Holiday homes proliferate and tourism infrastructure spreads on the northern Bulgarian coastline. Inland lies industrial farming. What is it like raising young children (age 0-5) in an area subject to intense transformation and “invasion”? EQ early childhood specialists will create 4 sustainable mother-and-child hubs in small communities. We’ll identify key issues and help mothers shape a manifesto for delivery to service providers, educators and local authorities.
Smaller municipalities in Dobrich / Varna regions.
The two provinces are economically prosperous but commercial development is both invasive (eg tourist resorts, industrial farming) and unevenly spread. In Dobrich region, the number of households is declining and development is poor in education and health. Infrastructure is poor. Economic and population growth in Varna region is heavily concentrated in the city and this distorts the regional indicators. Poverty persists. (see IME, 2018)
It is clear that there are pockets of relative deprivation lying outside but close to those areas that have been purposely developed and where amenities are concentrated.
We seek to enable mothers to describe the experience of raising children in the shadow of tourism resorts and in rural communities detached from regional development hot-spots.
The formation of the “family centre” in Ruse was based on research. Parents told us they wanted –
• Ease of accessibility to advisors and resources
• A comfortable, welcoming meeting-place that provides a sense of community and shared values
• Simple, positive communication and informal interaction
• The opportunity to contribute
Independent evaluation of the Ruse facility (http://eq-bg.org/en/independent-evaluation-of-the-equilibium-family-centre-in-rousse/) showed that we provided parents with a platform for developing competence in communicating their needs / aspirations and for working in effective partnership with educators, service providers and local authorities.
In each region, 1 small, sparsely populated municipality distant from regional capital + 1 larger town subject to tourism and other economic development.
This yields an opportunity to compare and contrast.
Dobrich region -
Shabla: population: 4890 (3400 in the centre)
Kavarna: population: 15900 (11400 in the centre)
Varna region -
Byala: population: 3700 (2200 in the centre)
Aksakovo: population: 21900 (7900 in the centre)
Target group: parents with children aged 0-5 sourced via education authorities + social services
Working relationships with kindergartens / community centres
1. Develop mobile team of child-and-family practitioners
2. Secure working relations with 4 municipal authorities + key service providers
3. Appoint local support team
3. Initiation - seminars + focus groups + study visits to Ruse for support team
4.Secure venues (eg kindergartens / community halls) to function as hubs
5.Outreach to families with children aged 0-5
6. Parental discussion / play groups
7. Appoint parent representatives
8. Initiation for parents: advocacy / communication
9. Develop parent "manifesto"
10. Convey manifesto to the relevant authorities
11. Take steps to secure the sustainability of parent-educator-service provider-local authority relationships and quality of parental contribution
1. Addition of a Bottom-up dimension to social initiatives in the 4 communities to act as a foil to (1) unbridled commercial development (particularly touristic development) or (2) marginalisation of communities detached from centres of intensive development
2. Improved collaboration among educators, childcare service providers and local authorities in a framework that allows for genuine parental participation. Functioning coordination mechanisms with mother-and-child hubs acting as "feeders" and flagging significant issues
3. The well-being of families and young children occupies a higher position in the local development agendas
4. Communication channels / amplifiers for parental opinion
Bulgarians use an expression "Bulgarska rabota" (Bulgarian work) that has strong negative implications and is often used in reference to authoritative bodies. It signals social pessimism. In Legatum Prosperity Index for 2019, Bulgaria is ranked 123rd for "social capital" out of 166 countries. With the notable exception of Slovenia, the country's Balkan neighbours also fare badly in this ranking.
Experience drawn from our Early Years Resource Centre allows us to see potential for improving the parental sense of personal and group efficacy. Steps in the direction of communitarianism are conceivable.
We provided the team that closed the first "baby home" in Bulgaria and we have supported numerous other deinstitutionalisation actions.
Our focus is development of meaningful Universal Family Support (UFS) in the Balkans. The creation of the "family centre" was a step en route.
To us, the concept of UFS does not make sense without extensive engagement with parents and high-quality public information. UFS and paternalism are mutually exclusive.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel (project team + local coordinators) 18000 (incl. 5000 in Ruse)
Travel/ accommodation / subsistence 20000 (This includes study groups to Ruse)
PR - literature / stationery & printing 5000
Events - catering, materials 4000
Office expenses and consumables 2400
In what practical ways is parental opinion seen to improve the quality of decision-making in other sectors?
What measures do others use to protect the purity / integrity of the parents' voice?