In addition to opportunities for volunteering, OXAB also run a number of long-term social and educational projects in Bulgaria to support young people growing up in children’s institutions and help them to fulfil their potential. These are projects OXAB fundraise for and support throughout the year.
The mentoring project has been running successfully since 2008 and pairs young people (aged 12-18) from three children’s homes in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria, with a personal student volunteer mentor from the local university. Since many children living in institutions lack any individual support, a mentor or friend to talk to, to listen and to offer advice is invaluable. The project aims to improve the children’s confidence and self-esteem, as well as encouraging them to think about their futures and prepare for independent living. There are currently 40 mentoring pairs participating in the project. Mentoring pairs meet once a week to talk over coffee, as well as participating in group extra-curricular activities and interactive workshops run by qualified social workers. All mentors are trained and supported by the local social services in monthly supervision sessions. As well as direct and tangible benefits for the young people involved, on a wider scale, the project aims to promote tolerance and understanding between young people from different cultural backgrounds, breaking down some of the stigma associated with institutionalisation and the Roma ethnicity and encouraging the development of a Bulgarian volunteer culture.
The Balvan Children’s Club offers a range of fun and stimulating extra-curricular activities for the children at the Hristo Smirnenski Home in Balvan. Balvan is a village about 20km from Veliko Turnovo in central Bulgaria, in an area without many structured activities. The Children’s Club is therefore vital in providing opportunities for engagement and distraction for the 35 children and young people growing up at the orphanage. The Children’s Club started in 2006 when the children expressed an interest in learning English so they could communicate more effectively with OXAB volunteer groups. Since then the club has grown along the lines of the model developed by our sister charity ZOV UK at a nearby home in Veliko Turnovo and currently offers weekly English lessons, cookery sessions, art sessions, and games and sports on a Saturday afternoon. Through these regular activities the Children’s Club aims to teach essential skills, as well as creating a safe and supportive learning environment in which all the children may explore and develop their talents and interests. The activities are certainly very popular and some of the children have made great achievements in English, art and dance.
OXAB Internships is a project designed to support bright teenagers leaving children’s institutions in and around Veliko Turnovo by giving them the opportunity to study at university and gain valuable work experience at the same time. OXAB interns are given a stipend to support them throughout their university course, subject to regular attendance and good grades. Each student is assigned a personal mentor who helps them to create an internship programme tailored to their specific interests, as well as providing regular support and guidance throughout their studies. There is currently very limited state support for institution-leavers to study at university in Bulgaria and few teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds are able to go on to higher education. OXAB’s work with children’s institutions in the Veliko Turnovo area has shown that there are teenagers about to leave children’s homes who have the potential and the drive to succeed at university. The internships project was developed from their experiences and we currently have four interns, with more looking to join the scheme. If you are able to sponsor a student through university and give him/her a better start in adult life, we would be delighted to hear from you.
OXAB hosts an annual Christmas fundraising campaign to organise a Christmas party with presents at the Hristo Smirnenski Home in Balvan. Last year the party was a huge success and great fun for all involved. The children performed songs, recited poems and put on dance routines for Father Christmas. This was followed by music, dancing and party food, including traditional Bulgarian fortune banitsa (cheese pastry)!
Thank you to everyone who supported this project by buying an OXAB Christmas card!
For further information about any of these projects, please see our latest newsletter or project blog.
can I help?
- Join our mailing list to receive the OXAB newsletter and keep up-to-date with our work
- Organise an event or take part in a sponsored walk/swim/parachute jump to raise money for one of our long-term projects
- Volunteer your skills to help us with grant and proposal writing
- Make a one-off donation to one of the projects. Small one-off donations can now be made by text. All you have to do is send OXAB06 to 70070 followed by the amount you wish to donate (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10).
- Consider sponsoring an intern for part of their university course
Please contact project co-ordinators Joanna and Chloe firstname.lastname@example.org for more information – we would be delighted to hear from you.