One of the poorest countries in Europe, Bulgaria's population has suffered from the social and economic changes brought on by the fall of the Soviet Union.
SOS Children's Villages moved into Dren in 1995 and put emergency measures into action to support the community before moving into longer term arrangements.
Huge change forced upon people
Dren is a village of 2000 people about 45 km south west of Sofia. This part of the country is predominantly woodland and is very poor. As with the rest of the country Dren is still readjusting after the change of political systems brought about by the fall of the Soviet Union. The newly independent country has had to change the way it trades as well as changing the way it is administered and operates, and this has impacted everyone in the country - not always positively.
A significant number of Bulgarian adults work abroad, sending remittances home to their extended families. In some cases, children are left behind while their parents do this and do not receive enough support to survive.
Dren has a primary school, a college of folk art and a tailoring college. Children can get to the nearby regional capital of Radomir for secondary education.
Emergency measures to support the children of Dren
When SOS Children's Villages arrived in Dren in 1995, conditions for the villagers were so bad we enacted emergency measures to alleviate the stress on its inhabitants. We distributed food, medical supplies, baby clothing and winter clothing to people throughout the village.
As the situation stabilised, we introduced a family strengthening programme to support children at risk of losing parental support. Over time we have introduced programmes such as social care and support to families, youths and young children, which improve the lives of villagers.
How do we support the villagers of Dren?
SOS Children's Village, Dren is located on the top of a hill above the village. We provide support to vulnerable families, give loving homes to children who cannot live with their families, and run youth programmes.
We try to stop families from abandoning their children through our family strengthening programme. This gives alternatives to leaving their child to fend for themselves, for instance by teaching parents new vocational skills so they can afford to keep them at home. We make sure that children have access to education, good nutrition and health services. We also offer counselling and psychological support through our SOS social centre.
A loving home and mother
For children who can no longer live with their families, we have 13 SOS families who provide a loving home, cared for by SOS Mothers. Children go to school in their community, and use their local community centre where they mingle with their fellow villagers.
Since 2001 we have running a youth programme. Young people who reached an age where they can become more independent are moved into supported accommodation flats in Sofia while getting further education or training. We have qualified counsellors who help them shoulder the responsibilities of adulthood. In helping begin and foster networks, so we hope to enable them to flourish in the wider community.
Orphaned children in Dren are given a new loving home in an SOS Children's Village. You can support them to have a happy childhood by sponsoring a child.