Fifteen floors up, in a newly built tower block on the edge of a city in Bulgaria, Tatyana and her family are making a fresh start. Their small flat doesn’t have much furniture yet but it’s clean, warm and safe. It’s better than anywhere they’ve ever lived before.
When we visit, Tatyana’s older children, Karina who is four and Lina who is nearly two, are asleep on a temporary bed in the corner of the living room. But her baby son, Ivo, is wide awake and happy to play.
Six months ago, just before Ivo was born, Tatyana and her family were on the verge of homelessness. Her husband faced a continual struggle to find even low paid work and they were living from rent payment to rent payment in a tiny, rundown apartment.
As soon as Tatyana gave birth, the staff on the maternity ward called Hope and Homes for Children in Bulgaria. They were concerned that, with nowhere else to turn, Tatyana might abandon Ivo to an orphanage. Yanka, one of our social workers, visited Tatyana in the hospital to reassure her that, with the right support, she would be able to take care of her new born son.
Yanka helped the family to find a local authority flat and obtain the documents Tatyana needed to claim her maternity allowance. This means that, at last, they have a stable income. We also provided the family with household essentials including a cot for Ivo, food and medicines. “I know I can call Yanka anytime,” Tatyana says. “Without her help, I would not have been able to keep my son.”
Tatyana’s oldest daughter, Karina, has just started nursery school and Yanka says she’s settling in really well. Before, with no permanent address, it had been impossible for the children to go to school. Now, Yanka is helping Tatyana to apply for a nursery place for Lina too, so that she can spend more time with Ivo. “Every mother is happy when her children are happy,” Tatyana says. “I feel more confident about the future now.”
The work of Hope and Homes for Children in Bulgaria is focused on preventing children under the age of three from entering the orphanage system by giving vulnerable families the support they need to stay together. Since 2009, Hope and Homes for Children has been instrumental in the closure of 14 baby institutions in Bulgaria and we are continuing to work alongside the authorities to implement the Government’s plan to close all remaining baby institutions in the near future.