The Cedar Foundation superheroes are faced with yet another serious challenge – to raise 7000 BGN for summer camps for 30 disadvantaged children. Join us now and donate, and as a gesture of gratitude, on June 1st, the International children’s day, the Cedar team members will climb one of Bulgaria’s highest mountain peaks – Botev vrah, named after a national hero, revolutionary and poet. During the ascent we will all be dressed in superhero outfits.
The symbolic climb will also celebrate the immense efforts of our social workers and other professionals who are responsible for the children’s health and wellbeing in these turbulent times. To dedicate your time and energy to children in need is a super power of which even Superman would be jealous.
For more than 15 years we provide a safe and secure environment and quality care to children and youths with disabilities and/or deprived of parental care. We add important therapies such as physio, sensory and occupational therapy so that we make sure that every child grows healthy and fulfilled.
Summer camps are among a wide specter of educational and therapeutic activities through which our children manage their physical challenges and family trauma. Due to the pandemic during the last year we weren’t able to carry out some of the planned activities. This year we would like to make up for missed opportunities and spend as much time outdoors.
We need your super support today. Donate here or if you have any super power (like we do) tell us more about it on the Facebook page of our campaign or make the campaign popular through your friends and peers. You can also take part in the climbing on 1th June. Follow us on Facebook and check the other super ideas we have.
In line with modern trends, we renew our logo by giving a modern touch to the Cedar tree – a symbol of the organization since its establishment 16 years ago.
We are a leading organization in Bulgaria in the management of family-type centers for disadvantaged children and youth. The foundation was established back in 2005 by Irish pastor Mark O’Sullivan, who then lived with his family in Kazanlak. He and his wife, Penny, supported disadvantaged children by raising donations, organizing training, and providing specialized therapies for children with severe disabilities.
They named the foundation after their eldest son, Cedar. That is why the logo of the organization combines cedar elements, and the symbolism of the name has outlined the path of the foundation over the years – strong and stable as the cedar tree, providing healthy roots to the children and young adults it cares for.
Since 2013, Mark and Penny no longer live in Bulgaria, but the mission of the organization continues to this day with its entirely Bulgarian team. Over the years, the team has extended its activities, developed the foundation, and achieved financial sustainability and strong positions in the social sphere and the non-governmental sector.
“The foundation needs a strong and modern visual identity that matches the way it works and its vision for development. For us, the tree is a symbol of stability that every child needs and the sense of movement in the branches corresponds to our flexibility and ability to follow trends. The teams of the foundation are steady, adaptable, rely on, and use up-to-date tools and approaches. We believe that the new logo reflects our commitment to provide protection and support for the children and young people in our care, to share social responsibility, and to establish and strengthen our community,” shares Iva Hadzhiyska, Fundraising and Communications Director.
The Cedar Foundation currently manages 9 centers and has contributed to the positive change in the lives of over 3,000 children with disabilities. The foundation is an active participant in formulating, implementing, and evaluating policies in the field of deinstitutionalization. Actively works for a change in government policies towards disadvantaged people.
He was born in a small country in Eastern Bulgaria. He doesn’t know his dad, whom he is named after, and he has seen his mom only once. His whole childhood passed in one of those big and unhappy children homes for orphans, situated in a desolated village in northern Bulgaria, a place one would say has been forgotten by God. He has grown without the idea of personal space or belongings, and was often referred to as “a child with mental retardation”.
How do you think this story would continue?
The story of Ivan, Mincho, Drago, or in other words, the story of the child who has grown in the now extinct homes for children with disabilities.
Here is the rest of Ivan’s story.
He began living with us five years ago. Now, he is 24. Good-hearted and benevolent. Diligent and always ready to help. He loves being busy and working hard. He makes wonderful origami, and he is interested in new technologies. He likes listening to music and being outdoors.
Ivan is very inquisitive and eager to learn. Therefore, he has enrolled in professional courses to become a construction worker and a masseur. He is aware that such courses would help him develop and become a more independent individual.
However, his greatest passion has always been cooking. Ivan managed to get noticed for his culinary abilities, and got a part-time job as an assistant cook in a local catering company. He later received training in the company and his hard work and dedication urged his manager to offer him a full time job.
Ivan is ecstatic; he would work everyday for 8 hours. His responsibilities include making prep work, sanitizing the kitchen, and assisting with deliveries. He has a supervisor, a local woman who is responsible for the catering of the retirement homes in the city.
For us, it’s a great privilege and a pleasure to hear the positive feedback from his employer. He says that Ivan has been doing his job in a responsible and thorough manner, fits in perfectly, and is enthusiastic about helping others. He even works overtime. His colleagues, also, really like him. With shining eyes, Ivan shares with everyone that this is a dream come true, and that he cannot wait for the next work day.
