young people to express themselves through arts. After that I will be backpacking around Portugal and Spain, visiting Gran Canaria and doing the ancient pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostella by bike. After that I plan to go home for the summer and get ready for college- I was accepted and given full scholarship to attend Middlebury College in Vermont, USA- number 4 Best Liberal Arts college in the States, where I will be majoring in Psychology and studying Arabic, Gender and sexuality studies and much more!
My aim is to challenge myself constantly and develop myself holistically. To develop educational tools and content empowering young people to be active in their pursuit for self-development, education and better opportunities is the primary goal I have set up for myself.
I think that people do not need any more heroes. What we need to see is that there are people who are willing and succeeding to improve despite all their emotions- good or bad. This is why I am not afraid to open myself for the world and show who I truly am- a person as everyone else, who has hurt himself many times, who is triggered by feelings and responds with spontaneity, but yet tries to do better on a daily basis, putting lots of love into every little action.
I believe in the shared benefits of mutual learning. Sharing is the easiest way we can transform ourselves and the others and the more I practice it, the more I love it! And as a favourite song of mine says: “ We shall lift each other up- higher and higher…”
7. You have already stated that “Mladiinfo” is your favorite internet platform. What kind of message would you send to the youth who uses our website?
Dare to take the first step, to be explorers, to go out of your comfort zones, to challenge yourselves- once you start, you won’t be able to stop- It’s addictive! Open yourselves for Knowledge, Sharing and Love and show the world what you are capable of. Share your stories, listen to others’, keep your positive attitude and immerse yourself in this magical process of constant exchange of ideas, inspiration and good vibes! Life is full of opportunities which are really just waiting for someone to grab them- why shouldn’t that be you?