Autumn leaves

–  Zornitsa, why are you yelling at the children like this? Don’t beat them, you are hurting them! Come and apologize for what you did!


This is how the teacher was trying to solve a specific problem with Zornitsa, who has been attending kindergarten for a week. Zornitsa is three years old, but when another child approaches her and asks her to play with, she pushes him away with her fists or starts screaming and crying. This behavior is not typical of the most children, and teachers rarely encounter such behavior. The personnel of the school had never tried to find the causes of such a problem and therefore they only inform the parents about the problematic behavior.

The team of Hope and homes for children – Bulgaria met Zornitsa and her family on an autumn day when she was a year and a half old. The wind somehow unfriendly tore the multicolored leaves from the trees, played with them, and then threw them on the ground, where the mud as turning them into unnecessary and faceless mass. Autumn was somehow insistently reminding of the upcoming winter, and the cold caressed our senses and we hurried to find some warmth. Mila, Zornitsa’s mother, invited us to a small apartment, where she has recently been living with her two children and her mother. We were drinking tea and the young woman told us that her husband was in prison at that moment and they were left without any income. This was why they lived with her mother. They do not have enough money for food and cannot provide heat for the winter. The children were playing on the floor and suddenly Zornitsa started screaming and pushing her sister for no reason. The intervention of the mother and grandmother had no result, neither when Zornitsa was given a favorite toy and treat.

We will be able to provide food, to pay for the electricity and heating, but what is the reason for the child’s behavior? Where did the problem originate from? Has the child, or the mother, or the grandmother and the sister been abused? We started to frequently visit them and learned from the conversations that the father had been constantly abusing everyone verbally – he used to shout at and insult the children and to use inappropriate and offensive words for the children themselves. Constant insecurity and eternal suspicion that everything is not done according to his will and understanding. Even when he was away from the family, he was sending his sister to exercise control over them every day and she behaved in the same way. If there are physical signs of any violence, they are visible and you can easily point them out, to condemn such behavior, but the emotional wounds are invisible and there is no way to prove them. This type of domestic violence can crush a person, and children not only grow up without authority in front of them but can easily accept this behavior as normal.

In this situation we started working with the family, we made a meeting with the teachers to explain to them how they should approach the relevant behavior manifestations and a year later we already have positive results. Zornitsa plays with her peers, she talks a lot and constantly wants to tell stories. Mila started looking for a job and going to interviews, the father went home for two months and he acted as if he had changed his attitude towards his family. He shares plans for a new and more spacious home to live in. Just before the COVID 19 pandemic, he went to work abroad. Mila and the children were left without funds again and rely only on the grandmother’s pension.

Together with CEZ we decided to stand next to this family so that they can survive the winter. The results achieved in controlling verbal aggression can be easily blurred in times of deprivation. Our goal is to encourage the children to attend school, for the mother to find a suitable job and for the father not to treat them badly. The “Together we can do everything” campaign will enable Mila and Zornitsa to continue living in a normal way without being financially dependent. Our delicate intervention has paid off, the child is calm, she has made friends and she will continue to rediscover the good sides of life. Touched by the story of this family, our teams are convinced that we will change their destiny.

And again, it is autumn, the sun is setting low on the horizon and it seems to invite us to gather the fruits of our labor. The kindness gathered during the winter months will give them courage and will motivate us to help other families in crisis.


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With the participants in the children’s and youth participation program at Hope and homes for children – Bulgaria, we visited the children and youth placed

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