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Could the COVID-19 crisis cause family separation?

20 August 2021

This is how a family stays together, despite the difficulties

Amala Friends is one of dozens of organizations to have made tremendous efforts over the past year and a half to assist families affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Their project, “For happiness in children’s eyes”, (funded by the Iris Programme), provided social, educational material and moral support for 80 families during the crisis. The families from the municipality of Dupnitsa, who were all living below the poverty line, received support to overcome difficulties and the challenges linked to the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

One such family is that of Ruska and Stefan, from the village of D. The couple have two children: Yasen and Matei. Yasen is in seventh grade, and Matei is in a compulsory preschool preparatory group. In January 2021, both parents were laid off from work because of the pandemic, and, with no education, found it impossible to find new work. This plunged them into financial crisis: they had no water or electricity, and the children could no longer attend school. The resulting stress caused constant conflict between Ruska and Stefan, which was witnessed by their children and brought the family to the point of collapse.

At this tense moment, hope appeared in the form of the Amala Friends Association. As soon as project activities started, the family was visited by a social worker, and for the next five months a psychologist, educational mediator and social worker visited them twice a week. They also received financial support to pay for electricity, and received donated clothes and shoes for the children.

Unfortunately, in April 2021, Stefan became infected with the Corona virus, with Ruska getting infected shortly afterwards. The family had to quarantine and, lacking the funds to buy medicines and food, was again shaken by insecurity and anxiety. The Amala Friends project team were a great support, providing the medicines, food and protective equipment the whole family needed – with everything done in strict compliance with anti-epidemic measures. The children were also given school materials so they could continue their education.

The family survived this difficult moment intact, and both spouses are now doing seasonal work. In June, Yassen managed to finish seventh grade and enrolled in high school, while little Matei obtained the long-awaited document for completed pre-school education, meaning his parents could enroll him in first grade. Over time, the family began to recover, overcoming the danger of separation. Both Ruska and Stefan now have seasonal work and are enjoying life with their two children.

The Amala Friends project is funded by the Iris Programme, which was set up to provide assistance to vulnerable children (and their families) affected by Covid-19. The Programme sprang out of an initiative by the Bulgarian Donors’ Forum, the National Network for Children and the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation. It is managed by the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation, and the main donor is Tanya’s Dream Fund.