North by North East

Trip Start Dec 10, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2012

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Flag of Bulgaria  , Ruse,
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

After a quick look outside the hotel curtains (more snow) andthen  breakfast the team headed north east to Ruse. On our way we stopped at the small village of Starmen to vist the orphanage there. It was the directors birthday and she welcomed us with coffee and chocolates. This helped to dispel the smell of heating fuel which was prevalent due to emergency repairs that were hurredly being carried out!

The kids at Starmen are aged between 9-18. The orphanage is being slowly closed in line with municiple policy: no new children will arrive here and the fostering system is being built up to provide more places for children. This needs to happen quickly as currently there are less than 20 couples fostering in the area! There is so much change taking place in the Bulgarian care system but it is not neccessarily all well planned. You do wonder if the authorities want to be seen doing something rather than doing something well thought out...

The kids were very happy with their shoeboxes and were keen to say thank you. We then set out for nearby Ruse to meet Daniela, the local House of Opprtunity manager. Next up was a vist to a local orphanage that had been first opened in 1921 to take care of the children of army officers killed in action. This place too will eventually close but again, there is so much haste to shut institutions that you do get the feeling that the children currently in them are being somewhat left out of the eqaution. The kids put on a show of Christmas songs and poems for us before receiving their presents which were distributed by some of the young people from House of Opp.

We also visited a protected home for children with severe disabilities. Things really have changed for the better for these children in general in this area. The notorius Mogilino institution (made infamous in the film "Bulgaria's Abandoned Children" in 2007) is long closed and the children moved to several smaller homes. Presents were handed out to the kids before we finally made our way to the House of Opportunity to catch up with the residents and of course, hand out some Christmas presents.

It is good to hear that our young people in the Ruse house have positive situations at the moment. Krassi is training to be a security gaurd (including firearms training which will allow him to obtain a European licence). Kremena is now studying for a qaulification to be a children's social worker. Tsvetelin is working at a factory and Darin is looking for a new job but is upbeat.

The House of Opportunity (HOP) provides a vital bridge for state care leavers between the orphanage and independent life. It is clear from repeated conversations with orphanage directors that they too value this service. For many directors, saying goodbye to kids when they reach 18 is hard; many are genuinely concerned about what will happen to their young people and HOP gives a clear chance to kids to reach independence safe from pimps, criminals and traffickers. It is The Trussell Trust's and FSCI's firm intention to keep expanding the programme. Ultimately we would love to be able to provide a place for every vulnerable young person that needs one- and not just in Bulgaria...

For now we hope soon to open a house in Sofia, and, not long after, a project in Varna too. Watch the usual spaces for more news as and when.

We hear there is going to be a fair bit of snow tomorrow and we are aimed at Sofia so here's hoping the roads will let us through...

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