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Mar 29, 2018

24? Try 50!

Our most recent workshop
Our most recent workshop

Dear supporter,

Our #StepforBulgaria team is excited to share with you the latest news with our ongoing mission to Give lasting 1:1 career advice to 24 at-risk teens!

First of all, thank you for making this project real. Your help allowed us to fully fund the project by February 23rd and begin making an impact with it. You'd be happy to learn: your contribution allowed a total of 50 at-risk teens to receive lasting, individual career advice! Compared to our original target of 24, that means your donation had more than double the impact!

 

Here's how that happened:

As the project approached full funding around the middle of February, our team got in touch with one of the high schools we had held a career workshop at earlier in the year. 170th High school in the town of Novi Iskar was happy to host us again, and we were happy to oblige. So, we began planning for how to introduce 24 at-risk students with their individual career volunteers. We settled to introduce them to each other exactly 1 month after, on the 15th of March.

Luckily, we already knew more or less who we had to look for to prepare. Our previous workshop at the school had allowed us to collect valuable feedback from the students and their teachers, and build a class profile with a ranking of the most desired professional sectors therein. The top 5 sectors were: 1) HR, 2) Journalism, 3) IT, 4) Marketing, and 5) Finance. 

By the numbers, we recruited volunteers from each sector and prepared them for the students the'd be meeting. We coordinated their training with yet another volunteer, an experienced career counselor, who helped us plan out how to use the volunteers' experience and support to help their assigned students lay a foot on the track of their professinal development. So came March 15th and we found ourselves with a group of 6 volunteers, each looking to devote half of their day to individually meet and begin to counsel up to 4 individual students from the school. And boy, were we wrong in our expectations!

More than 50 students ended up showing to the introduction, looking to get to know one of our volunteers. Even if the volunteers didn't represent everyone's interest (just the top 5), the workshop attracted the majority of students grades X through XII by merely giving them the opportunity to talk with a successful professional, individually, as a friend. To give you a better idea, we had students interested in Law come meet our HR specialists!

Of course, the interest also meant that it would be more difficult for our volunteers to meet with everyone individually, so in the end what ended up happening - for this workshop only - was small group work (with teams of up to 4 students). Still, we found a way to provide individual attention - with having the students rotate in between the groups and fill out a personal "Career Darts" (see the gallery bellow), a game we developed with our counselor volunteer to help determine their Interests, Strengths, and Values.

Currently, we are working on analyzing the career darts so as to give each student individual feedback and 2-3 options for career development they can pursue as of this moment, such as job shadowing, internship, scholarship and other opportunities. Next month, on April 26th, we'll return to the school with twice the volunteers to help each of them use the feedback to find and apply for their desired opportunity. And over the summer, we will look forward to their stories of success!

None of the above would have been possible with your support. If you like what we do, please consider donating again to our Fast-Track Career Development for At-Risk Youths project, which will provide the framework for supporting all 50 and more of the same students in the future.

Thanks once more for allowing us to do what we do.

Best regards,

Dancho and the Step for Bulgaria team

Career Darts
Career Darts
What is Marketing?
What is Marketing?
What is Journalism?
What is Journalism?
What is HR (and does it involve laughing)?
What is HR (and does it involve laughing)?
Mar 29, 2018

Transitioning to Evidence-Based Individual Focus

Our most recent career workshop
Our most recent career workshop

Dear supporter,

Our #StepforBulgaria team is excited to share with you the latest news with our ongoing mission to Fast-Track Career Development for At-Risk Youths! 

A lot happened since you last heard fom us. We conducted more workshops, involving both more students and volunteers. We engaged key employers in and around Sofia to help bridge the gap between them and the students. We worked with career counselors to develop an evidence-based approach to work with the students and to prepare our volunteers for conducting that work. We also began making the first steps to share more and more knowledge with the teachers, and are now working on getting the parents involved as well. The work has grown so much so that, in fact, we are currently recruiting among a large pool of applicants for a Career Workshops Consultant to help us be prepared to manage all of it successfully :)

You'll be hearing more in detail about each of the above project-internal initiatives in our subsequent project reports. Before them, we want to tell you about how we have developed the workshops to make them more engaging, focused and effective.

In the gallery below you can see a series of photos illustrating the progression of our workshops from our first one through to our most recent. We've chosen the photos so as to demonstrate how, through time, we have been narrowing down the conversations we're having with the students from classes as big as 70 (1st workshop) to individual or small-group work (2-4 students).

