Community project discussion
We hope that this message finds you safe, healthy and strong!
As we wrap up the Fall semester, we are happy to update you with some of the activities that we have achieved thus far in relation to this project "Empowering students through Leadership Training".
The start of the semester was very busy, in September and October we held training sessions for: the management team volunteers who will run the events this year, coach volunteers who will be coaching students on speech & debate and preparing for competitions, and Student Leaders who in addition to helping the coaches with training & tournament registration logistics, also learned about project management and developing a community project.
This year for the management team training we incorporated mental wellness and meditation sessions which focused on how long-term volunteers can care for themselves while offering service to others, a first of it's kind initiative and very timely for these difficult times we live in. The staff members who were not able to attend physically in Sofia, joined us by Zoom or were sent recorded sessions.
Our main coach training was held in 51st School in Sofia, with two more sessions conducted virtually for coaches from far away cities.
The Student Leader training seminars were divided into two regions also for the first time of the history of BEST, in order to limit travel time for students and thus limit exposure to unhealthy situations. We did receive parental consent for each student to attend the weekend-long seminars which were held in Sofia and Varna. Even though the situation was very stable Covid-wise back in September and there were not many regulations imposed, we took our own measures by doing periodic disinfection, temperature measurement, distancing, and imposed a mask rule indoor and outdoor. Our students were amazing by complying with the rules and enjoyed all the lectures and workshops we had planned for them like an improv theater workshop, project management foundations, and a guest singer performance. The students were tasked with coming up with mock community projects and presented them to their peers for feedback.
After training the staff volunteers, coaches, and Student Leaders, we held our first ever VIRTUAL regional tournaments resulting in the participation of 300 student competitors and 100 volunteer judges. The number is 50% of our usual attendance in face-to-face tournaments, which is mainly due to students not having access to good equipment and/or internet connection. The several surveys we have done since the last one in the summer, indicate that 30% of our students don't have access to a laptop or PC at home, and we are hoping that by collecting more donations or collaborating with local companies that we can bridge this gap and increase the participation rate in virtual events.
The night before the tournament our student leaders had a special social event over zoom before the start of the tournament, they shared poster designs they created with their teams and gave each other pep talks before the big tournament day. They are now in the process of submitting their project proposals for their Community Projects and we are very excited to learn what ideas they have for helping their immediate communities in the Spring Semester.
Despite all the positive results, we did face an unpleasant situation and lost half of our volunteer staff who had to return home to the U.S. due to the pandemic. Lucky for us their love to our organization enabled them to continue help with tournament operations until December, but unfortunately, we will need to recruit and train new long-term volunteers to replace them for the second semester.
Thanks to your generous donations, we were able to cover many of this semester's training costs (without being able to offer technology scholarships that we had hoped to provide). We encourage you to share our cause with family and friends so we can continue our events and offer more support to these amazing young people who are resilient, positive and adding such important value to their schools and cities. We also realized that our volunteer staff has also limited access to various technology and digital tools that have proven to be necessary for business and so we are hoping to be fully equipped by the end of this academic year to have smoother operations and peace of mind to our staff and coaches/SLs.
Thank you very much for being part of our community, for reading this long report, and we wish you and your families a safe and healthy holiday season.
Lecture Varna - finding your passion project