As the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout the world, and in particular, Bulgaria, many of us are seeking ways to help.
Doctors and medical staff are on the frontlines of the fight against the virus’s advance. To support them in this battle, on March 18, the America for Bulgaria Foundation donated 300,000 levs to two of the leading national hospitals: Pirogov Emergency Hospital and Alexandrovska University Hospital. Each of them received a donation of 150,000 levs.
A number of large companies have also contributed financially to help stem the spread of the virus.
In order to unite and channel these efforts, the America for Bulgaria Foundation is partnering with the Bulgarian Donors Forum, the US Embassy in Bulgaria, and the American Chamber of Commerce. We created an independent fund—United against Covid-19.
This fund has been embraced by Bulgarian and multinational businesses as well as generous individuals, with pledges and contributions totaling 771,000 levs so far. ABF matched lev-to-lev the first 100,000 levs contributed. Our goal is to raise one million levs in aid of Bulgaria’s response efforts, and we are pleased with the outpouring of generosity.
I have been inspired by how businesses have responded by adapting their production to assist with shortages and how many companies have reorganized their workflows, allowing employees to work from home.
But I have been nothing short of astounded and humbled by the work of the civil society sector. In the three weeks since the country declared a state of emergency, NGOs and citizen groups have rearranged their activities and channeled their efforts toward responding to the crisis—whether by making sure protective gear and other vital supplies get to hospital workers, ensuring elderly citizens and other vulnerable groups continue to receive food and medicine, or helping move Bulgarian education online.
A huge shout-out to TimeHeroes for helping organize volunteers and helping others self-organize, to the Bulgarian Food Bank for redirecting food where it is needed the most, the Trust for Social Achievement and its partner network for providing information and protective gear to health mediators around the country.
In an incredibly short amount of time, innumerable initiatives have sprung up to meet a wide variety of needs. This gives me hope—that good is more contagious than the virus.
Working in close cooperation with the US Embassy in Bulgaria, ABF has earmarked funds that we will use to support NGO initiatives and citizen groups in small places across the country making a difference in their communities in these trying times.
The #StandingTogether initiative has already reached many communities in need including the village of Vassilovtsi, home to Bulgaria’s first two COVID-19 victims, and the city of Rousse’s neediest families and children. Bulgaria’s most innovative minds joined forces in a 48-hour marathon last weekend to develop technological tools for tackling the COVID-19 outbreak. One of the winning projects will receive financial support through #StandingTogether.
As we all reorient our lives to respond to the situation, I have asked the ABF team to focus their efforts on seeking out the volunteers and initiatives that most deserve support, even as we continue to be of assistance to our grantees and partners.
Here I cannot but mention a front line perhaps as important as the medical one: education. In one long weekend, Bulgaria’s teachers and education professionals took Bulgarian education years ahead in order to ensure that your children can continue to receive vital knowledge and skills with minimal disruption. NGOs have been indispensable in this effort as well by sharing resources, developing tutorials and online content, providing training and one-on-one consultations, and making their content free to all. Kudos to organizations such as Khan Academy, Teach for Bulgaria, Muzeiko, Sofia Platform, Ucha.se, Center for Creative Training, Center for Shared Learning ELA, and Tinusaur.
They also help bring a routine to parents’ upended lives and a reason for us to take off our pajamas and restore a semblance of normalcy.
What all these individuals and initiatives drive home is that we can all do our part, no matter what our financial situation or zip code.
For most of us, this means staying home—and practicing as much physical distancing from other people as possible. I know this is extremely difficult, but this is among our most effective tools against the advance of the virus.
As you do so, however, take the time to consider vulnerable relatives, friends, and neighbors. If you can shop for an elderly neighbor, please do so, taking the necessary precautions, both for your sake and theirs.
Local businesses will be the hardest hit, so help keep them in business by shopping locally. Spare a thought for cleaning staff, supermarket cashiers, delivery people, and taxi drivers, and, if you can afford it, tip more generously.
There are many worthwhile charitable initiatives assisting your fellow Bulgarians and those working on the front lines battling the virus. If you can support them with a donation, I hope you will consider doing so. The generosity of Bulgarians has never been so prevalent—or so needed.
During these challenging times, many of us are glued to computers, phones, radios, and television sets, closely following the news. It can feel overwhelming. Please take time to push away from the drumbeat of bad news and take a mental break… get lost in a good book, watch a movie, or listen to your favorite music—do whatever calms your mind. The amount of content that artists and cultural organizations have made available for free is staggering. Look around and you are sure to find something new and enjoyable.
We will prevail. Together.
President and CEO
America for Bulgaria Foundation