Friends of Bulgaria contributes to the work of OXAB and ZOV, which have complimentary roles delivering programmes of extra-curricular activities and individual support to many of the childrens’ centres in the Veliko Turnovo area.

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ZOV aims and objectives
  • Preventing Children Going into Care
  • Improve Chance of Independence
  • Increase Children’s Self esteem and Wellbeing
  • Increase Chance of Integration into Society
ZOV Awards in 2019
  • On 5th of December 4 ZOV mentors volunteer as part of the Outreach and Mentoring project were awarded by the Head Master of St, Cyril and St Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo for best volunteer work and for active citizenship and for being responsible young people.
  • In November 2019 ZOV presented “Best Practice Methods” for working in schools at The National Forum for Inclusive education in Sofia.
  • ZOV won a national award from the Child Protection Agency for good partnership with a children’s home. All the results of our work were evaluated, and the award was based on the support ZOV has provided over the last 12 years. The award was given by Deputy Minister of Labour and Social support Zornitsa Rusinova in a ceremony at Sofia on 20th of November
  • ZOV participated in a national meeting between the Ministry of Labour and Social support and all 265 municipalities in Bulgaria, held on 21st of November, Veliko Tarnovo. The meeting was about a new Law for social services. ZOV was invited to participate in a group preparing local criteria for assessing the quality of social services for children.
  • ZOV participated in a round table on 20th of October at the University of Veliko Tarnovo about social workers role in the social care sector. The round table took place together with Rositsa Dimitrova, Municipality of Veliko Tarnovo, St, Cyril and St Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo and all 32 directors of social services and centres in Veiko Tarnovo. At this meeting ZOV presented experiences and best practice for the training and development of future specialists through the Mentoring and Outreach project
ZOV Outreach and Education Project – General Achievements 2012-2019
  • Educational support to over 250 children: 30 children have gained professional qualifications in catering, gardening and IT skills.
  • Since 2012 over 90% of children who aspired to attend university passed entry exams.
  • 32 children have found part time or full time employment with 59 receiving paid work experience.
  • Social workers’ doctorates completed in 2017 and 2019 showcase the benefits of the mentoring scheme in measurable improvement in the children’s self esteem, communication skills and independence and pioneering communication of children with special needs living in institutional care.
  • Pioneers the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme in social services sector and 8 volunteer mentors have been commended for their active roles in the community.
  • Since 2008,  320 students have volunteered as mentors and 15 of them have continued into full-time employment in Social Services. 
​Z​OV– Childrens’ Clubs – Therapy Methods and Approaches
  • Since 2015 Montessori elements of space and environment integrated into therapy sessions.
  • Nikitin method introduced for developing social and cognitive skills, memory recall and decision making.
  • 2017 adopted Picture Exchange Communication System (PECs) popular in the UK.
  • 2018/2019 trialling a new alternative communication system aimed at improving social and communication skills of children and youth with disabilities deprived of parental care developed by Desislava Angelova Popova and promoted in Family Centres nationally.
  • Childrens’ Clubs in Care environment, group creative, recreational and sporting activities
  • Summer Camps outside normal Care environment, group expeditions offering new social and contextual experiences
  • Outreach and Mentoring in Care, individual contact for personal development

Friends of Bulgaria has funded OXAB’s volunteer-run projects for children in care since OXAB started aid to the Balkans in 1993; Friends of Bulgaria now supports these projects organised in recent years by OXAB BG funded and run by volunteers fielded by OXAB.

Since 2006 Friends of Bulgaria has funded the similar ‘Childrens’ Clubs’ and Summer Camps organised by ZOV which are now all administered by ZOV.

Children’s Club

The Children’s Club consists of a programme of year-round activities extra-curricular, recreational and sporting activities delivered to children in institutional care:

  • Music, drama and dance
  • Team games and sports
  • Cooking and catering
  • English language and IT computer skills
    Educational help and outings

Working originally with 30 children in 2006, the activities of the Childrens’ Club now benefit 135 children, run by a core team of seven led by Katerina Zlatkova, PhD in social work, Veliko Turnovo University, in collaboration with volunteers.

