We met children from orphanages and wanted to help them. Not for us to feel better, but for them to live better.
How can we help? We spent 10 years trying to find out how to help these children. With the help of 200 volunteers and 150 children who took part in camps, courses and experiential learning, we discovered that children need role models.
Nothing helps a child more than a mature, loving adult. Children in families observe their parents, who love them and who pay attention to them free of charge. They learn how to think, feel, experience and make decisions. Children deprived of such opportunities suffer from lack of love, proximity and role-models; they have no role models to show them how to manage anger, how to commit to marriage in good and bad times, and how to build the will power to go to work even when one does not feel like working.
It is easier for those who recieved love as children to be able to solve problems in life, career, relationships and how to bring value to society. Those who have not recieved such love, will rather stay quiet.
Parents of children living in orphanages normally do not facilitate opportunities for their children to meet and form relationships with adults. Although they cannot be role-models for their children themeselves, they prohibit their children's opportunities for finding alternative role-models. Of course, children in orphanges do know a lot of adults - care-givers, psychologists, social workers, teachers - all of who are paid by the state to give their attention to the children.
It is virtually impossible for a child living in an orphanage to have a real relationship with an adult, who would be sincerely interested in them completely voluntarily and free of charge.
This is why BUDDY program exists. Buddy is a volunteer-based programme that provides the opportunity for childeren who live in orphanages, to have a loving and strong realationship with a reliable and mature adult. Volunteers spend their free time investing in these relationships so that the children feel loved. The magic is that the relationship is healing for both the adult and the child.
BUDDY program is designed for children older than 12 years, since younger children tend to attach to volunteers as if they were going to become their parents. BUDDY is not a foster parent - it is a friend who is at least 10 years older - similar to god-parent or older sibling. We find such volunteers, make the selection, train them, explain what is the point and how it works. After thorough training, we connect one volunteer with one child, living in an orphanage, and we enable them to connect the two worlds. Each volunteer then attends lectures and discusses their experiences with our psychologists once a month. This means that the BUDDY can better understand their orphan partner so that the relationship can last for not just a month, but ideally a lifetime.
The volunteer learns how to interact with children that have complex behavioural patterns; the children learn how to thrive in the complicated world outside of the orphanage. We hire and partner with the best professionals in child psychology and education. We help the volunteers, teachers, foster parents, and future parents to fully understand the children by perceiving the invisible causes of their behaviour and thus change the visible consequences of their education.
It takes as little as one meet a week to make the friendship last for a lifetime.
for every child who left an orphanage to integrate into society with dignity
Developing children in orphanages older than 12 years through volunteers by facilitating the creation and sustainability of long-term one-on-one loving relationships which then help the children learn the world outside of the orphanage.
When a child from an orphanage has a long-term quality relationship with the BUDDY volunteer, lives a decent life meaning a decent income and a decent shelter. After leaving the orphanage they must not be in jail or homeless - every other option is a road to success.
Ladislav Kossár, our founder, bought a wooden bracelet from kids from an orphanage in one of the commercial centers back in 2006. He then visited the orphanage and asked a simple question: "How can I help you?
The answer was quick: "Arrange somehow, that kids spend their free time reasonably."
Based on this inspiration, the BUDDY program began as summer camp "4 Elements"
We felt we wanted to give the children something more than just fun, something more practical that would help them integrate into society more directly
We started the Start program - experiential education with the aim to help the children become independent - financial skills / how to get a job
We made various group activities with children - tours / Christmas party / baking cookies / playing pirates / bowling / IT skills training / legal skills trainings / creativity workshops
Gradually our organization started to work more professionally. The group activities are shifted to a new level - BUDDY day / Smile day / co-operation with Mike Spirit (another major Slovak rap celebrity) / horse therapy / theater
Certification at the Ministry of Education authorising us to certify volunteers as experts working with youth form orphanages. Free-time activities are much more structured and target at improvement of specific life skills - weekends consisting of experiential learning / Buddy helping week / volunteer trainings
Group activites at DonBosco facilities in Bratislava / weekends / BUDDY dday / Buddy helping week
Further capacity building / defining a professional strategy / hiring new experts / adopting the attachment theory as theoretical base for BUDDY activities rather than behavioural approach / expanding to 10 more orphanages
analysing what had worked best over the last 9 years had always been the volunteers in relationships with their BUDDIES / refocusing on the creation and long-term sustainability of the relationship as a primary goal
BUDDY team & Advisory Board
Janka is a volunteer co-ordinator for non-Bratislava volunteers mostly. She studied psychology and addends a long-term training in psychotherapy in Integration psychology, she finished several other psychological trinings. She worked in both as individual and group therapist with children, adolescents and adult clients in various ages and diagnoses. She trained an oped group of psychiatric patients by artetherapy. She has a cat and a smile on her face.
Ladislav Kossár si the founder of PROVIDA and helps it with strategy and investments into organisations and individuals, who care the same about sustainable solutions for social problems. He finished law at the Commenius University, studied international law and capital markets at the universities at Szeged, Utrecht and at Harvard University. For 4 years he worked as an investment banker in London and Frankfurt. He has been focusing on real estate projects and venture capital investments for the last 10 years. Currently, on top of supporting marginalized children, he mentors beginning enterpreneurs and manages family assets. He always has a smile on his face.
is the lead expert for the BUDDY program. She studied special education, although mathematics was more attractive to her originally. She had worked as a word sister at psychiatry. She gained theoretical education and practical experience in psychotherpay trainings. Attachment theory is the closest theory to her. She worked as psychological-educational counsel, where she tried to find out why kids are prankish. Work at Návrat NGO brought her back to foster parents and their troubles. For 4 years she had tried to improve the institutional care for children in orphanages in Slovakia at the Ministry of Employment. She has two adult sons and a smile on her face.
Katarína is a BUDDY volunteer co-ordinator in the Bratislava and Nitra regions. She studied psychology, subsequent educational studies and many trainings on youth programs and activities. She specializes in prevention educational programs for children at school. She has no children yet but does have a smile on her face.
Lucia Kossárová is a co-founder of PROVIDA and a BUDDY chief expert for impact measurment and quality. She studied social science at Univesity College Utrecht and international development at John Hopkins SAIS in the USA and in Italy. In the past she had worked for the European Council and the World Bank and later on as a consultant in the field of health-care and social development in various countries of the world. She currently lives in London, where she graduated as PhD at London School of Economics and works as senior researcher for an independent think-tank Nuffield Trust in health care and social development. She has two kids and a smile on her face.