Our partnership with the Cedar Foundation dates back to the beginning of August 2016, when a learning space was created in the Family-type placement center for children and youth (CNST), Kyustendil, under the “Element of Play” program.
About the partner:
The Cedar Foundation is an active participant in the process of formulation, implementation, and evaluation of deinstitutionalization policies. It provides 24-hour individual care and specialized support to disadvantaged children and young people.
The foundation was established in 2005 with the aim to support children in the types of specialized institutions at that time in Bulgaria. Afterward, in 2010, together with the Municipality of Kyustendil, they closed the Home for Mentally Disabled Children and Youth (DDMUI) in the village of Gorna Koznitsa and prepared a smooth transition for the children to a family-type environment in several centers in the town of Kyustendil. Nowadays, the Cedar Foundation manages nine social services in the towns of Kazanlak and Kyustendil and takes day-and-night care of nearly 70 children and young people accommodated in residential services.
We present Tsvetomira Milenova, who works with young people in the center in Kyustendil. Tsveti is a wonderful young woman who knows how to connect with young people in an exceptionally human and respectful way. The key to her professional success is her attitude – she believes they can develop their potential. Tsveti is a wonderful colleague who is eager to study and improve in her work, which is admirable. Here is what Tsveti says about herself:
My name is Tsvetomira Milenova. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Pedagogy. I am part of the Cedar Foundation’s team and I work at the “Siyanie” Center in the town of Kyustendil as an occupational therapist. Part of my work is related to working with the “Element of Play” program, in which I underwent several training courses. I have been integrating it into my work for two years already.
The young people participate with interest in the sessions and show positive emotions when I go to them with toys, although they do not verbalize it. Those who communicate often ask when we will play again together. When we are reading fairy tales and through their participation they learn many things, gain more and more confidence and self-esteem. We laugh and have fun together and that’s how they feel significant.
I call my work at the Cedar Foundation – my vocation. I am inspired by all the people I meet, with whom, together with daily small steps or with work towards bigger goals, we make the lives of the children and young people better.
The “Element of Play” program is implemented as a complementary activity in the Family-type placement center. The set of resources that are being used with the youths and children includes different types of games, developing skills for sorting, recognizing colors and shapes, respecting rules, developing social and communication skills. One of these games is learning the parts of the day and the various activities happening in them through the ability to recognize the hours of the day.
Here is a story that shows the faith in human potential that our Cedar Foundation partners have, and we thank them for sharing it.
“Vanessa has been diagnosed with severe mental retardation for 17 years and has been placed in an institution since her birth. She came to our small family-type placement center when he was 9 years old. She likes listening to music, going for a walk in nature. Vanessa understands short expressions and most of the words. If she likes or wants something, she will take your hand and take you there. If she doesn’t like something, she will turn her back and get angry, and won’t talk. “She has no desire to play, she can’t do anything” – at least that’s how her diagnosis determines her. Our overall work, however, definitely shows otherwise. With small steps, we play and achieve our goals. When she wants to play, she comes, takes my hand, shows me with her hand her favorite toy from the Library. We play once a week and with a lot of effort and work, we achieved results. At the very beginning, the child did not want to and did not know how to play. Slowly, day after day, she started reaching her hands timidly until she started playing with a smile. When we started working through the “Toy Library” program, she was only interested in shapes and colors. Vanessa was touching the cubes timidly and expressed herself only with gestures. We had the time to play together. This is how we achieved the long-awaited results. Today, she divides geometric shapes by color and size and arranges the numeric matrices correctly. And the biggest success – she learned to play. Something that her “sentence” and diagnosis, categorically denies that she can.”