Natasha, age four, lives in one of Bulgaria’s poorest Roma communities, Predel mahala in Blagoevgrad. Until joining an alternative daycare center organized by D-3 Navigators last summer, Natasha had never left her mother’s care. It was a difficult transition. Initially she cried for hours and barely communicated with any other children or teachers, in part because her comprehension of Bulgarian was minimal.
Today, Natasha is attending a local kindergarten, passes tests for children her age with ease, and happily shows off by reciting all the rhymes she learns in school. Natasha is just one of the many children that were successfully integrated into mainstream kindergartens after attending a daycare center supported by the Trust for Social Achievement. The project aims to help pre-school aged children from Predel mahala prepare for the challenges of entering first grade and mastering the Bulgarian skills needed to keep up in school. It also helped children from age 7 to 12 to enroll and stay in school.
D-3 Navigators’s daycare center is serving more than 50 parents and families. It has helped more than 30 children enroll in and complete kindergarten and an additional 40 to enroll and stay in school. Despite progress, the team often meets with challenges. When D-3 Navigators first approached Natasha’s mother about allowing her son Borko join daycare, she refused because the child was not interested. However, a year later, the mother came to the center on her own, asking whether both her children might attend.
Now Natasha’s brother Borko is attending a municipal kindergarten that is 1.5 km away from the neighborhood, and every morning he gets on the kindergarten bus to attend. D-3 Navigator’s project coordinator Radi shared that he once saw Borko’s mother walking with her son and two more children to the kindergarten. They had overslept and missed the bus. “Two years ago, I would not have dared to dream about this,” Radi excitedly declared.
Radoslav (Radi) Asenov, D 3 Navigators, Blagoevgrad