November 21, 2019

Making Sofia green again

In the picture Diana Totinska, HoodTransformers, in Sofia.

A great community beautification project, called HoodTransformers, is taking place in Sofia, Bulgaria, co-initiated by a former Diplomat Magazine Team member, Diana Totinska.

HoodTransformers started as a citizen initiative aiming to encourage locals to take care of the public spaces and the neighbourhoods around their homes and offices. Some of the activities of the association include planting flowers and plants in concrete planter boxes around the city streets, clean-up events, raising awareness and sensitivity regarding dirt and litter pollution, cleaning graffiti tags and hate speech from buildings considered as cultural heritage.

HoodTransformers in Sofia.

They also publish on their website easy DIY handbooks and ideas, guidebooks and good case practices on how to beautify the look of their neighbourhoods. Through their activities, the people behind HoodTransformers strive to change the locals’ attitudes towards public spaces and contradict the perception that people from post-Soviet states inherit the lack of social responsibility regarding common spaces.

Their latest campaign #PlantMe inspires people to plant more flowers and plants on the city streets, in the green spaces and around residential areas, especially in those empty concrete planter boxes which the city is full of. The planters are considered property of the municipalities but due to lack of funding and pubic littering, they are left on the streets full of dirt, cigarette butts and dead plants.

Here is where HoodTransformers steps in, encouraging businesses and locals to “adopt” the planter boxes, clean and care for them. The campaign’s goals are to provide more greenery, beatify the streets and improve the appearance of the neighbourhoods, create a sense of community and bring nature back to the city.

Last but not least, through this campaign they hope to raise awareness about the deteriorating condition of bees and other pollinators, who are declining around the world and are especially rare to see in Sofia’s central parts. By providing food and home for them, the participants and the volunteers in the initiative help them come back and thrive in the city.

However, planting only is not enough so the organizers make sure that the flowers and the plants will be taken care of in the future too. „Our strategy includes choosing the most adjustable, drought and cold tolerant plants who are resistant to weather changes but arealso good for bees.Then we make sure to talkto as much people as possible who are living or working in the area where the planting took place and ask them to take care of the plants and water them“– explains Niki Ignatov, one of the two initiators of the project.

“In this way we are spreading awareness and making sure that more people are involved as well as ensuring that our activity is not just a single act of planting but it will have a long-term impact“.

The project founders are two young Bulgarians who had enough of hearing complaints and decided to take things into their hands and do something to change the environment they live in. They believe that Bulgaria has an undeveloped potential to be a great place for living and also tourist paradise and want to take part in improving the image of Bulgaria at home and abroad.

According to Diana, what drives the team forward is summarized by the following quote: “Because loving where you live is just the beginning—it’s about making it better, too”.

For more information you can reach Diana at:  DIDI@HOODTRANSFORMERS.COM

or find them at social media via @HOODTRANSFOMERS

Photography by Diana Totinska.

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