The BEST Foundation organizes English-language speech and debate tournaments for students in Bulgaria to foster critical thinking and free thought within an inclusive community. One of the hallmark programs of BEST is the Student Leader program. Student Leaders are nominated by their teacher-coaches for their outstanding leadership, encouragement, and commitment to their team and receive training to serve as team leaders and role models. They also develop their own community service projects.
Providing training to more than 500 students, teachers, coaches, and volunteer judges is quite costly and if not covered may prevent otherwise enthusiastic students and volunteers from participating. COVID-19 adds even more challenges, and the BEST management team is working hard to adapt and prepare for all possible scenarios. According to a recent survey, 20% of our community members do not have access to a laptop to participate in online training events, which poses a significant obstacle.
We will provide scholarships to reduce barriers to participation in training programs and ensure that our activities are accessible to anyone involved. Training will be split into different regions to ensure the safety of the attendees and virtual elements will be incorporated to reach those unable to attend physically. BEST will also provide professional training for our management team staff, all of whom are volunteers and who develop the training materials for students, coaches, and judges.
BEST Foundation programs reach over 1000 students and 300 community volunteers across Bulgaria annually. Participants are exposed to new ideas and perspectives and once they find an idea they care more about, they become critically aware of it and take action towards positive change. Many students have already begun to make that change - cooking at soups kitchens, leading classes at their local primary school and kindergartens, and even organizing charity events to benefit animal shelters.