The Children’s Club started providing activities for the children at the Balvan orphanage and has expanded the programme since the Balvan home was closed in 2015 to continue delivering the activities to children from the Balvan orphanage re-located to smaller-scale residential Family Centres (CNST) and day Care Centres in Veliko Turnovo, several of which constitute the Penyo and Maria Velkovi Home (approx 40).

Since 2010 the Children’s Club programme has been tailored for disabled children with Special Needs (approx 56) at the day and residential units of the institution in Gorna Oryastiva, adapting activities in cooking, speech, music and art to develop motor skills and facilitate expression and communication.

In addition, since 2015 Friends of Bulgaria funding enabled ZOV to deliver Childrens’ Club activities in facilitating expression through music and dance and in educational support to the Crisis Centre in Veliko Turnovo for girls at risk (approx 14)

Impact: The experience of Childrens’ Club activities improves participants:

  • concentration in school with better results in education
  • social and communication skills fostering self esteem and motivation
  • the Folklore Club’s pioneering role in childcare had national recognition when a performance of traditional song and dance for the President and Vice President was televised nationwide on Christmas Eve 2012.

Mentoring and Outreach Projects

Since 2008, Outreach programmes have focussed on providing educational support for groups of children in care, with attention to individual needs.

The Mentoring project addresses adolescents, pairing individuals with student volunteers to offer support with preparing for academic and professional qualifications and the prospect of employment as well as the opportunity to foster personal friendships outside care.

Both Outreach and Mentoring programmes now cater for 80 children and adolescents in care and engage them with student volunteers from the department of Social Sciences at Veliko Turnovo University. 

ZOV expanding – 2017 Christmas Appeal: Mentoring Project in Vratsa

Summer Camps

Group expeditions to locations outside the urban location of Care homes and Centres in the mountains or at coastal sites offering children and adolescents in care new experiences of:

  • engaging with peers and adults in community living and team activities
  • awareness of history and culture through visits to historical and cultural sites
  • exploratory ventures in the natural countryside and seaside.

2020 Summer Trips – ZOV

Thanks to the generosity and support of Friends of Bulgaria 60 children and young people from six homes stayed at the beautiful Baba Stana this summer. They did lots of games, activities, walking, learning to cook, making art and crafts, theatre sessions and visiting local places of interest. For the first time children from a centre for severely disabled children deprived of parental care were able to visit Baba Stana. This group was accompanied by ZOV qualified psychologist who supported staff and arranged all the activities for youngsters.

Staff, teachers and children are very grateful for the opportunity to go to Baba Stana especially after 4 months of being locked down. THANK YOU !!

“Thank you for the incredible opportunity to take our young people to Baba Stana for the first time, it was a great emotion for them and an amazing experience. They learn through experiences and gain social experience, which is essential for their development and adaptability and makes them independent. After the great isolation during the COVID pandemic, this was an extremely important and significant event for us, for which we are extremely grateful to Claire and John, as well as to ZOV for sending their specialist to help during the trip. I wish you on behalf of the children and the team to be alive and healthy and always with such huge hearts!” Meggi, director of Residential Centre for disabled youth and children 1 (Pishmana 1).

“It was so cool and lovely trip, thank you very much Friends of Bulgaria, we are so grateful and was it was so bad this last 4 months, Baba Stana was fresh air in our lives!” Mila, 17, Residential centre for children (Meggi 3 centre)

“Baba Stana was so fun and I am so happy thank you, I love the forest, the nice house and the river!” Emi, 9, Residential centre for children (Meggi 2)

“Amazing place, amazing nature and so lovely trip! Thank you so much for giving us this great time and emotion!”, Valya, 16, P and M centre 1

“I have never been before to such a great place, thank you very much that you didn’t forgot about us even in pandemic time!” Mary, 15, P and M centre 2

“Lockdown was so bad, we were like prisoners, but Baba Stana was great and my favorite place, thank you!”, Danka 23, Residential centre for disabled youth (Maya centre 2)

“I love Baba Stana, I love games, trees, the place, it was so cool”, Ani,19, Residential centre for disabled youth VT (Meggi centre 1)

2019 Summer Trips – ZOV

Thanks to the generosity and support of Friends of Bulgaria 56 children from 5 homes stayed at Baba Stana where they did some walking, learning to cook, making art and craft sessions, theatre and visited local places of interest. THANK YOU !!

