On 14-15 April,  in the scope of MATILDE Project, CERMES (Centre for European Refugees, Migration and Ethnic Studies) together with Caritas Harmanli organized a local event in the town of Harmanli, Bulgaria. Guests of the event were invited to take part in a two days series of activities – a policy roundtable and various participatory events.

The roundtable on “Local Development and Innovative Practices of Migration, Mobility, Integration and Inclusion” was held at the Harmanli Cultural Center. The event was a great chance to discuss various viewpoints in relation to TCNs migration and integration in the region as multilevel and multidimensional processes. Innovative and good practices of inclusion and integration were analyzed by the Regional Governor of Haskovo Region, Ms Katya Paneva, representatives of state institutions, four mayors of villages, representatives of the business, civic sector and international organizations, of the schools and academia, as well as the migrant community.  The Bulgarian team shared some of the most interesting findings of the MATILDE research of local and regional development through migration and mobility.

The roundtable continued with an intercultural program moderated by the most famous local sculptor Tamer Halil. Khairi Hamdan, a well-known bilingual poet, writer and translator in Arabic-Bulgarian and Svetlana Nikolova, a poet with a national and international reputation and numerous awards living in Harmanli presented the poetic recital “A Bridge Between Cultures”. As part of the intercultural program, ‘Faces of diversity’ photo exhibition in Harmanli (after two others in Sofia) took place.

The second day continued with a series of participatory events. Special attention was paid to continuing the initiative “Intercultural Gardens As Green Bridges”. The MATILDE team was happy to visit the schools again and to see the flowers and trees planted in the fall flourish under the attentive care of the children and their teachers. Together with the pupils and teachers the Bulgarian team watered the “Intercultural gardens”. The event has been complemented by intercultural programs and very inspirational music, art and dance performances. While spending time together and discussing with schoolmasters and teachers, MATILDE researchers deepened and updated previous interviews with recent and fresh information.

There was also a guided tour on the intercultural history of the architectural pearl of Harmanli, the newly restored historic bridge ‘The humpback bridge”, by the director of the History Museum of Harmanli. After the tour,  an intercultural recital was held at the most symbolic place of memory The White-Legged Spring which inspired one of the most inspiring Bulgarian poems.

The two-day local event has been widely reported in numerous media at local, regional, and national levels, including the Bulgarian News Agency and reportage at the Haskovo regional TV- ЕTV.