Working with heart and soul

The representative of UNICEF in Bulgaria visited the Shoumen region

02 May 2019

To do our job, we must first think with our hearts. This is particularly true when working with children from vulnerable groups.

said UNICEF representative Dr. Jane Muita, who was visiting the region of Shoumen. She met with the teams of the Family Counseling Centers (transformed into Community Support Centers) in Shoumen, Novi Pazar and Veliki Preslav, the Child Advocacy Centre (Zona ZaKrila), and with nurses and midwives who provide free home visits to pregnant women and families with children up to 3 years of age. All these services, which help hundreds of children and families in the area each year, were created with the support of UNICEF in partnership with national, regional and local authorities, NGOs and communities to prevent neglect and abandonment, separation of children from their families, to help improve parental care and to change existing harmful practices in raising younger children.

Family-center teams shared about the trust and respect they see in the people’s eyes. The fact that children, for example, supported by the center in Novi Pazar, now in their turn as adults, have become part of the center's team, is the greatest proof of both the quality of the services offered and the valuable continuity, which is created in the community as well as of the courage and persistence of working with the most vulnerable groups. "We work with invisible people that no one wants to deal with, not even wants to see." shared with pain but also satisfaction the social worker Muslim Ali. Success is due to working with the whole family, in their common environment and setting, not just with a separate child of a vulnerable family. Evaluating the needs of the whole family and making a support plan that includes activities aimed at the family as a whole and its individual members. The change of the community and its norms which are prerequisite for children's risks, such as salting, early feeding, violence, child marriages and early births is encouraged.

Trust - this was also the unifying word in the stories of the visiting nurses who helped over 2,000 families. Children from vulnerable groups, without medical insurance, underage mothers in the outermost neighborhoods; mothers from the city - benefiting from the necessary health services, but who could not find any advice and support on how to take care of their firstborn baby or how to breastfeed for the first time - the help of the visiting nurses covers the entire Shoumen region.

When we launched this service, which was created with the support of UNICEF in 2013, we looked for women who needed us. Now they come themselves - the women share about the support we provide and recommend us to their friends and sisters. 

commented one of the nurses. A service, completely free and highly professional, valuable advice on parenting, breastfeeding and nutrition, but above all warmth and support - this is what the pregnant women and mothers of young children receive from the visiting nurses.       

The high professionalism of the team of the Child Advocacy Centre, Zona ZaKrila and the importance of the Blue Room for a child-friendly hearing were repeatedly confirmed during the meetings with judges, investigators, police officers. All judges from the Shumen District Court use the Blue Room in their work, with hearings in both criminal and civil cases.

Positive results for children could not be achieved without will and beneficial cooperation with partners, local authorities, governments.

From my travels in Bulgaria, and especially in Shoumen, I see there is a great will. There are also the relevant legal instruments to support children and vulnerable communities. There are also many partners who willingly work to improve the lives of the children.

said Dr. Muita, who met with the mayors of Shoumen and Veliki Preslav Lyubomir Hristov and Alexander Gorchev and the district governor of Shoumen Prof. Stefan Zhelev. "I see that children in Bulgaria are a priority not only on the national level, but also for the municipalities." concluded Dr. Muita.