Mission: Bulgaria, Part Two

If you missed Part One, you can read it HERE

Besides looking for a new home for our permaculture project, we wanted to bring the first of what we hope with be many educational materials for the children at the Home in the village.

Montessori materials are not currently available in Bulgarian. The Montessori schools and suppliers here are in English only. The schools are only available to wealthy families in larger cities. The irony is that the Method was developed for kids from hard places – kids who were impoverished, neglected, traumatized. And they did better on tests than their more privileged peers at the time, which led to more well-to-do families wanting their children to have the same education. And so, here we are a few generations later and the educational approach meant to help underprivileged children is no longer serving them at all – at least in some places.

Because ready-made materials are not available in Bulgarian, they had to be hand-made, just like the first materials Dr. Montessori created. We started with three-part cards at the most basic level on topics that might interest the children – Night Sky/Solar System and Geography. There was also some material for what would traditionally be the Peace Corner and a first Movable Alphabet. Constellations, heavenly bodies, and maps were all hand-painted, and those watercolour illustrations used to make the cards.


Constellations
Solar System
Helping Hands
Movable Alphabet

On Wednesday, we were able to visit the Children’s Home where Nick and Olivia grew up. We were welcomed very warmly by Daniela, the director, and Mutaher, one of the senior ladies. We also met with Velichka and Tatiana (Olivia’s former mentor). We shared coffee and sweets from both America and Bulgaria. Nissa gave a brief demonstration on the use of the materials, and then we had a tour of the Home. Nick remembered who had slept where, and was allowed to go into each of the rooms in turn to look around. We saw the beautiful new bathroom upstairs, checked out the dining and kitchen areas, and then headed outside. Nick remembered the shed where the bikes were kept and was invited to take one out for a spin, which he did, happily. It was good for him to reconnect with his former home.

Nick outside the Children’s Home, Malak Preslavets
Joined here by Daniela Dimitrova, the Home’s director
The children choose how to be greeted when they come home from school: a hug, a little song and dance, or a handshake. This helps with both self esteem and setting healthy personal boundaries.
Each step has an affirmation. Pictured here (from the bottom):

I am tolerant. I am caring. I am respected
Nick in the dining room at the Children’s Home. We have a very special memory of making pizza together, having our (Brian and Nissa’s) first taste of banitsa and elderflower iced tea, and meeting a beautiful young lady named Gloria, with whom we still have contact.
Nick was invited to take one of the bikes for a spin.
Right at home.

While he rode, we ladies caught up on how Nick and Olivia are doing. We talked about the house in the village that we are working toward purchasing. And we talked about plans for our work in the village and our hope that the villagers would be accepting of us. Nissa was assured that we would indeed have friends in the village. Nissa has a little bit of Bulgarian, and the ladies have a little bit of English, and with the help of translation apps, we were able to converse with some hilarity.

The ladies offered to take us to see the home of a British couple, Steve and Jill. They live right at the end of the lane, quite near the Children’s Home. They weren’t at home, but we were told that they would be happy to help us on our subsequent trips.

Later, the ladies arranged for an impromptu fish barbecue at the park along the Danube. We arranged for our driver to pick us up an hour later than originally planned and we were still late. You can see photos from that on the Renaissance Mama blog.