Despite his unfortunate childhood and the stereotypical belief that people with intellectual disabilities do not have a place in the labor market, Ivan is now working, evolving, and contributing to his community.
*The name has been changed due to privacy reasons.”
With the holidays approaching it is time to reflect on the year passed.
2020 proved to be very unusual which made us direct all our efforts towards the coronavirus crisis but it also helped us look back and analyze our behaviours. We at Cedar were convinced that we can do anything – together as a team but also as a community built around the cause and determined to follow and support our mission. And while we socially distanced ourselves, we realized how important it is to help each other out, and this is how we managed to bear the lockdowns, the isolation and the homework.
It was a hard year for us but during those hard times we came across and attracted new partners and were inspired to look for new ways to reach out to people and businesses. We had to be more creative, more observant, more aware. Our main priority was to keep our children and staff safe, sound and healthy and to do so, we had to work hard to secure a safe home and workplace and to adapt our work processes to a domestic environment.
In 2020 we lost some of our potential donors and sources of income but our long term supporters by our side. We ran some successful online campaigns and we adapted our traditional charity quiz to a digital format. Our annual charity gala became the first hybrid charity event to be held in Bulgaria. The new format made it possible for people around the globe to take part and support our work.
Our advocacy efforts were also fruitful. We managed to influence governmental decisions which secured free Covid-19 testing and additional financial support for social services. The Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria honored our claim and annulled Article 5 of Section II of the Methodological Guidance regarding the application of the Social Assistance act and its regulations due to violations of the public consultation procedure. And despite rootless protests and the postponements, the Law for social services entered into force on July 1st.
If we have to sum up how 2020 looked for us at Cedar and our community, it was a year of togetherness and mutual support. Therefore, we would like to express our gratitude to all Cedar employees, all volunteers that support our work and to all Cedar friends and partners, for believing in our work. Together, we are changing lives!
As an organization working for the well-being of children at risk, we at the Cedar Foundation join the open letter to the international institutions outlined further, calling for their support for children’s rights in Bulgaria.
The letter is signed by 69 other civil organizations working in the field of childcare and children’s rights, supporting children and their families.
The main reason for our concern and for this open letter’s appeal are certain proposals for changes in the Child Protection Act made by a Bulgarian political party. These proposals seriously endanger children’s rights and threaten the progress that has been achieved in this area over the last 20 years.
We at Cedar Foundation, alongside all the other organizations who signed the open letter, work every day to protect the rights of children, to ensure their survival and well being and to support their families. It is unacceptable for us to use the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society for political purposes and populist schemes whilst spreading false theories and outright lies.
Read the full text of the open letter below:
DUBRAVKA SHUITSA, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF DEMOCRACY AND DEMOGRAPHY EC
VERA YOUROVA, DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF “EC VALUES AND TRANSPARENCY”
ELISA FEREIRA, EC COMMISSIONER FOR COHESION AND REFORM
NIKOLA SCHMITT, COMMISSIONER “JOBS AND SOCIAL RIGHTS” EC
DIDIE RINDERS, COMMISSIONER OF JUSTICE EC
HELENA DALI, EC COMMISSIONER “EQUALITY”
RENATE WINTER, CHAIRMAN OF THE UN CHILDREN’S RIGHTS COMMITTEE
DUNJA MIJATOVIC, COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS TO THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
MICHAEL O’FLAERTI, DIRECTOR OF THE EUROPEAN AGENCY FOR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS TO THE EC
HENRIETA FOR, UNICEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
MARY-LOUISE COLLEIRO PRECA, PRESIDENT OF EUROCHILD
MARIA HERZOG, PRESIDENT OF CHILD RIGHTS CONNECT
CAROL VELLAMI, PRESIDENT OF EXPAT INTERNATIONAL
December 10, 2020, Sofia
From 70 civil organizations in Bulgaria in relation to the attack on children’s rights based on the proposals for amendments to the Child Protection Act.
Ladies and gentlemen, representatives of International and European institutions,
We turn to you, hoping for support for the rights of children in Bulgaria, which have been systematically violated in the last three years.
A specific reason for our letter is the bill for amendment and supplement of the Child Protection Act number 054-01-111, submitted to the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria on December 4, 2020. The petitioner is the IMRO – Bulgarian National Movement parliamentary group, part of the country’s ruling coalition.
The bill, if passed, would result in bringing Bulgarian child protection law and practices back to where they were 20 years ago. The proposals submitted are in clear contradiction with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the understanding of children as subjects, individuals and citizens, as opposed to being someone’s property.
