By Veronika Galeva
Single Step, the first successful LGBTI foundation in a ‘communist hungover ‘country such as Bulgaria, founded by Ivan Dimov.
After living in the USA for 25 years, Ivan Dimov decides to return to his country on a vacation. On a night out he met a troubled teenage boy, who wanted to share his story. He told Ivan that he came out to his mother, expecting her to help him, but instead she took him to a psychiatrist who told him that she can cure his illness. The boy ran away from home and tried to commit suicide. ‘To say that his story stunned me would be an understatement. I wanted to know what kids like him do in situation like this’, Ivan shared. After the encounter he decided that it’s time for a change, so he returned back to Bulgaria, where he established Single Step. ‘In the USA charity is related to sports, so to start the foundation I ran 12 marathons, 42 km each, in 12 weeks in order to raise money. The next challenge was to complete 10 000 repetitions of pull ups, push-ups and squats, which took me 15 hours’.
Single Step was established in 2017. The foundation launched an online support chat for LGBTI youth and their parents. The chat opened on 23rd October and since then it has had hundreds of users seeking help or advice. It is operated by trained volunteers. ‘On our team we even have a psychologist, who graduated in England, and supervises the volunteers. She reached out to us in the very beginning and was eager to become an active part of the foundation’, explains Ivan. In February the foundation plans to launch a hot line for parents, more specifically for mothers because in most cases they are the first to know if their child belongs to this community. Currently Single Step is working on establishing a community center, which will provide personal and group consultations, support groups, and social and cultural events.’We strongly believe that the time for closed communities has passed. If you truly want to change something you have to work with everyone.’
After being asked why Bulgaria needs such foundation, Ivan simply replied: ‘There’s a part of the Bulgarian youth that has only two alternatives when it comes to their future- either they hide their true identities or they do whatever it takes to leave the country, in search for better life without hiding. Besides there’s obvious homophobia in Bulgaria, but the greater issue for me is the ignorance. Our approach is to share personal stories because I truly believe in the power of personal example.’
Moreover, Single Step is a participant in a competition, held by the Swedish foundation Reach For Change, in partnership with the Bulgarian television- Nova TV. Among 204 different candidates Single Step is in the final five. ‘Personally, this is a big achievement for us because it shows that a mainstream media such as Nova TV takes us seriously and supports us’. The next round of the competition is online and it ends on 5th February. People from all over the globe are able to vote for their favourite one. ‘It is important to me to win because as an athlete competition is in my veins.’[he laughs] ‘No but seriously, it’s about time we stop pretending that the problem does not exist, because it does, and there are many people struggling.’
You can support Single Step on the link bellow: