am thinking of donating some money/clothes/shoes/toys/food. Please give me the address of some children’s home in this and this region. This is the kind of queries, which tend to reach me in my mailbox, in the Mogilino blog page, or through friends. What triggered this article was meeting a young man who wished to use his winter school holiday and take ·two bagfuls of toys, clothes, and books” to some orphanage in the country as he was determined to demonstrate that ·you don’t need loads of money or something that special to be able to help, because good will and hope will do”. This young (barely eighteen) donor’s idealism is worth praising. Two bagfuls of books and toys, however, are not help. They are an illusion of help. In fact, goodwill and hope are compulsory. The belief that Bulgarian children from institutions may grow to be more than prostitutes and pickpockets represents the essence of charity. Without this belief, any donation is just a conscience indulgence. What we need most though is to concentrate on its effect in the long term. It is high time for Bulgarian and international donors to realise that the outcome of their donations for the state institutions is but to support the perverse system of raising homeless or orphaned children and, in the end, hinder the pressing change. In figures. According to the Bulgarian Charity Forum data, almost 9 million Leva (4.5 million Euro) were raised for sick or homeless children during the first six months of 2007, which represents 92 per cent of all financial aid. Over 10.5 million Leva (5.25 million Euro) or 87 per cent of all donations were donated in kind, ranging from chocolates to office equipment. The Bulgarian Charities Aid Foundation (BCAF), one of the major charity monitors in the country, reports that 62.3 per cent of all citizens put children in homes on the top of their donation lists.1 In 2005, almost 42 per cent of all corporate donations channelled there, while in 2006 the percentage rose to 52.2.2 Enormous resource to a pathetic outcome. Few children of those raised by the state or donors end up in a place other than in a home for the elderly, on the street, or behind bars. According to BHC researcher Slavka Kukova, most homes have already set up a network of companies and community representatives who secure 30 per cent of their budget. This only goes to confirm that where regular donations occur, the state support diminishes. ·Donors like to buy things without giving further thought where they go. They like to donate food, but never follow up to see whether it is given to the children and how.” It is her view that donors rarely, if ever, fund the employment of specialists to work on children’s problems. Likewise, the state budget is never able to provide for psychologists and educational workers who could, at least partially, play the part of parents and feed the children with what is needed for a normal independent life. The state is only capable of Mogilino, Dupnitsa, and other such homes... The system is rotten and those responsible don’t know how to change it. This is where NGOs should step in as builders of good practices - foster care, protected homes, and prevention of child abandonment. Figures, however, rather point to mistrust toward the non-governmental sector on the part of donors. A mere 31 per cent of regular donor companies co-operate with a NGO, while 53 per cent of the Bulgarian NGOs work with international donors.3 Ms Bistra Boteva, director of the home of children with disabilities in the village of Gorski Senovets, Veliko Tarnovo, is also chair of a society supporting the institution. The society is currently building a youth protected home in Veliko Tarnovo where the pupils will live a more independent life and will be put to a trade. Ms Boteva has pointed out that even donors of many years prefer to make donations directly to the home rather than the NGO even if she is herself representing both. So the young man I started about did not follow my advice to pick an orphanage in town and pay regular visits to spend time with the children. He is giving out of compassion and is driven by emotion, but his actions serve only to help cover up the issues of institutions of a state which is the only party in a position to end the horrors in them. As long as we keep doing what the state should be doing, no change will take place. 1
by Yana DOMUSCHIEVA 1 OBEKTIV
Philanthropy in Bulgaria - Public Practices and Attitudes, a national representative study, March 2005, commissioned by the BCAF. 2 Philanthropy in Bulgaria in 2006, March 2007, BCAF. 3 Ibid.