Democracy and participation, Social inclusion

Bridging the gap: Friendship programme

Teaching disadvantaged children life skills through volunteer led teamwork

Creators

Who is behind this?

Sofia Ivanova

Podarete Kniga / Give a Book Foundation

https://www.podarivreme.org/

Bulgaria

Idea

Idea pitch

The project brings together volunteers and children deprived of parental care in Bulgaria, so that they can help each other through their friendship. Volunteers will find a way to be active citizens, and children will be more prepared for life. We want to create regular monthly workshops on the topic of financial literacy and essential life skills for the children led by volunteers. In addition, every child will have a mentoring volunteer helping him or her in the learning and in life.

Where will your project idea take place?

The project is aimed towards children in the 4 Bulgarian towns - Lom, Vratsa, Mezdra and Peshtera.

What is the local challenge?

We have been working with those communities for years and are well aware of the problems they are facing. There is an overall low literacy level among the population in those areas and people are often struggling with poverty. When people are poor they rarely manage to care about others who are worse off, like children in institutions.

Having a long term mentor promotes inclusion and is a great stimulus for the children to set and achieve goals and make progress in all areas of life. This increase in literacy and motivation of the youngest and most vulnerable benefit the whole community and improve the overall quality of life in the region. Having an opportunity and a platform to be one of those mentors gives a chance to these societies to feel the power of active citizenship.

How does your idea strengthen democracy and active citizenship at a local and community level?

Active citizenship is developed from the ground up. In order for this to be appreciated the community must be financially independent and empowered to make the right decisions. The project strengthens democratic thinking and active citizenship in two ways:

I) By recruiting long-term volunteers we are exposing a wider society to the issues of this marginalized group and showing the public that an important part of the solution is social inclusion.

II) By working through the curriculum regularly and over the long term the children will be exposed to valuable life concepts eg. budgeting; choosing a career path; expectations at work and time management. Learning about these topics lays the foundation for becoming more financially literate and confident in their future decisions.

Who are you doing it for?

We are aiming to include between 40 and 60 children at risk (ages 12-18) from care homes who will work regularly with 40 long-term volunteers.

Our work with 'at risk' children showed us hundreds of young adults who struggle with life after leaving the institution. Through no fault of their own, they enter life with little knowledge about finding and keeping a job, staying on top of bills and setting goals. Developing those skills is not included in formal education and it's left entirely up to the family. It is estimated that young adults coming from such background are 5 times more likely to have debt and their salary falls bellow the average.

On the other hand, people in the poor Bulgarian regions are focused on their problems, and do not see the power of helping others.

How do you plan to get there?

I) Create a tailored financial literacy curriculum with the help of volunteers, experts and social workers to ensure we fully address the beneficiaries' individual needs.

II) Run regular one-day workshops with children from institutions - each tailored for 10 to 20 children giving a total outreach of 40 to 60 children every month. During the workshops, the children, together with volunteers will be working through the activities in the curriculum. As well as this volunteers will also provide individual support and guidance answering any questions about life, education, and growing up.

III) Conclusion: We will gather all participants for a final multi day event where they will be tasked to solve a real-life challenge with support from volunteers.

What are the expected results?

So far our friendship program has proven very effective in bringing the focus of society to the problems of children in institutions and has helped us find and support talented young people in achieving their true potential. We find great value in the approach we have developed and we are looking to introduce the financial literacy curriculum as a very promising tool personal as well as community development.

The design of the program allows every individual participant to learn valuable lessons about life, success, effective communication, and even the importance of volunteering. Success for us will be to find a long-term mentor for all 60 children, which will mean that we will have 120 lives changed for the better.

How does your initiative contribute to strengthening democracy in Europe?

By opening the care homes to the public and allowing people the opportunity to become friends with the children we break mental barriers and demystify the taboo that this type of institutionalized care has sadly become. This program doesn't only teach children empathy and communication skills, it teaches both local and wider community the lesson of generosity, unity, and compassion.

The project strengthens democratic thinking and active citizenship in two ways:
- helping the poorest of the poorest regions be financially independent, and
- giving an example how we can do a lot with the power of our civil society, instead of complaining what the government misses.

Being part of this can make you feel strong and independent, no matter on which side you are.

What is your story?

Through our work we have seen hundreds of children deprived of parental care who have changed their life because of our volunteers. The motivation and power which comes to those children when someone cares about them are what we are aiming at. This magic is what makes us work more and more and we hope that one day all of these 3000 children will have their mentor and thus 6000 lives will be changed, because giving changes the live of the one that gives as well.

€ 35000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

€ 35000,-

Total budget

Major expenses

1) Curriculum development and logistics 19 500 EUR
- Remuneration 18 000 EUR
- Social Media outreach 1000 EUR
- Public space rental 500 EUR

2) Curriculum development (co-financed)
- Volunteer recruitment, travel and materials 8 500 EUR
- Transportation costs 7 500 EUR
- Raw materials 1 000 EUR

3) Final workshop 7 000 EUR
- Full accommodation for the participants 4 000 EUR
- Raw materials 1 000 EUR
- Travel 2 000 EUR

TOTAL 35 000

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

Any feedback will be welcome and will help us to improve our work.

Team

PodareteKniga

Idea created on May 27, 2020
Last edit on May 27, 2020

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