“Zippy’s Friends” – the Future Citizens of Bulgaria

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The project “Zippy`s Friends – the Future Citizens of Bulgaria” is financed under the NGO support program in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009-2014. The project is implemented in partnership between the “Animus Association Foundation” and the Norwegian organization, Voksne for Barn, and is supported by the Regional Inspectorate of Education at the Ministry of Education and Science, Directorate “Prevention, Integration, Sports and Tourism” at Sofia Municipality.

The project aims at expanding community services improving the welfare of vulnerable children by introducing the “Zippy’s Friends Program” in a mainstream school in Bulgaria. “Zippy’s Friends” is a unique program with leading organization Voksne for Barn, Norway. The program is a tool for the prevention of school bullying and the marginalization of children on ethnic, social, physical or other principle, as well as a tool for improving the mental health of children. The program not only improves the social climate in the classroom and children’s coping skills and self-esteem but also their academic achievements. “Zippy’s Friends”  is a program that helps children at an early age to develop coping skills so that they can better cope with life crises and difficulties at various stages of their lives.

Some of the most important activities that took place in 2015 within the project were:

– For the first time during the academic year 2014-2015, a program promoting the mental health of children aged 5-7 was implemented in 14 pre-school groups and classes from schools and kindergartens in the city of Sofia; 300 children participated in Zippy’s Friends program. In 2015-2016 school year the program continued in four new classes.

– In conjunction with the implementation of the program in schools and kindergartens, a study was conducted to assess the program’s impact on children and on the climate in the classroom which will function as the basis of a report which will be prepared for the effectiveness of the “Zippy’s Friends” program in Bulgaria. The results show that parents of the children who participated in Zippy’s Friends program increased the active strategies for coping than the children who did not attend in the program and who increased the passive strategies. We conducted a survey which aimed to find out whether children’s way to communicate with each other and with their teacher has changed after the implementation of Zippy’s Friends program. The data shows that teachers believe that the program has a positive impact on children’s communication skills and their abilities to solve problems within the group.