Outreach and Mentoring Project

Prepare children for independent living through a series of coordinated activities aimed at improving lifeskills and preparing for life outside institutional care.

“I am so happy to meet you – you gave me strength, motivation and support to continue on my way and to develop” Velizar


To help prepare children at Penyo and Maria’s children’s home and four family centres for independent living through a series of coordinated activities and individual support from student mentors from the local university.  The activities are aimed at improving lifestyles and preparing for life outside institutional care.  Many of the activities will involve students from Veliko Turnovo University, volunteers from the UK and other non-governmental organisations.

  1. Target

Underprivileged children at Penyo and Maria’s Children’s Home, (40 children) and four family centres (40 children) total 80 children in Veliko Turnovo Bulgaria.  The number of children we work with has increased this year from 64-80 due to creation of two new Family centres.  7  children who will be leaving school in the next few years will take part in, paid work experience and life skill sessions to help them prepare for life outside of the home, whether that be by continuing their education at university or securing a job. A further 35 Mentors will also be provided to help the younger children as part of the educational club offering individual support and organising fun and educational games. Ten children will participate in the mentoring project and will be paired with a personal mentor from the local university with the aim of boosting confidence and improving communication skills.

  1. Overview

ZOV’s Outreach and Mentoring Project is an innovative scheme that helps to raise the aspirations of children living in institutional care in Bulgaria by running a series of key life skill workshops, educational support and vocational training and work experience.

Many of the children that ZOV work with have lived in an institution for the majority of their lives and find the transition to adult life very difficult to manage.  They lack confidence in their abilities and an awareness of how to either apply for jobs or continue their education. This project enables children to start planning for their future and helps them to develop the skills and attitude necessary to lead successful, independent lives outside of care.  It is also an invaluable opportunity to alleviate the isolation that children in care often experience, by getting them to actively engage with their local community and receive support and individual attention from student mentors from the local university.

GardenThe volunteer mentors are trained and supported by professional social workers. Due to a severe lack of staff and funding, the home has to priorities looking after the children’s basic welfare needs and is unable to provide additional services that support their educational development.  The children’s home relies on its partnership with NGOs like ZOV, to help ensure that each child is getting the breadth of care that they need.

Thanks to the kind generosity of Communitas Foundation we have been able to deliver this important project for six years, the results of which have been more and more evident as the project has developed. For the seventh year running, children from Penyo and Maria’s Children’s Home and four family centres will take part in different activities aimed at equipping them with key life skills and encouraging the children to think positively and proactively about life outside of the home.

  1. Project Aims and Objectives
  • To create a new support scheme and model of collaboration between local institutions NGOs and ZOV
  • Provide educational support from volunteers and ZOV Staff as a part of the whole care system in new Family centres To increase knowledge of opportunities for further study, after the end of compulsory education, educational grants and assist children in preparing for exams and university applications
  • To increase knowledge of the range of work options available after the end of compulsory education through paid work experience
  • To encourage children to identify future work and study goals
  • Develop Key Lifeskills and prepare children for life outside institutional care
  • To create an individual work plan for each participating child which identifies the steps they need to take in order to achieve their future work and study goals
  • To improve communication skills amongst the children by getting them to engage and work with people from outside of their day-to-day experience
  • To teach the children about the responsibilities and rights associated with working life, through practical paid work experience
  • Develop knowledge and basic education skills and motivation to study
  • To help ZOV tailor its activities to the specific educational needs of each child: for example, providing additional support in a particular subject, such as Maths
  • Providing recreational activities and innovative sessions outside the home, including children from other institutions, students and young people from Bulgaria and the UK.
  • Providing Individual mentors to help improve self esteem and offer individual support and mentoring for the children

5. How it works

The Outreach Project is split into five key components and over a period of eight months, the children will take part in the following activities:

Education Club – 70 children (Age 3-18) and 55 Student Mentors-  Weekly club including “It’s funny to study”club as well as training to develop children’s cognitive and memory skills and 20150212_145216motivate children to study  Four fun interactive sessions each week (below) that provide children with homework help and are delivered by child care professionals and volunteers. This sessions will improve and prevent children from leaving school prematurely.

