When Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, thousands of revellers celebrated on Sofia’s streets and there were high hopes for the nation’s future.
Sadly, over a decade later, Bulgaria remains the poorest of the EU nations, with 35% of the population living in poverty. Corruption, a weak judiciary and organised crime continue to hold the country back and hamper its economic prospects. The Centre for the Study of Democracy found that corruption in Bulgaria is at least three times higher than the EU average, with 150,000 bribes paid every month, across all sections of society.
The risk of poverty is much higher in rural areas and among the unemployed, but in-work poverty is also high. The average annual wage in Bulgaria was 1,949 euros in 2013 – the lowest in the EU. Life is often toughest among the Roma population, 40% of whom live below the poverty line. They face severe social and economic disadvantages, as well as widespread discrimination, with even the deputy prime minister convicted of hate speech in 2017.
We work with families in southern Bulgaria, in Gotse Delchev and Krupnik and nearby villages, including many Roma, supporting them towards self-sufficiency. We provide educational and emotional support to vulnerable children in the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty.
In Sofia, there are many homeless people who have fallen through the cracks. Here we demonstrate the love of Christ through hot meals, shoes, clothes, medical care and sharing the gospel.