For Our Children Foundation
The parents of young children rarely have enough time and opportunities to participate in civic life, given their child care commitments. We will provide such opportunities by transforming our social services center into a space for sharing ideas and practices, a hub for civic initiatives and community involvement. We will organise developmental activities with children while their parents participate in civic laboratories, aimed at generating proposals that address local challenges and problems
Vazrazhdane District, Sofia, Bulgaria
Community cohesion is lacking in the Vazrazhdane district, there is little awareness of the opportunities for participation and understanding that change can be dependent on ourselves. The web site of the municipality lacks any information about the opportunities for civic and child participation. There is a lack of community engagement in any of the municipality’s initiatives and public discussions are held only formally. At the same time there are many unsolved problems with local infrastructure, schools, health services, transport and others. We aim to empower and activate the community as a force with a stronger and more assertive voice and influence. This includes parents uniting around the needs of their children, and children themselves, who can be the catalyst for change.
The main target group are parents of young children in Vazrazhdane district and the children themselves. They will be both service users of our social services center (with a total capacity of 200 cases) and families from the wider community. 6.8 % of the district’s population are children under age 14; the families with children are 10 122. The district is characterized by high unemployment, segregation in schools and a large number of adolescent mothers. We will attract both low and high income families in the project. This will have a positive impact on the community’s cohesion and the fight against prejudice and discrimination. . We will try to engage with families and children for as long as possible to build strong sense of community between participants.
The activities are:
- Developing a detailed civic weekends program with activities for children and parents. Our specialists will engage the children in sessions with developmental games, music clubs, discussions about what they want in their neighborhood and what, if they could, would they change immediately (24 total sessions). During this time the parents will have time to take part in civic initiatives labs (24 total labs), which will build their skills on how to become more active, achieve cohesion, advocate with the municipal government, establish networks, engage with children and give them opportunities for child participation, and others. The topics will be determined together with students and parents that are using our services from the community. Sessions will be held on average twice a month for the duration of the project. The program will be open to all willing to participate.
- Preparation of “100 children’s and parents’ proposals” for the improvement of local services and environment. The proposals will be based on the sessions for parents and children in the previous activity.
- Cоnducting meetings between parents and representatives from the local government to discuss the possible changes in the district and to present the “100 proposals” (4 meetings during the project).
- Promoting the initiative through all our communication channels and leaflets.
The main result is the creation of opportunities for children and parents for civic participation in local descision-making, creating a culture of communication and establishing dialogue between the community and local government. This will happen through the transformation of our social services center into a hub for community activism. Parents will also have improved knowledge and skills for raising children. Children will expand their knowledge about topics such as civic participation, nature, nutrition and others, and benefit from the created opportunities for expressing their opinions. We will prepare on the basis of the activities ”100 children’s and parents proposals” for improvements in the district and submit them to the local government ahead of the next local elections in 2023.
The idea is to establish a model of citizen engagement and child participation, including through the provision of opportunities for parents, who rarely have them due to child care commitments. The weekend labs will provide parents with knowledge and skills on how to advocate for change, come up with realistic proposals and take part in monitoring of the implementation of local policies and initiatives. Community cohesion will be improved by bringing together different social groups who have in common their role and concerns as parents. Involving representatives from the local government will increase their understanding and readiness for cooperation with citizens. Our center will became a bridge between the children and parents and the local authority for common decision-making.
The idea for this project was put forward by colleagues from our social services, who work directly with children and their parents from the district and beyond. Our specialists are very well familiar with the challenges in the area, as they regularly meet with representatives of various services and work with clients from marginalized groups. They also have different types of knowledge and experience related to working with children and parents in their capacities as psychologists, social workers, family consultants, early childhood development specialists, special education teachers, and others. The lack of real community based initiatives for young children and parents, and the need to hear their voices provoked us to think of ways to provide such opportunities for them.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Project team and experts costs: 29450 EUR
Activities, materials for children: 3553 EUR
Indirect costs: 1963 EUR
All kind of advice and feedback are more than welcome. It will be interesting for us to receive information from other organizations about their experience with child participation, especially for young children.