Towards the end of 2012, Step for Bulgaria is closing the year with new thoughts and approaches to helping youth from foster care homes.
Most of the participants in the program are growing older and becoming more focused in their career and life aspirations. Thus, we have been trying to help them the specific skills each one of them needs to be successful in the chosen are of development.
For example, one participant from Plovdiv wants to earn an Engineering Degree and we secured him individual lessons in specific subject areas that will prepare him for the entrance exams of his chosen university. Another couple of participants from Sofia will focus on preparing for the Bulgarian Language and Literature. Several participants have started their driving license courses – a skill required for many careers here in Bulgaria.
Furthermore, we are realizing the power of mentorship and have been working on creating stronger relationships between participants and volunteers.
Our Gabrovo participants are preparing a Christmas celebration to celebrate the year and all that we have done together.
We are also starting to prepare for a Leadership Skills retreat that will happen in Spring 2013. The goal of the retreat will be for the participants to develop leadership skills in the context of outdoor activities. We will update you with further plans.
Thank you again for supporting us! We welcome any suggestions and feedback.
We will continue to keep you updated on our progress and exciting new developments.
The Step for Bulgaria Team
We are more than halfway through our academic year and life skills program. As noted in earlier reports, this year we took action to close the gaps in academic skills mostly all children have in the homes we work with. In December we managed to recruit the help of several very motivated and devoted young men and women whose mission is to help our participating youths in subjects like mathematics, English and Bulgarian. In January our new volunteers started working with the children and we are glad to report that the number of participating youths from the orphanages we work with, has been increasing - if we started with 3-5 youth in some places, now we have 6-10 attending classes.
We've also seen very significant results in terms of academic achievement especially for those youth who are preparing to enter university. Two of our oldest trainees (one is 22 and the other 25) have recently passed successfully their university entry exams. We're very proud of their achievement that shows all the hard work our volunteer Niki put into working with them is paying off manyfold!
In the past three months our discussion topics with the children were centered around caring for one's health. We had some guest speakers who spoke about dental care, STDs and psychological disorders. These are usually on the top of the list of most interesting topics to talk about. As in previous years, we had great turnout and very lively discussions.
From here, we are moving on with our life skills program toward the management module where we discuss topics like budgeting, time planning, soft skill and career planning.
We will continue to keep you updated on our progress and exciting new developments.
Thank you for your support!
We are well under way in our new academic year. Currently we have 45 youths involved in our program that come from four homes for orphaned children in Sofia, Plovdiv, Gabrovo and Berkovitsa. Most of the children have been participating in our program for years now and we also managed to attract new students.
We started the 2011-2012 life skills program in October with topics on building self-esteem, improving communication, conflict resolution and dealing with prejudice. Our participants were very excited about the topics and we had some very lively discussions drawing from the children’s personal experiences.
In October, we introduced a new career development activity to our program led by a professional career advisor. The advisor met with participating children and discussed their career plans and helped them make a checklist of skills they would need and a roadmap to acquire these skills.
Over the years, we noticed that our participants have gaps in very basic academic skills especially in Bulgarian language and mathematics. These gaps are very crucial in their future development as they decrease their chances of higher education, better jobs and a more comfortable living standard. This academic year we decided to take action by providing them with support from professional teachers. In December we began the process of recruiting teachers for all four orphanages we work with. So far we managed to find teachers for the homes in Sofia and Gabrovo. We expect to begin the support lessons toward the end of January.
Our next topic of discussions with our youths will be centered around caring for one’s health, disease prevention and addictions. We will be supported by several doctors and medical students who have been volunteering with us for the last two years.
Thank you for the help and support! We wish you all a very successful, healthy and exciting New Year! Let 2012 bring us all good fortune and lots of good energy to continue doing good to those who need it the most!
Step for Bulgaria volunteer team
The summer is over, and we’re getting ready for another exciting year for our re-vamped full-year educational program teaching life skills to Bulgarian orphans. In the meantime, we wanted to share what we’ve been busy over the past couple of months.
On July 3, 2011, more than 30 orphaned youth from the cities of Plovdiv, Berkovitsa and Sofia came together to present to each other and to our special guests the products of their group work during the Professional Skills module. Each of the three groups had a unique product to present as they had been working with different volunteers in their respective cities to design, plan and execute their own group projects.
