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Sep 30, 2011

Life-skills program: September 2011 update

Sofia group working on their book
Sofia group working on their book

Dear Friends,

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!

Best,

Step for Bulgaria management team  

Sofia youth presenting their book
Sofia youth presenting their book
Berkovitsa group getting ready at the final even
Berkovitsa group getting ready at the final even
Practicing team work
Practicing team work
Plovdeiv group presnting their Tourist guide
Plovdeiv group presnting their Tourist guide
Jun 20, 2011

Summer Academy: June 2011 Report

Dear All,

Over the past few months we have been working hard with ~50 children living without parental care in four Bulgarian cities (Sofia, Plovdiv, Berkovitsa and Varna) to make sure they complete successfully our yearlong life-skills education program. In the meantime, we have also been thinking of the best way to re-format our Summer Academy program in order to maximize the impact on the participating youths’ preparation for independent life given the limited resources we have. After much consideration of various options, the Step for Bulgaria management team decided to pilot this summer a new format of our Summer Academy that would provide our target group of teenagers with hands-on professional experience. The new format will consist of:

1.       Two three-day long motivational sessions to help the youth develop professional attitudes and understanding of employers’ essential expectations: responsibility, ownership, honesty and reliability. In addition, we’ll be fostering a sense of community among the group.

2.       A 2-3 week internship for each student at one employer, which will require of them to go to work every day, complete tasks at different functions of the organization, and meet their employer’s expectations. Each teenager will be paired with a volunteer mentor, who would check on the intern at the end of each work-day to make sure the kid is learning what it takes to be a good employee and a respected colleague. Mentors will be there to support both the intern and their employer in setting and living up to their mutual expectations.

3.       If needed, several weeks of additional vocational training depending on the needs of each student.

4.       We would also like to provide the participating youth with English lessons, as they all recognize the importance of speaking fluently this international language. We’ll do our best to provide a volunteer teacher who could teach them every day after work.

We’ve so far selected 10 teenagers of age 16 and above (from Sofia, Plovdiv and Berkovitsa) who we believe will be able to match employer expectations and take seriously their internship this summer. Their professional interests vary from cooking and bar tending to theater acting and sports. We’ll do our best to identify appropriate internships and vocational trainings for each. Based on the results and impact we see on their development this summer, we intend to expand the re-formatted Summer Academy to more children next year.  

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, including the Summer Academy, 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!

Best,

Step for Bulgaria management team  

Jun 20, 2011

Life-skills program: June 2011 update

Dear All,

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!

Best,

Step for Bulgaria management team  

 
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