Bulgaria remains in the top 10 poorest countries in the EU, with many people living in extreme poverty, especially amongst the Roma communities.
Human trafficking is a growing problem in Bulgaria with thousands of girls being trafficked to other European countries every year. Girls are forced into prostitution to feed their families, or believe that it is the best form of income, and many children still do not receive a proper education. Healthcare is too expensive for many people, and there are still many orphanages which provide inadequate care, and where abuse is common place.
WOW supports projects in Plovdiv and Sliven, actively educating girls about the dangers of human trafficking, and encouraging them to get a good education so that they have employment opportunities. Our aim is to show them that they have value and worth, and for them to have a better future. WOW works with volunteers who visit local state orphanages, working with the abandoned and neglected children. These volunteers also hold after school education programmes within Roma Communities.
WOW is also due to open a Liberty House in 2021, a home to support ageing out orphaned girls, preventing them from exploitation and human trafficking.
WOW has now worked in Bulgaria for several years, supporting our partner organisation to help orphans, to educate girls from disadvantaged communities about the dangers of trafficking and helping to educate children from the Roma Communities.
Many children in Bulgaria still live in state run orphanages, and our overseas partner Marina, and her volunteers, visit them regularly, taking the children for picnics, and bringing cakes and small gifts. However, the sad facts are that most of these girls are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation as soon as they leave the orphanage.
The statistics are shocking for children leaving Eastern European orphanages(1):
10% commit suicide
40% become homeless
60% of girls are trafficked or forced into prostitution
70% of boys are convicted of a crime
We are so excited therefore to be able share that we will be opening a small home for young girls who are leaving the orphanages, giving them the opportunity to learn valuable life skills and to prepare them for employment. This will be very much along the same vision as our Esther Homes in India. We are partnering with a Christian Bulgarian charity called Set Free Foundation, who already have the house furnished and ready to take residents. Together we are writing the programme for the girls and applying for grant funding, ready for when we are able to open the home.
We will keep you updated during 2021 with our progress!
(1)Statistics from “Reforming institutionalised care in the post soviet bloc. www.journals.elsevier.com/children-and-youth-services-review.