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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Wireless net strides mountains
Students at a Luki school Beeuwkes
Students looking forward to wireless internet access
US Peace Corps Volunteer Christien Beeuwkes writes of her experience of bringing the wireless internet to the small, isolated Bulgarian mountain town of Luki.

There is a proverb in Bulgaria, "zgovorna druzhina planina povdiga", roughly translatable as unity moves mountains. An example of this is about to happen in Bulgaria's central Rhodope mountains.

With the combined efforts and resources of Luki's businesses, school, and municipality, a Peace Corps grant and friends and family in the US, we are installing wireless equipment and raising a radio tower to complete an internet link over the mountaintops.

Click here to tell us if you are involved in a similar project aimed at bridging the digital divide

Luki was established in the 1960s as a mining town. The Rhodopes, rich in lead and zinc ore, supported a population of 8,000 for many years.

Barriers

The industry is now weakening, and Luki is suffering from a loss of money and people. The mountains, once a boon to life here, are now a hindrance.

Mountains of Luki Beeuwkes
Beautiful mountains hindering Luki
My neighbour Magda believes that the internet can rejuvenate the region.

"With internet, you can start enterprises in eco-tourism and agriculture, which will give young people a way to stay and earn a living here," she says.

The municipality will use the internet to research outside funding for community development projects.

A father-son traditional woodworking team hopes to more actively market their sculptures over the web.

Learning English by e-mail

In the school, the biology teacher considers the internet a necessity in modern-day education, and points to the internet addresses in her textbooks as an example.

Another teacher plans to use the internet in an exchange project with Macedonian students. The English teacher will encourage her students to practise their English by sending e-mails to penfriends.

Reciprocally, the world will get a chance to peek into the Rhodopes, which I liken to a neglected chest full of natural and cultural treasures.

Here, you find a dramatic landscape sprinkled with gem-like villages, established over the past 500 years as refuges from the Ottoman Empire.

The oldest Bulgarian traditions were preserved and maintained here, by virtue of the villages' inaccessibility.

Once the wireless link is complete, this remote village will be connected to the modern world. The end result should make it clear to everyone involved that "unity moves mountains".

The internet will virtually move mountains and open Luki to the world.

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See also:

12 Jul 01 | Europe
Ex-King named Bulgarian PM
05 Jul 01 | Europe
Bulgarian ex-King tipped for PM
18 Jun 01 | Europe
Simeon's recipe for change
18 Jun 01 | Europe
Ex-king urged to build coalition
18 Jun 01 | Europe
King who came in from the cold
30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bulgaria
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