Back in November last year, we began our full year program once more. It was great to see all the children after the summer break. They, as well as us, were ready to begin academic year again.
This year we are covering five homes in four cities in Bulgaria. We are currently working with 35 dedicated students and 7 enthusiastic volunteers. We hope to start working with a new home in Panagiurishte with some 15 children living in it who could definitely use the contact and attention.
This year we started our academic program with the psychological awareness and development module where we talk about assertiveness, self-esteem, conflict resolution and feedback. We have been fortunate enough to have support from psychology professionals as part of our volunteer corps. During the past few months, our students have been involved in discussions around what it means to be responsible, how do we communicate and set rules of interaction in difficult situations, how do we self-reflect and learn from others' feedback. We've seen out students both enrich their vocabulary with words related to resolving formal disputes and self-cognition and share with others real-life stories that help demonstrate the importance of psychological and emotional intelligence.
For Christmas, we had a special event for the students we work with in Plovdiv and in Berkovitsa. The first group spent a day with some of their regular volunteer trainers and an American guest, whom they took on a tour through the old city. We all visited one of the most beautiful galleries around and ended the day with a hefty traditional meal - anticipating Christmas with full bellies and a sincere conversation. The second group had arts and crafts workshop, producing Christmas cards and souvenirs that were sold off to raise additional resources for the teenagers' educational activities.
Following the wrap up of the psychology awareness module we will move on to another crucial topic - human rights and discrimination. The teenagers we work with encounter every day discriminatory practices against them - at school, in the local community, in public venues. The reason for that is that children living without parental care, in social care institutions in Bulgaria, are typically seen as impolite, unkempt, irresponsible and in general, doomed to failure in life. On top of that, a majority of them are born to ethnic minority parents and are racially discriminated against. That is why it is crucial to prepare our students to understand the reasons for the discriminative and anti-humanistic practices they endure and to teach them how to counteract such behaviors. We have recruited a group of volunteers who were trained in late November by experts from the Helsinki Committee in Bulgaria. These 15 volunteer trainers are now going off to work with underprivileged teenagers in the cities of Sofia, Plovdiv, Berkovitsa, Gabrovo, Silistra and Varna to work with more than 70 students. In each city, we'll hold three consecutive interactive training sessions where the participating teenagers will learn: what are their universal human rights and why they exist; what responsibilities these human rights employ for each of us; what are the causes of discrimination and how to recognize the act of it; how to address discriminatory practices in our everyday life. The training will end with two final events where we'll have children from the different cities come together, have a public debate and demonstrate artwork and creative activities related to the topic of human rights and discrimination. We hope to thus raise the awareness about the everyday human rights breaches these youth encounter and to encourage the general public to respect their rights.
Wish us luck with what's coming! We will of course keep you updated on the way things are going!
Thank you all for the kind support! We have received many donations over the Christmas season which is extremely helpful to keep us going! We would love to hear your feedback or in case you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us!