WWO’s first Bulgarian program began in 2004 - a collaboration on the One-to-One Program (Granny program) with the in-country organization Milossardie – a collaboration which continues to this day. As the program expanded, we recognized that many of the children had been institutionalized from a very early age, which creates special challenges, including the lack of individualized attention the granny program was addressing.
Another important cultural feature is that Bulgarian children begin school at 7 years of age, and most of what they learn prior to that is accomplished at home rather than at pre-school. For the children in the orphanages, their first school experience was traumatic because they were way behind from the very beginning.
WWO addressed these issues in a number of ways – first by introducing the concept of physical and occupational therapy and then by training caregivers in simple exercises and techniques that enhanced the children’s mobility and increased their chances for staying on target developmentally. At the same time, we taught basic principles of child development so that the grannies would have a better idea of what to expect and how to help children stay on track.
We then developed the WWO Toy Library Project. Psychologists and child development specialists agree that toys are the tools that help children develop their social awareness, imagination, visual motor capabilities and thinking processes. Play is a very serious activity for children worldwide and often represents a primary and valuable means of learning. Since toys are such important learning instruments, we are determined to provide easy access to appropriate toys. A Toy Library provides such access to children in orphanages.
In addition, the WWO Toy Library Project includes the training of in-country caregivers, teachers, pedagogues, directors, doctors, nurses and psychologists by a senior group of WWO consultants; the donation of carefully selected developmental toys and organization of the library; the production of a developmental manual and toy cards with cognition, fine motor, gross motor, social/emotional, and communication targets, as well as with suggested activities.
In 2009, WWO implemented the pilot Toy Library at Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Nearly 70 staff members and caregivers (grannies) were trained to use 140 new developmental toys, donated by Beleduc Toy Company, Germany. In February 2010, a follow up visit confirmed that the library is actively used and that all grannies are working with 4 to 5 toys from the library per day with each child. Three additional Toy Libraries were established at Pleven, Targoviste and Vratsa in July 2010, .two more in Burgas and Varna by the end of 2010.
The next step of implementation – In 2011, Toy Libraries will be established in the two remaining homes for children 0-3 year old where WWO works. WWO will also be developing a Toy Library appropriate for children 3 – 7 years old for the homes that have children in this age group focusing on age appropriate play and school readiness.
Music in Motion in Bulgaria. March like an elephant! Grow like a flower! Dance like the rain! It’s all part of a Music in Motion session with developmentally delayed children living in two Bulgaria orphanages.
WWO implemented The Music in Motion program in two homes for 3-7 year old children in Bulgaria. The program, designed to be user-friendly, consists of a music kit with four CDs, instruction cards, a parachute, and assorted percussion instruments.
Staff was impressed by how children with developmental delays, including autism, enthusiastically participated. WWO is now developing a Music in Motion program for 6-36 month olds in Bulgaria and Haiti.
Learn more about One-to-One Program (Granny program)
Learn more about WWO Toy Library Project