Covid-19 brought the neediest in Ruse to the brink. Organizations like Equilibrium are the only source of food and basic health care for some.
A donation from the StandingTogether program of US Embassy Sofia and the America for Bulgaria Foundation helped supply food and vitamins for Ruse children and families in need.
The story is a joint production of BG Voice and the America for Bulgaria Foundation.
For 15 years now, the Equilibrium Association’s mission has been to help children and youth at risk, with disabilities, or living in difficult circumstances. In the conditions of the pandemic, social workers have had to face an even greater challenge—providing material support to many families, for whom they are the only hope.
For the Equilibrium team, this profession is not just work; it’s a calling. They are responsible for over 250 users of 11 social services in Ruse and Byala, towards whom life has not been fair.
“In these so-called family-type accommodation centers we take care of children and youth with severe disabilities, and we are the only organization that runs a family-type center for children and youth with disabilities in need of constant medical care. This is difficult work with a high level of responsibility,” says Elena Petkova, the association’s program director.
And the task has been even more difficult during the crisis. The people that the social workers care for need both material and psychological support.
Petkova says that the crisis, along with unemployment, has created even greater difficulties for them. Many people have truly been brought to the brink of misery, and Equilibrium has had to fundraise even more actively to buy additional food supplies, medicines, diapers, baby formula. “In the remote neighborhoods, villages… none of my colleagues wavered nor ever said, ‘I’m afraid, I won’t be coming to work,’ or, God forbid, ‘I resign,’” Petkova says.
Nikolinka Rouskova and her four granddaughters are among the families that consider Equilibrium’s care irreplaceable. She has been receiving help from the center, in the form of food and clothes, for 6–7 months now, as well as financial support to pay her utility bills. “I had a first-grader, who needed many things, and two kindergarteners and a granddaughter without a birth certificate… We went to the hospital with her, and there was no one to cover the hospital bills. We met through my oldest granddaughter, Nikolinka’s teacher, she helped me with the birth certificate… We barely had food to eat. We didn’t have clothes or shoes, not to mention notebooks, pens, schoolbags,” Nikolinka says.
State subsidies cannot meet all needs, especially during a pandemic. People with big hearts help to cover those costs.
Equilibrium staff members have many people to thank. “Thank God Ruse citizens know us well and trust us, for which we thank them, and many people came to the rescue. Help from the America for Bulgaria Foundation and the US Embassy came, for which we are very grateful, because this helped us continue providing our family-type center services, where we needed to procure large quantities of disinfectants and PPEs for the men and women working there. This helped us provide care and support to other families, apart from those who are direct beneficiaries of our services. In addition to those who are assigned to our social services, we were able to help other families in great need, who started turning to us during the crisis. The need for our services literally tripled,” Petkova says.
The people served by them are glad that Equilibrium exists. It makes them feel that they are not alone. “This is maybe the greatest reward—to see the gratitude in the eyes of a weeping mother, because you have brought them diapers and formula, or that the grandmother will be able to cook something for her grandchildren, four of them, which, until the day before, would not have been possible,” Petkova says.
Equilibrium staff hope to continue receiving help from donors in order to purchase the necessary food, diapers, and medicines. They also hope to put a smile on the faces of people like Nikolinka and her granddaughters by providing basic products and some loving care.