The Growing by Playing Program in Sofia is helping young refugee and asylum-seekers adapt and integrate into Bulgarian nurseries, kindergartens, and schools. The program, run by Worldwide Orphans Foundation Bulgaria, is free and enables children between the ages of 3 and 7 to develop through play-based educational activities.
The program runs until April 2019 so you can still enroll your child.
How does the program work?
Children use musical instruments, and learn about cultures and language through songs, art and stories. The activities aim to improve the children’s motor and social skills, as well as their creativity, self-expression and confidence.
Refreshments will also be available during the sessions.
Does my child need to speak Bulgarian?
Facilitators encourage children to learn and speak Bulgarian from the start of the program. If your child has difficulties speaking Bulgarian, there is one Arabic-speaking facilitator who can help him/her communicate in the beginning until your child becomes familiar with the routine. The facilitators can also speak English, but students are usually quick to pick up the phrases that they need to understand each other.
When do the activities take place?
The activities are from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays except when it’s a public holiday.
Can my child participate in this program?
Your child can participate:
- If you have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection in Bulgaria
- If you are an asylum-seeker in Bulgaria
- If you are a parent, relative or professional who takes care of a child
- If your child is aged between 3 and 7
If you have other children over 7 who don’t attend school, you can ask Worldwide Orphans Foundation Bulgaria if it’s possible to make an exception and include them in the group together with their sibling.
What is expected from me?
1. To participate regularly in the activities two times a week together with your child and learn more about child development
What if you cannot attend the activities regularly due to work, studies, illness or travel? If the mother cannot join the activities, the father can take over her role. If both parents cannot make it, it is important to have an adult relative or a professional who takes care of your child present— somebody who can receive and provide information about your kid.
If your child cannot attend the activities regularly, he/she may not achieve significant results in his/her development. Kids can be absent only if they get sick or travel away with family. Some other exceptions could be made after speaking with the facilitators.
2. To share information about your child’s development, specific behavior and health issues (if any) with the facilitator
For example, if your child has delays in learning how to speak and walk, has an illness that can influence her/his development, or if there’s anything specific to your child's behavior regarding his/her daily routine of eating, sleeping and playing.
3. To be willing to learn Bulgarian and talk with your child in Bulgarian during the activities
4. To communicate with Bulgarian children and their mothers during the activities in a later stage of the project
How will this help my kid get into school?
At the end of the program, you will receive a certificate for participation. This is not recognized officially by the Bulgarian educational system, but some kindergartens and schools might accept it as an evidence that your child is ready to enter the local school system.
The facilitator can also discuss the school enrollment procedure with you, suggest an appropriate school, and refer you to the Caritas’ St. Anna Center where you can receive professional assistance in the school enrollment of your kid.
How can I sign up?
If you are interested, you can contact Caritas’ St. Anna Center or the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria. They can give you preliminary information about the program and put you in touch with the organizers.
If you speak Bulgarian or English, you can also directly contact Worldwide Orphans Foundation Bulgaria by sending them an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting them at their office in Sofia on 60 Ekzarh Yosif street. To sign up, they will need your contact details.
WWO can tell you more you about the goals of these activities, and invite you to participate in one session with your child. This allows you to see how it works before you decide to enroll your kid in the program.