Bulgaria’s five largest cities receive psychosocial support training
Following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, NGOs around Europe had to act swiftly to respond to the needs of families with young children fleeing Ukraine. While the necessary infrastructure was set up quickly, the early childhood development (ECD) workforce was not adequately prepared to support children who have been through traumatic experiences. For Ukrainian children living in Bulgaria, their fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, and grief are compounded by being away from their homes, schools, relatives, and peers, adjusting to a new country, and uncertainty about their future. In this new reality, the ECD workforce needs the proper tools to protect their mental health and support the children they work with.
In 2022, War Child Holland, ISSA Member, Amna, and ISSA joined forces to develop and deliver a training of trainers titled Foundational training on psychological first aid and trauma-informed practices. In cooperation with UNICEF, ISSA Member For Our Children Foundation recruited highly qualified ECD professionals to be trained as master trainers to deliver the foundational training in Bulgaria. They were then grouped, ensuring that each had a balance of professionals with knowledge of the ECD systems and experience working directly with children and families. Since this training, and with support from UNICEF Bulgaria, For Our Children Foundation, successfully trained 103 ECD professionals, by coordinating a series of workshops on psychosocial support and trauma-informed care for those working with refugees and migrant children.
To realize these workshops, For Our Children Foundation created a plan detailing the potential target groups, training dates, and suitable venues. Master trainers delivered these trainings in Bulgaria’s five largest cities—Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, and Stara Zagora. These cities have the largest number of ECD services, which allows For Our Children Foundation to scale up expertise. This will not only strengthen the capacity of the ECD workforce, but also ensure sustainability and further utilization of the training’s resources. Furthermore, with assistance from local authorities, For Our Children Foundation identified and invited early years and social services professionals that have been heavily involved in the refugee crisis.
In Stara Zagora, trainers from Mission Wings Foundation, an organization with many years working to support migrants and refugees, conducted a training with frontline workers with diverse backgrounds and experiences. In addition, workshops hosted in Burgas and Varna reached many Ukrainian children and families fleeing the war. Representatives of UNICEF’s Blue Dot hubs—safe spaces where children and families can get practical support on their journey—also joined these sessions. Meanwhile in Sofia and Plovdiv, For Our Children Foundation’s ECD centers hosted the workshops.
For Our Children Foundation has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both participants and master trainers. The enthusiasm of those trained will allow For Our Children Foundation to establish effective and sustainable professional learning communities, to boost the skills and knowledge of professionals.
Photo on the left (training in Plovdiv); Photo on the right (training in Sofia)
Photos courtesy of For Our Children Foundation.