A year of living in solidarity: lessons from social engagement in the midst of COVID, as seen by Karin House

EESC Info asked Karin House, Bulgarian winner of the EESC Civil Solidarity Prize, to tell our readers how the project was born, how people responded to it and how the prize money will help their organisation grow. Project manager Darina Raykova answered our questions.

What prompted you to start your project?

Since its inception more than 25 years ago, the Karin House Foundation's mission has been to support children with special needs in Bulgaria and their families. And not just to provide support, but to tailor it to the individual needs and requirements of the child and the family. Support is geared not only to providing therapy, but also to improving the chances of a good life, equal access to good education, enabling parents to cope with difficulties and to accept them and be confident and motivated in solving them, helping parents grow in their role as the most vigorous advocates of their children's rights and, last but not least, training and overseeing professionals, institutions and organisations working with them. COVID's arrival in Bulgaria created an extremely worrying situation – children and parents were not able to receive therapeutic and psychological services as they had previously been able to. Pursuing our core mission, we had to find a way to give these families support of a high standard in the current emergency and to continue working for their health and development.

How has your project been received? Have you received any feedback from the people you helped? (Can you give us an example, if you have any?)

The training and materials we produced directly supported parents whose children attend Karin House, many other parents in the country and Bulgarians with young children living abroad. We also indirectly supported families and children by sending these materials to early intervention centres, nurseries, other educational institutions and professionals. Many colleagues told us that the materials we sent helped them to communicate with and give appropriate guidance to many families in what are exceptional circumstances for everybody.

How will you use this specific funding to provide further help in the community? Are you already planning any new projects?

The situation in Bulgaria is still uncertain and dangerous and work is being done on continuing to follow this online model until at least September 2021. Online training sessions are continuing this year, with more topics planned on specific issues matching the requirements, needs and concerns of parents and professionals. Support will also be provided to address the longer term effects of COVID. 

What advice would you give to other organisations in terms of achieving results with such activities and programmes?

To keep on properly pursing the mission, vision and values of their organisation and to work with commitment, love and concrete goals – who we want to help and why. Be flexible and not afraid of change and difficulties, because these often create new opportunities to develop.