The main ideas of the legislative change proposal are as follows:
- The bill limits the ability of institutions to apply basic standards for the protection of children’s rights. There is a lack of balance rooted in the opposition between the rights of parents, guardians, custodians and the rights of children; this in turn is in violation of all international documents for child protection.
- The definition of “child at risk” is changed, without any solid arguments as to what warrants this change; basic criteria are replaced by subjective judgments.
- The principle of respect for the “best interests of the child” has been replaced by the observance of “traditions, good manners and generally accepted morals in the country”, which is in contradiction not only to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but to EU law, as well
- The submission of a signal the child is actually in danger can be done ONLY with a preliminary signed and notarized declaration of authenticity; this, in turn would practically result in repeated failed attempts of people close to the family or the child (incl. teachers, neighbors, friends) to inform child protection institutions of any potential wrongdoing.
- The bill in question foresees the possibility for submitting the rights to raise a child to third parties through a notarized declaration, as if children are real estate that can be transferred for use.
This initiative for a legislative change is part of a series of actions threatening children’s rights in Bulgaria. Nationalist political parties and populist organizations, often for political purposes, have turned Bulgarian society into an object of misinformation and propaganda, using the topic of child protection and the related to it legislation. As a result, Bulgarian children’s human rights organizations have come under attack and some activists have been systematically slandered in public.
The Prime Minister Borisov’s decision to terminate the procedure for discussing a draft for National Strategy for the Child 2019-2030 can be described only as “indisputable success”. Mr. Borisov has actually gone that far as to repeatedly claim [as a positive fact] that “There’s no child strategy”. This act directly violates the domestic legislation of Bulgaria (Article 1, paragraph 3 of the Child Protection Act), which explicitly provides for the adoption of this strategy by the National Assembly. At the same time, the Bulgarian Prime Minister legitimized the allegations of misinformation, on the basis of which the procedure for the adoption of the Strategy was terminated.
Negative campaigns and attacks on the system have also led to the loss of the fragile initial capacity, the creation and buildup of which began 20 years ago.
Dear honorable ladies and gentlemen,
Today, not only Bulgaria, but the whole world is put to a serious test in terms of the recognition and protection of human rights, the rights of children and democratic principles.
With this letter we would like to alert you to the negative changes that are taking place in Bulgaria, even after the adoption of the European Parliament Resolution in terms of the rule of law and fundamental rights in Bulgaria (2020/2793 (RSP)).
We call on everyone, within their competence, to oppose decisively and with responsibility to both, the attempts to pursue policies that restrict human rights in the EU member states and especially to those policies with regard to children’s rights.
Moreover, a key measure is to address conspiracy theories and propaganda regarding children’s rights as part of policies to limit the spread of false news. Let the institutions and organizations we lead, be responsible for the public interest of the nations and create policies as well as for the creation and implementation of measures which guarantee the rights of children and other vulnerable members of society.
Together, we must place policies for our children at the heart of our democracies!
National Network for Children
BNC “Together for the children”
Alliance of Bulgarian Midwives Association
Applied Research and Communications Foundation
ASSIST – Assistive Technology Foundation
Association “European Spaces 21” – Ruse
Association for pedagogical and social assistance for children – FICE – BULGARIA
ELA Shared Learning Association
Development Initiative Association “Kardzhali decides”
Beekeeving Foundation for Charity
Bulgarian Center for Non-Profit Law
Bulgarian Donation Forum
Association “Bulgarian Association for Family Planning and Sexual Health”
Bulgarian Fund for Women
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance AMALIPE
Child and Space Association
Association “Complicity” – Varna
Children’s Books Foundation
Devetashko Plateau Association
Ecological Association “For the Earth”
Women’s Association “Ekaterina Karavelova” – Silistra
Equilibrium Association – Ruse
For Our Children Foundation
For the Good Foundation
Gender Alternatives Foundation
IGA Foundation – Pazardzhik
Future for Children Association
Future Foundation – Rakitovo
Health and Social Development Foundation
Nadezhda 2002 Association
NSNC Initiative Rhodope Mountains 21st century
Institute for Progressive Education
International Social Service
Karin Dom Foundation – Varna
Law and Internet Foundation
Hear Yourself Foundation
The World of Mary Foundation
Wings Mission Foundation – Stara Zagora
National Association of Resource Teachers
National Chitalishte “Future Now 2006”
NSO Club – Targovishte
Association “Chance and Protection” Haskovo
Association “Organization Drom” – Vidin
Partners – Bulgaria Foundation
European Law Program and Analytical Center Foundation
RF “Iskra” – Shumen
Association “SMILE” – Burgas
Institute of Social Activities and Practices
Social Dialogue Association 2001
SOS Children’s Villages Bulgaria
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association – Bulgaria
Together in Class Foundation
One Heart Foundation
NGO “Together for a better future – Sredets”
Civic Initiatives Workshop Foundation
Foundation for children at risk around the world
YMCA Association Gabrovo
PULSE Foundation – Pernik
DOIT Foundation – Sofia
Growing up without a family is one of the biggest challenges that you may face in life. This is how things are for Y. and S.* for whom this is how life has been since their early childhood. But despite all the storms they have been through, they don’t stop striving for a better future, they don’t stop learning, gaining experience and dreaming of a world, where they will be useful and significant. For the past few years Y. and S. have been living in family-type homes, managed by the Cedar Foundation, where different experts are helping them follow the steps towards a better, more independent future. Their adventure began in the summer of 2019 with a job at the Margarita Asebo Nursing Home in Kazanlak where they help take care of elderly people. A year later, Y. and S. had the opportunity to upgrade their skills in working with children and young adults with special needs. This happened thanks to the Osvobozhdenie – 1884 Community Center in Sheynovo village and two volunteer projects with the European Solidarity Corps. An adventure, which continues today.
