ASSOCIATION “SAMARITANS”, STARA ZAGORA
Our partnership dates back to 2018 when the implementation of the “Element of Play” program in working with children and families begin. The program is integrated mainly in the work within the “The House of Family and Community” project in the village of Kalitinovo. It is an innovative service developed by the Samaritans Association under the program “The strength of the family and community” of the Tulip Foundation.
About the partner: “Samaritans” Association emerges as an informal association of young people from Stara Zagora, who decide to help dozens of children who are in the city streets. At the end of October 1998, they established a foundation, which four years later, in September 2002, was transformed into a non-profit association for carrying out activities for public benefit. The main activities of the association are social work through providing social services aimed at children and families at risk; children and women who have experienced violence; young people who become homeless after leaving specialized institutions; as well as social work dedicated to early childhood development, prevention of abandonment, violence and other social and health risks.
The “Element of Play” program is implemented in various areas within the field of children and families support – to enhance the relationship between adult and child in residential care; to work individually with children and families; to support communities in providing access to services and programs targeting early childhood development. The program is applied in three main projects by Samaritans Association: “The House of Family and Community”, “Crisis Center for Support of Victims of Domestic Violence” and “Grandma’s Grandchild”. The project “Grandma’s Grandchild” aims to support children without parental care, who are being accommodated in a Family-type placement center for children and youth (CNST). Тhe play approach in that project is being applied in a specific way to activities with children who are much older and experience multiple physical and mental disabilities. Social associates, the so-called “grandmothers (babi)”, are taking individual care of the children. One of them achieves her “little miracles” with the children with a lot of effort, love, attention, curiosity, and perseverance.
Toys worth a total of BGN 1,536 were provided under the program of the Samaritans Association.
We present one of the specialists who applies the program in their individual and group work:
“My name is Tsveta Lateva and I am a social pedagogue. I have been working as a social worker in the Samaritans Association, Stara Zagora for almost two and a half years.
After I participated in an introductory training on the “Element of Play” program, held at Samaritans Association in November 2018, I had the opportunity to become part of the team that organizes and conducts groups for play with children and their parents, under the project “The House of Family and Community”, carried out in the village of Kalitinovo. Since the very beginning of the program we apply mainly two of its elements – “Toy Library” and “Tell the Tale”.
Working with children, in the form of a game, including wooden toys, books, and other materials in the process, which I call “play”, allows me to express my creativity much more. I learned to observe and listen more deeply to children and realized that by following them, their momentary interest in a toy or a fairy tale character, for example, we connect and become closer. Through one of our games, “Get to Know What You’re Playing With Very Well”, I’ve noticed that with time the children become more inventive and focused on learning new things, understanding their own feelings and actions during a game, empathizing with the emotions of a favorite fairy-tale character, and identifying themselves with it.”
Here is a story of a child told by Tsveta:
„He is only 4 years old and he has just started to get acquainted with the books and the magical world they introduce us, through what is written in them… He is the child who “chased” every adult wanting someone to read a new book to him or to reread a book one more time. In the “Tell the Tale” program, his attention was first caught by the variety of colorful illustrations, filled with all sorts of fictional characters, magical creatures, fairies, etc. Gradually, he discovered that the letters we read are describing the magical creatures and characters he had just met through the pictures in the books. They took him to the magical world of imagination, which turned out to be his special place…
Moreover, through his participation in the “Toy Library” program, he began to build his own magical world of castles and towers and started inviting magical guests – fairy-tale characters, to whom he prepared lunch or dinner… Playing with the toys supported him to meet the caterpillars and butterflies, to learn and recognize colors, to build tracks, and to make his first steps into recognizing the shape of the different elements. He made many more “discoveries”…”