2.1 General context
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The history of volunteering is based on the traditional feeling of community (19th 20th Century). After 1944 (heavy state and ideological regulation under the communist regime), volunteering was associated with physical and strenuous work and political propaganda. Despite the long tradition of solidarity and help, the somewhat negative image of volunteering in Bulgaria still prevailed at the beginning of the democratic reforms in the 1990s. The state of volunteering was additionally aggravated by the sharp political changes and difficult socio-economic conditions in the country. The transition to democracy simultaneously brought about the dynamic development of Bulgarian civil society and the non-governmental sector. Despite the existing prejudices, volunteering is a strong feature of the non-governmental sector. Volunteering has become popular among young people who are willing to contribute to the social and economic development of the country. Significant efforts by various stakeholders have been made to enhance the this sector and to promote volunteering in Bulgaria. In 2000s non-profit organisations initiated a variety of activities, particularly for children and young people aiming at raising public awareness about the voluntary sector and positioning a better image of it in the minds of the Bulgarian people. The connection between democratic participation, active citizenship and volunteering is slowly strengthening. Nowadays, voluntary activities are increasing in the fields of environment and culture. In addition, non-profit organisations have increasingly become providers of social services.
In 2006, a number of non-profit organisations, among which the Bulgarian Red Cross, the National Alliance Volunteer Action (NAVA), Lale Foundation and the Bulgarian Non-Profit Law Center (NNPLC) initiated a process for regulation of volunteering and as a result they developed the first draft of a Volunteering Act. This first draft , which is not yet ratified by the Parliament, defines volunteering as an activity outside the scope of statutory employment relationships of an individual, which is performed on voluntary basis and without remuneration in non-profit organisations, local and state institutions.
Later on in 2015, the Ministry of Youth and Sports estabilished a working group for drafting another Volunteering Act. The document was developed and the draft was submitted to the National Assembly for voting and committee discussions. The process was not completed and the draft of the Volunteering Act was frozen at that stage. As of March 2021, there is no effective Volunteering Act in Bulgaria.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports organises yearly an initiative "Volunteer Mission - (Not ImPossible)" dedicated to marking 5 December, the International Volunteer Day. The aim is to promote good examples of young people in Bulgaria who have worked for the benefit of society through. The initiative enjoys great interest among young people and youth organizations.
Article 35 of the Закона за младежта (Youth Act) stipulates that “Youth volunteering shall involve activities for the public good carried out free of pay by young people within the Republic of Bulgaria or in another country, as part of programmes and initiatives with social, youth, or sports agendas or other agendas intended to benefit society”.