Over 400 000 children in Bulgaria live at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and close to 1000 newborns and young children are being abandoned by their parents every year. Among the people who have set out to change these grim statistics is current AUBG EMBA student Anatoli Pavlov (EMBA ’21), Managing Director at Reynaers Aluminium Bulgaria.
Back in 2019, during a company training, he met with Kapka Stoykova, Board Member at For Our Children Foundation. She told him about one of the Foundation’s latest causes – to find funding for renovating part of the building of the former Rada Kirkovich social institution for abandoned children in Plovdiv and turn it into a modern Early Childhood Development Complex.
“It is very important for children to grow up in a family environment and not in a social home,” Anatoli said. “After the third year, it becomes critical for the child’s brain development.” This is why For Our Children Foundation has made it their mission to provide the most vulnerable children in Bulgaria with a happy childhood, and to support their parents or relatives to take care of them. That is the aim of their center in Plovdiv as well. The innovative project will offer a variety of integrated social, educational and health services to ensure the optimal development of the children in a safe family environment.
The difference between the brain development of three-year old children, one of which has suffered extreme neglect
And while the renovation work in the center is now going great, there were times when For Our Children Foundation did not know whether they would ever be able to launch the project. While they were already paying rent in Plovdiv, the organization had only collected 40,000 BGN out of the needed 350,000 BGN for renovation of the old building that they have rented. The COVID-19 pandemic was making the situation even worse because the team of the foundation was not able to meet with potential donors and raise the needed funds.
Anatoli took it to heart to help the Foundation and decided to use the support of his fellow EMBA students. During his second semester of studies, he was taking a Marketing class with Professor Luis Lages, the creator of the VCW-Value Creation Wheel. The Value Creation Wheel is an innovation and decision-making model designed by Lages to help leaders take efficient decisions and solve their business challenges. As a final project in Professor Lages’ class, the EMBA students had to work in teams to apply the VCW to a real-life case.
The current state of the renovation work
The EMBA students Hristina Georgieva, Iliya Maksimov, Maya Bliznakova, Dilyan Georgiev, and Anatoli chose to apply the VCW to the For Our Children Foundation’s center in Plovdiv. “The VCW was a very valuable tool to take a look at the issue from various angles and reach a conclusion as to what needs to be done,” Anatoli said.
Using the VCW, the EMBA students concluded that the foundation should appoint a local in Plovdiv who has the experience and contacts to bring donors. As the foundation could not afford such a person, Anatoli assigned his regional sales manager in Plovdiv (a person with experience and contacts) to be involved in this activity in support of the foundation. The EMBA team also came to the realization that the foundation needs ambassadors to spread the word and help the project with funding and support. Anatoli became one of those ambassadors himself. He worked with Ivanka Shalapatova, Executive Director at the Foundation, to visit the center in Plovdiv and assess its needs. Together, they met with the construction company in July 2020 and set to start the reconstruction work on Sept. 1 2020. The company managed by Anatoli, Reynaers Aluminium Bulgaria – a leading global provider of aluminum architectural solutions – contacted one of its customers to fabricate and install the windows and doors, and donated a large portion of the materials needed as well as all the labor. They also provided the glass panels for free by convincing a local producer to support the cause of the Foundation.
Before the renovations
The expected outcome
In addition to modern and spacious facilities, the center will include a Museum exposition–the first of its kind on the Balkans–telling the story of the former Rada Kirkovich institution, which is the first orphanage in Bulgaria, as well as the process of deinstitutionalization in the country. The renovation work is currently in full swing, but part of the amount is still missing, which calls into question the target opening date, June 1, 2021. Anyone who wishes to contribute to the project can learn how to do it here.