Our partnership with the “Knowledge” Association – Lovech dates back to 2019 when we met within the “Game for Opportunities” Project.

About the partner: “Knowledge” Association is an educational non-governmental organization working since 1994 in the field of education, early childhood development, social inclusion, and civic participation. The mission is to promote democratic values in society and increase human potential by providing quality and accessible education, combined with national traditions and the European dimension of lifelong learning. The goals are aimed at preparing and providing high-quality educational services for children, young people, people over 18, and disadvantaged people. The association works mainly on the territory of the Lovech district.

www.znanielovech.org 

We present Ralitsa Popova – Executive Director of the “Knowledge” Association – Lovech. She is the main facilitator of the sessions with children under the Element of Play® Program, in the places where it is applied. Here is what Ralitsa says about herself:

“Although I like my educational background in economics and marketing, I have worked the least in this area. Since 2002 I have been part of the “Knowledge” Association, and since 2005 I have been its executive director. When I first heard about the Element of Play® Program, I wished that we start facilitating similar activities. Inspired by the name of this program, we equipped a library for children, parents, and teachers in the kindergarten “Irina Bacho Kirova” in the town of Letnitsa – a kindergarten in which we subsequently included “Tolerance”, “Food and Health” classes and club “WHY?”. Almost five years later, we joined the “Game for Opportunities” Project and got acquainted with the entire Element of Play® Program, provided by the Worldwide Orphans Foundation Bulgaria. Within the project, I conduct sessions with children from two groups in the “Sun” Kindergarten in the town of Lukovit and with children and parents in the Petrevene Community Center.

Our partnership with the WWO Bulgaria continues and together we are looking for opportunities to provide an environment for play even in the most remote places, where there are no other services to support early childhood development. My personal motivation to apply and facilitate the Element of Play® Program is my desire to work with children. I have many years of experience in training teachers and young people, but I lacked direct contact with children and the opportunity to apply the acquired knowledge in the field of early childhood development. For me, kindergarten should be a favorite place for children, a place where they feel free to create, communicate, and develop themselves. For various reasons, not all kindergartens in Bulgaria are such places. It is a challenge to work for positive change and that motivates me even more. Working together and collaborating with educational NGOs, kindergartens, and educators who develop, test, and implement innovative programs gives me hope that more kindergartens will become such favorite places.”

Here is an event from the daily life in the Learning Space in the village of Petrevene, narrated by Ralitsa Popova:

“More than 600 people live in the village of Petrevene. There is no functioning school, no kindergarten, but since there is a Learning Space under the Element of Play® Program, it has become a favorite place for children and parents. Thanks to the passion and creativity of the Community Center’s Chairwoman Yordanka Velcheva or Dancheto, as everyone calls her, interesting things are starting to happen.  

Apart from the lack of educational institutions in the village, there is also a lack of cultural life. It has been more than 25 years since the inhabitants of the village of Petrevene were “touched” by the theatrical art through an amateur production “Tatul”. Since then, neither the community center has organized a theater nor external productions have been hosted. The children of the village have never seen a theater. With the desire to feel the magic of theater, we prepared for the children the fairy tale “The Gigantic Turnip”. Dancheto sewed the dolls, stiffened the screen, sewed the curtains, and chose the fairy tale. And for more than 20 years, there was a theater in the village again. The children’s audience was very demanding. The short story was repeated several times, and after the finale, the young spectators wanted to become actors. The Little Red Riding Hood appeared improvised on the stage. The songs about the sun have been sung several times, also memorized words about Santa Claus found a way of expression, no matter that they were 3 months early. Finally, they insisted that there would be a theater again next week. That would mean that Dancheto is about to sew new dolls, prepare, and rehearse.

Reading fairy tales, listening to stories, watching theatrical performances is essential for the formation of social and emotional competencies in children. In addition to learning new words, it is important to empathize with the emotions of the characters, to observe the behavior of favorite ones, which will later become role models. The emotion that children express is very special! Very soon the puppet theater in Lovech will visit the village of Petrevene because our children deserve to see a professional performance. Another reason is that the theater that we will offer them “Miracles of Cleanliness” is told in a childish, fun, and understandable way why we need to have hygienic habits and what “magic” happens if we don’t have it.”

©2024WWO

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