“i love Maths learning its so much fun” – 11 year old Martin

Lifeskills Sessions –  (VT Childrens Home)   “We can do it” life skills club –20 children (Age 12 – 15) – Interactive workshops once a month to the older children to help develop their basic domestic and life skills. This includes:

  • Decorating the children’s homes and preparing for Christmas
  • Sewing – making shorter skirts and trousers
  • Cooking – preparing muffins and organising a party
  • Preparing home made bread and painting eggs for Easter

Paid work experience:  (All over 16 (7)) – Children will benefit from paid work experience in the summer.   We propose to give them one month paid work experience in a placement of their choice so they can gain valuable work experience, make contacts for the future, improve their CV and earn some money.

 Two Multicultural collaboration workshops – (All Ages) Workshops run by OXAB volunteers from the UK or mentors from Veliko Turnovo University, where they will present the topics they are studying and qualifications they require for their chosen profession.  They will also talk about their own culture and lives and experience being a young person.

Lifeskills Club Weekly sessions working with 10 children aged 8 -18 from another Life skills 15family centre in VT that are in need of extra circular and life skill sessions. Monthly cooking and life skills sessions will include cooking, preparing conserves, growing up flowers and herbs, gardening, budgeting.


Mentoring Project Ten older children will meet weekly for individual mentoring Education club 9sessions, as well as group activities and interactive workshops run by qualified social workers. All mentors are trained and supported by local social services. Each month a trip with the children and their mentors is arranged to the local bowling alley, ice-skating rink or university, and we hope to end the project with a larger trip into the countryside for all teenagers from Penyo and Maria Velkovi and the four family centres and their mentors.

 Additional Activities  

In addition to these core activities, there will be:

  • cultural outings to museums, galleries and places of local interest to stimulate and motivate the children taking part. These will be started in the summer months when the volunteers from England are available. In the remaining months this activity will involve mentors from the mentoring project and where possible children from other institutions
  • press Conference with all participants of the outreach and other NGOS in the local area, to discuss the outcome of the project and improve contacts between people and organisations who work with children in institutional care.
  • Preparation for school and university exams and educational competitions such as the Communitas 1000 Stipendii Compeition

NEW FOR 2016

We will extend Educational Support to two family centers (20) children this year who are in great need of educational support.  Many of these children are behind at school and are struggling with aspects of their educational development.  We want to offer weekly sessions with 20 volunteers to provide help with homework and general educational needs.


  • In 2008 when the Outreach project started none of the children wanted to continue their education at University or had any idea how to get a job or what it entailed.
  • 8 children have received extra help with school and university exams with 7 gaining university placements and 4 receiving grants.
  • When we started the project only 20% of children continued their education, now 80% of the children we work with have either gone onto further education or regular employment.
  • 45 student volunteers from the local university now work with ZOV with 75 children having received individually mentoring
  • With ZOV’s support, over 90% of children who wanted to attend university have passed exams and secured a place
  • Since the Outreach project started 17 children have received a grant as part of the 1000 stipendii Communitas competition and 27  children have paritcpiated in the project with numbers increasing each year.
  • ZOV is the first and only certified organisation in Bulgaria to deliver and complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – an International award encouraging young people to be more independent and active.  8 children have participated thus far. The president of the Republic of Bulgaria awarded
  • 16 children have found part time or full time employment with 28 receiving paid work experience as part of the Outreach work experience or qualification sessions
  • Improved marks at school, including reading and writing skills for over 40 children with some who weren’t able to read and write before with the introduction of the educational club in 2014.
  • 30 children have gained professional qualifications in catering, landscape gardening and IT skills
  • Over 15 charity bazaars arranged by children themselves selling crafts and gifts they S1055861made as part of the Outreach and childrens club. Biggest Bazaar in 2013 involving all the children from the home. An article was written in the local paper.
  • 30 children have gained professional qualification in catering, landscape gardening and IT computer skills

“I liked the project very much and I liked all of the activities in it. I am happy have the chance to get known about such different professions and jobs and I think that will help me finding job and realising my future” Stefan Aged 18

 “The project is very cool and it’s great to have an opportunity for better carrier realization!” Milko, 16 years old

“This is the best thing I have ever made! I will miss the job, the    colleagues, the place.. I used to wake up early and go to work on time; I feel them as my family. It was so great, I feel  grown up. When a young man starts work, he became a real man!” Gospodin, 18 years old working as a chief assistant

I think that Outreach project is one of the most successful initiatives to happen in the home and it has given a lot of real benefits and self confidence to the children –, a lot of information and experience about the labour market, lots of social skills and experience and new friendships” Katia Zlatkova Project Coordinator ZOV