As mentioned in our previous report, the Sofia group set a very high bar by creating a book about children living in orphanages. After weeks of hard work and logistical challenges, our Sofia students succeeded in creating the book original (which looks and feels like a real book) – printed in color, with pages stuck and sewn together, and a nice colorful cover. Each group participant presented a different aspect of the process of the book’s creation and engaged their peers from other cities in a discussion about provoking topics in the lives of these underprivileged youth.
The group from Berkovitsa presented a beautifully hand-drawn play script. The play, written by the group, told a beautiful story about the battle between good and evil through metaphoric literary heroes. The youth identified each of the characters in the play with one of the actual students who worked on the play.
Finally, the group from Plovdiv presented their Tourist guide to Plovdiv consisting of a colorful powerpoint presentation and a neat word document, listing all the key sites, historical facts and popular entertainment venues in the city. All of our volunteers and special guests certainly learned a lot about Plovdiv’s history and sights thanks to this presentation.
Due to the financial crisis effect and time and resource constraints, after the end of the training sessions during the school year, we were able to identify internship opportunities for only two of our students (rather than 5 as initially planned). Nevertheless, this was a great learning opportunity as we realized how many legal, administrative and logistical details are involved in providing a meaningful internship opportunity for the underprivileged youth. The challenges we overcame this summer have provided invaluable learning opportunities for helping more youth obtain practical professional experiences next year.
Finally, we’ve been shaping our plans for the new year. We’re currently in the process of identifying new participants for our full-year educational program and recruiting seasoned ones to take a more leading role in the various sessions. We look forward to implementing our upgraded training program which includes sessions with a professional career planning consultant, psychologist and after-school tutoring in Bulgarian language and math. Thanks to the significant amount of grant money we obtained last spring, we’ll be able to provide all of these different resources to 50 orphaned children this year.
Please stay tuned for our next report with more news about the progress of our 2011-2012 life skills training program. Thank you for your continuous support!
Step for Bulgaria management team
Over the past 3 months, we’ve seen some exciting developments at Step for Bulgaria that we wanted to update you on.
1. We have completed our Human Rights training project, funded with the help of the CEE Trust for Civil Society, which covered about 70 teenagers living in orphanages in 6 Bulgarian cities (Sofia, Plovdiv, Berkovitsa, Gabrovo, Silistra and Varna). At the closing events, the participating youth and volunteers presented artwork, computer presentations and public debates demonstrating the new knowledge and experiences they have developed thanks to the 2-month training. Each of you can see some of those in the video produced about the project here. Please spread around the word about it so more people can recognize the importance of supporting underprivileged youth in understanding and knowing how to defend their human rights.
2. We have continued the year-long life skills education program with the last theme for this year: professional skills. On this topic some of our most experienced volunteer trainers are engaging their students from orphanages in Sofia, Berkovitsa and Plovdiv on designing and implementing group projects. Each project has been conceived by the students at each location. The main purpose of the project is to deliver a final product/service and to help the participants develop and practice key professional skills each of them has identified as important for their career orientation and first professional experiences. Given these directions, our students in Sofia have decided to write and publish a book that reveals true facts and experiences of children living without parental care in social institutions. The Plovdiv group has decided to create a tourist guide about Plovdiv. The students in Berkovitsa have been working on a magazine publication. The final products of each group will be presented at a special celebratory event in early July, where we hope to have as a honorary guest the vice-minister of Social Affairs.
The Sofia group has already presented a preview of the book to external audience in early June and has received some very useful feedback. In addition, this helped us connect to a professional publishing house which might be interested in publishing the book. The organizers of the TEDxBG conference have expressed their interest in purchasing several hundred copies of the book to distribute to conference participants next January.
3. As the summer is quickly approaching, we’ve been looking to identify internship opportunities for the most serious and devoted participants in the life-skills program. We’ll aim to finalize internship schedule and plans within the next two weeks, so we can have at least 5 children guaranteed with professional training and exposure this summer. We have already found a placement for one of them, who has started work as an assistant –cook at a seaside hotel thanks to our partners at Trivia Tour.
4. Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers and board members, we have applied for and won a grant from the Bulgarian Foundation: Workshop for Civil Initiatives which will cover 80% of our program costs for next year (~15,000 EUR). We hope we can raise the other 20% with your great help and continuous support.
Thank you all for maintaining your contributions and providing spiritual support when we need them the most! Without you, our work and our students’ personal growth and development as responsible and successful adults would be impossible! Thank you!
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