At first, the young boys started with regular visits to the elderly people in the nursing home and helped them with different activities – accompanied them to excursions and theatre, read books to them and organized fun games, bought essential items, etc. After a while they had the chance to work in family-type centers. Despite the challenging work with young adults with special needs, Y. and S. did a wonderful job and found an approach towards each and every one of them. They used methods like art therapy, sensory and music therapy. They organized sport activities, picnics, horse riding and nature walks. Their persistence and perseverance brought a positive change to the lives of the people under their care as well as to their own lives. While striving to be useful to the elderly in the nursing home and the young adults at the family-type homes, Y. and S. were also useful to themselves, because this communication taught them a lot of new responsibilities, patience and helped them develop practical skills, which will be always useful to them. Thanks to their efforts and the support they received, they managed to complete their professional education and can now work in rehabilitation and balneo centers. In addition, the two boys completed professional cooking and hairdressing classes. S. continues to develop his skills with an upgrading cooking class and Y. is attending music and folklore lessons with a professional teacher, as well as upgrading his math skills with the help of an experienced tutor.
The Cedar Foundation would like to thank the Osvobozhdenie – 1884 Community Center for their partnership, which helped the development and well-being of our boys.
*The names of the young men have been changed to ensure confidentiality.
As a member of Eurochild, the international network of organizations that provide support to children and protect their rights, The Cedar Foundation co-authored the report on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of children in Europe, including in Bulgaria. The ‘Growing up in lockdown: Europe’s children in the age of COVID-19’ report summarizes data from 25 European countries, collected between August and September of 2020. The aim of the report is to examine the ways in which the pandemic influences all domains of children’s lives and to provide policy recommendations to governments in Europe on addressing those issues that have a direct impact on children and their families.
The document is based on the evaluations of 42 of Eurochild’s members, including The Cedar Foundation, representing 25 countries. Cedar contributed to the report’s recommendations on the functioning and management of family type homes and on deinstitutionalization policies.
The report emphasizes the fact that most children in family type homes in Bulgaria live with disabilities and their health is vulnerable and frail. Social distancing is impossible in the family type home format because many of the children require intensive care, which cannot be provided without close contact with the personnel. In turn, the staff has to manage the compounded stress and to follow all safety and hygiene measures (e.g., disinfection, tracing, reporting). The lack of access to the accompanying social services and educational institutions during isolation has further contributed to the additional pressure and to the need for staff to carry out new activities and therapies, so that they can meet the children’s needs and take care after the latter’s physical and mental health.
Additional resource has been invested by service providers, including nongovernmental organizations, in the provision of personal protective equipment for staff and for disinfectant agents. Moreover, there was a prolonged lack of clarity as to the steps that would need to be taken in the case of an infection among one of the children or a member of staff, as self-isolation in a family home environment is impossible.
With respect to the policies for children’s care and their rights, there has been a delay in planning for the process of deinstitutionalization. There is a lack of effectiveness in the work of the Permanent Expert Group on Deinstitutionalization, which was created in 2010 with the mandate to monitor the action plan on deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria and to discuss and provide policy recommendations to the national government on its various aspects.
The recommendations in the report that pertain to Bulgaria are also related to the necessity for improving the social system’s capacity for responding in the event of a family crisis and preventing the need for alternative care, support for vulnerable children, a need for national policy for youths who leave the family type homes, and migrant children.