Did narrowed focus mean that we engaged fewer students? No (or we wouldn't be bragging so much about it :)! In fact, in our last workshop, we had timeslots devoted for individual students to come speak with a total of 6 volunteers in HR, Finance, Marketing and Journalism (see photo above). Compared to the ~40 students who previously attended our Motivation workshop at the same school, this format of Orientation workshop attracted 1/4 more, bringing the number of attendees to over 50! Indeed, as we've pointed in our microproject report for that school, we had students interested in Law come speak to an HR professional just because of the "personal" factor (you can find more about our microproject here)

It goes without saying that we will use the evidence of this success to focus all of our future workshops on individual students. Moreover though, we plan to experiment with and find evidence for the success of other factors too, such as the diversity and consistency of volunteers working with the students, the type of interaction they have, short vs. long-term involvement and others. So do be excited to hear from us again!

Finally, none of the above would have been possible with your support. If you like what we do, please consider donating again to our new Give lasting 1:1 career advice to 50 at-risk teens project, which will provide the framework for supporting all 50 and more of the same students in the future.

Thanks once more for allowing us to do what we do.

Best regards,

Dancho and the Step for Bulgaria team 

 

https://www.globalgiving.org/microprojects/career-workshops-for-at-risk-youths/

Our very first workshop
Our very first workshop
Workshop progression
Workshop progression
Narrowing it down
Narrowing it down
The divide: bridged
The divide: bridged
Mar 29, 2018

Going Away and Coming Back

Zhivko and his mentor
Zhivko and his mentor

Dear supporter,

Our #StepforBulgaria team is excited to share with you the latest news with our ongoing mission to provide a Mentoring Program for Underprivileged Youth!

 

A happened since you last heard from us. In any given month of the year, our youths need help with trying to be successful at work or at school, having to move out of foster care and into private housing, looking for a job with no cushioned alternative, and many others. The past months have been full of all of these and then some. Today, we've chosen to tell you the story of one of our program's proud achievers - Zhivko.

 

Zhivko grew up without parents in foster care institutions outside of Sofia until his teenage years, when he transitioned to family-type housing on the outskirts of Sofia. Having known him since then, our organization has made Zhivko a key member of our mentoring program. He is among the mentees whom we've worked with for the longest, and he's been actively involved in many of the initiatives Step for Bulgaria has been organizing outside of the Mentoring program (for more information, check out our Teaching Life Skills to Children without Parents and our Fast-Track Career Development for At-Risk Youths projects).

As the story goes, Zhivko's mentor, Misho, helped him overcome many of the abovementioned obstacles that he's had to deal with. He had to deal with moving out and finding new housing in both 2016 and 2017, and last year he also worked hard to finish high school and to secure his first job. Relentlessly, with Misho's help, he has succeeded each time, step by step.

In an effort to help him save up money for university, Misho arranged to help Zhivko find a job with his friend working consdtruction in the UK in the fall of 2017. In the photos below, you can see him at the "deprtures" termnal at Sofia Airport, on his way to new dreams and aspirations. He began work practically as soon as he landed.

A couple of months passed and, although Zhivko enjoyed getting to know a new country and being able to afford a new guitar, he decided he missed home too much and he wanted to come back. Sure enough, in early December he bought a return ticket with his own savings and moved in with his girlfriend's family in a house on the outskirts of Sofia.

Despite the change in plans, it seems that Misho's mentoring has left Zhivko well-prepared for this move. As soon as he landed he had arranged for a job interview and took up work at a parcel delivery firm. To get to work from the outskirts of Sofia with no easy transport, he asked for our help in finding a car. Within two weeks, a couple of mentors were able to find him a good deal and, knowing him as a stand-up kid, signed a no-interest loan with him to purchase it using the funds they had pooled together. The latter was taken this March, with Zhivko on the way to work using this new car. 

If all is well as it is now, it seems like Zhivko will be needing our help less and less (should we figure out a mentoring graduation ceremony?) in the future. We will make sure to keep in touch with him though, and follow up on the other developments in our Mentoring program. Who knows, maybe Zhivko might like to become a mentor one day himself. So do be excited for our next reports!

Finally, none of the above would have been possible with your support. If you like what we do, please consider donating again to our Mentoring program or to our new Give lasting 1:1 career advice to 50 at-risk teens project.

Thanks once more for allowing us to do what we do.

Best regards,

Dancho and the Step for Bulgaria team 

Boarding to the UK
Boarding to the UK
Finding work in Bulgaria
Finding work in Bulgaria
 
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