“We would like to show our respect and gratitude to Friends of Bulgaria, who once again supported us and again provided their wonderful home in Baba Stana for our young people. Ever since they changed our center and housed mostly young people and adults with disabilities, everyone stopped helping us. Everyone wants to help children, and no one thinks that our young people are like helpless children, but they are already 18 years old – without parents and relatives, without opportunities for development. People think that when they are 18, they should be able to cope on their own, but many have severe intellectual disabilities and are also entitled to a chance of support. Most sincerely THANK YOU for your huge hearts!”
Maya Bojkova, director of Centre for disabled youth and adults.

“Thank you for the wonderful trip, it is very nice in Baba Stana, we feel it as a second home! “ Nenka, 6, Residential centre for children (Meggi 3 centre)

“It was so great to be in the mountain and we had so much fun! I love this place, I feel free there and makes me really happy!” Ana, 15, Residential centre for children (Meggi 2)

“I have never been to a place like this! It is amazing how calm and quiet it is. I feel so free and I forgot about my hard life, thank you!”, Tedi, 16, Crisis centre

“I love Baba Stana, I want to go there again. I like cooking there, it makes me so happy!”, Mary, 22, Residential centre for disabled youth (Maya centre 1)

“Its so nice to go back in a place where you are looked after,. I am for 3rd time there and I can’t wait to go there again!”, Danka, 23, Residential centre for disabled youth (Maya centre 2)

2017 Summer Trips – ZOV

Thanks to the generosity and support of the Friends of Bulgaria 82 children from 7 homes went to the beautiful Baba Stana for a summer holiday. They did lots of walking, learning to cook and even made their own food. They made arts and crafts sessions and a theatre performance. They even found a swimming pool nearby and visited local places of interest. A lot of the sessions we do as part of the Childrens Club funded by Friends of Bulgaria we did on this trip. The staff and volunteers also used the book we produced with the help of Friends of Bulgaria, which translated a number of games used in the UK targeted at children to improve behavior, self-confidence and communication.

Staff, teachers and children all agree that Baba Stana is a very special place and we are all so grateful for the opportunity to stay there this summer.


“Baba Stana is one of my favorite places, I feel free there and I can express myself and become calm, quiet and so happy!” 17 years old Katia girl from Crisis centre.

“Thank you for the opportunity for our children to have a real vacation, despite being disabled. They are like other children with emotions and feelings, thank you” Iskra who works in the family centre.

“I love Baba Stana, I feel free!”, Maria, 15 from Penyo and Maria home

“Thank you for the opportunity for this trip, it was amazing!” Danka, 16 from Maya Centre.

Impact assessed from Supervisor’s reports and Participants’ response:

OXAB 2015 Ksilifor Summer Camp

‘Ksilifor is a place near Veliko Tarnovo where people go to be near to the nature, for picnics and sports. Overnight trip means that children (12-18) and mentors can participate in activities together that they usually can’t do, like horse riding, climbing, playing football, volleyball or other sports in a nice, quiet place with a lot of fresh air. Kids can spend the night away from the home, be with their mentors and have fun in the nature.

Team work and socializing are two of many important things that we learn only in big groups and the project tries to give opportunity to everyone to educate how to use them. We encourage try using new social skills and prepare for future. The trip tests friendships and gives chance to make new ones.’

ZOV report Summer Camp 2015

Group from the Maya Centre, Veliko Turnovo at traditional village in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains near Troyan:

They loved it and spent a lot of time outside enjoying the nature and beauty of the area whilst also learning about Bulgarian traditions and history.

They took part in different activities such as playing football and other ball games and even cooked all the food themselves.

They spent time at the nearby river, fishing and playing in the streams as well as walking in the mountains.

They also walked to a very popular Nature Museum not far from Baba Stana in Cherni Osam. They had such a lovely time and they shared this was the best trip they have ever had and would like to come back again.

“Baba Stana was amazing, and so great wow” – 17 year old Violeta

ZOV Summer Camp 2016

From volunteer Emily Kirov

…..Offer time and place for ‘children to reflect on their lives, as seen in the letters they wrote “What it means to be a Bulgarian”, where one girl wrote about her dreams for her future

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