You can read more about the report’s conclusions and recommendations here.
Our charity campaign This Christmas Every Donation Matters kicks off at the end of November. It raises funds for physiotherapy and therapeutic gymnastics, as well as for providing quality care to the children and young adults at our centres. Long-term supporters of the organization are joining the campaign, as well as new partners, so that we can team up our efforts and make a more compassionate Christmas.
“We hope that more people will follow the good example of our partners, because this Christmas we all need more good news, more wonders and more faith. The more people and businesses unite for our campaign, the bigger the support for the disadvantaged children and young adults in these challenging months.”, said the Executive Director of the Foundation Alexandrina Dimitrova.
Among the partners, who stand behind the cause are Dabov Specialty Coffee, who have developed a special Christmas coffee blend and are donating part of the amount of each purchased pack; Salad Box, who are deducting part of the amount for their most popular salad Green Box; Edenred, who are giving their customers the opportunity to include a cause in the Christmas cards they get for their employees; “Bebe” Store in Kazanlak, who are also deducting an amount from a selected product, as well as other companies, who are dedicating their Christmas party to the cause, placing donation boxes in their locations or are making a direct donation.
We all know that this Christmas is going to be different. A lot of people won’t be able to celebrate with their extended family, to travel to their favourite holiday destination or gather with colleagues and friends. But this Christmas we can all be a little better. We can be more united than ever, by supporting each other and coming together to help those in need. Let’s remember this Christmas, as the Christmas we were compassionate. This Christmas every donation matters.
You should join us too.
During the past few months more and more companies have transferred to the home office model and their team meetings are taking place mainly online. In these circumstances it gets more and more difficult to bond with colleagues and the morning coffee meetings are not enough to keep the team spirit and motivation high.
At the same time, social responsibility and care for those in need becomes more and more popular among the young people, who are actively working from home. This is why our team doesn’t stop searching and suggesting ideas, which will help the companies unite over a good cause, give back to the community and have fun at the same time.
This fall our team developed new ways to support disadvantaged children and young adults. We came up with ways for you to combine team building elements with charity and do it while still keeping social distance and working from home. In the spring we created a Handbook with some ideas about doing charity remotely, and now we have created a second part of the Handbook, containing even more interesting and fun ideas. In the first part of the Handbook we suggested initiatives like the Promise Auction and Lunch & Learn with the idea that soon, we will return to our offices. In the second part of the Handbook we rely on healthier and continuously remote activities, like Challenge Week and 600 000 Steps. Specifically for the upcoming Christmas holidays and hoping for a more positive new year, we added an idea for a fun and interesting company calendar.
The purpose of these Handbooks is to offer alternatives to the standard team building activities, so that they can be just as fun in an online environment. The Cedar team actively participates and moderates the different activities. And the added value of supporting a cause that matters, can bond the team even more.
To find out more about the opportunities for charity through online initiatives for your team, please contact Adriana Gotsova at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find more suggestions on organizing a team building with a cause HERE.
At the end of September part of the children and the team from our centers in Kazanlak participated in a unique experience – a sensory journey through the city, organized by the Sensory Theatre Sofia.
This innovative activity aimed at building the trust between the participants and helping them develop empathy towards other people’s experiences, making them more confident when facing unusual situations.
In groups of three, our children and the employees were immersed in a world of self-knowledge. One person from the group, who was blindfolded, had to trust the rest to help him move through a city environment, relying on his other senses and the people, who were leading and supporting him. This way, the participants rediscovered the trust and closeness of the people next to them and allowed themselves to be guided through the city in these unusual circumstances.
The journey went through key spots in Kazanlak, such as the market, filled with the aroma of autumn vegetables, the rowdy streets and quiet nooks, and finished in the peaceful retreat of a local church. What the participants experienced turned out to be of a very personal and widely emotional essence – from fear to inner peace and confidence in the people, who lead you. This way everyone managed to immerse themselves in the experiences of the people, deprived of senses, but also, get to know oneself and the people close to them.
“An unforgettable sensory journey, which happened beyond what can be said in words or seen with one’s eyes. We listened to the world around us, we filled ourselves with more presence and realization of the present moment and yet again we realized how important trust is.” – Neli Boneva, manager of our services in Kazanlak, shared after the walk.
Children and young adults from all our centers participated in the sensory journey and the experience was complied with their capabilities.
The sensory journey through the city is an unusual point of view to the city environment and at the same time, a journey to oneself and to building trust in others. We would like to thank the Sensory Theatre Sofia, who are our long-term partners.
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