- In 2006 Ladislav Kossár bought a bracelet from some children living in a children’s home for one thousand crowns (about 30€). He wanted to help them more, so they suggested he finds a way for them to spend time away from the children’s home.
- First, he organised sessions teaching children life skills, so they could find work and accommodation. Soon, though, he and the team realised that the most valuable thing children needed was for someone to give them their time, one-to-one. They realised that to fulfil a child’s individual needs on their journey to independence, a relationship based on trust, individual attention and long-term support was essential.
- Because he is very grateful for his upbringing and doesn’t know if he would be who he is today without the support of his family and close friends. Ladislav has had many opportunities to learn from his family, his working life and his experiences as an entrepreneur, and would like to give something back so that more children can live an independent life with dignity.
- He runs the organisation pro bono (meaning he does not get paid for his work). In return, he has the satisfaction of doing a meaningful job. He is happy because BUDDY works: both children and volunteers say it has had a great impact and has changed their lives. He is happy because the BUDDY volunteers, children, team members and donors trust the program. Since 2014, when he sold his previous company, he has lived from his savings and investments.
- The BUDDY program gives children one of the most valuable resources in life: time. When children spend their free time with their volunteer, they can build a relationship based on trust. BUDDY is about this trusting relationship, which heals and is crucial on anyone’s journey to independence. The BUDDY volunteer “teaches” children who grew up in extremely difficult circumstances and who have experienced various traumas to trust adults and themselves once again. Without trust, genuine acceptance, continuous support and help developing life skills, it is very difficult to integrate into society.
- At children’s centres, even the most caring staff are paid for their work. But every child deserves attention and a relationship which is voluntary and based on friendship. This is where the BUDDY volunteer comes in.
- Ideally, all children should grow up in families – that’s why we provide support to those children who, for various reasons, cannot live in families. BUDDY steps in to complement the foster care system for children and young people.
- We want every child not growing up in their own family to have at least one person they can trust, and for them to lead an independent life with dignity. Because none of us would make it alone without the support of our family and friends.
- We create and continuously support safe relationships between children and volunteers who regularly, voluntarily and over many years give one child their free time and expand their potential.
- The program currently operates in western Slovakia, but in 2020 we also launched new partnerships with children’s centres in eastern Slovakia - in Prešov and Košice.
- Currently, it is about 100 children.
- From sending the first application to a matching meeting with a child it takes approximately six months. Initial training for the volunteers is part of this process.
- Children’s safety and protection is the number one priority in the BUDDY program. So, just as carers in centres for children and families have to pass a complex selection process so they can work with children, our volunteers also have to pass a demanding selection process so they can start building a safe relationship with the child. Although this type of volunteering doesn’t require a specific education or profession, it looks for stable, patient, empathetic, responsible and flexible adults who can give their time regularly over many years. They have to be ready to guide and act as role models for children with a rather difficult past who need to have a safe adult by their side.
- We offer the volunteers extensive training and workshops focused on child development and understanding the child’s needs, as well as on their own self-development. At the same time, our expert team of coordinators-psychologists meets with the volunteers on a regular basis and provides them with individual support and guidance. We believe that the volunteers who pass our selection process have what it takes to build a trusting relationship with the child.
- We would like to enrol 20-25 volunteers.
- The BUDDY program was created by us – it was founded in 2006 by Ladislav Kossár and his sister, co-founder Lucia Kossárová. Together with the team, they have been developing the program for over 14 years. It took eight years to create a model that would complement already-existing organisations, and most importantly would help children growing up in Slovak institutions. BUDDY currently focuses on children 12+ who for various reasons are not placed in families and thus grow up in groups with other children. We learn and get inspiration from other organisations, including the many mentoring programs around the world. Our program is unique because it works with socially disadvantaged children from the institutional care system, engages with them long-term over many years, and uses a safe trusting relationship as the means for their further development. So rather than “mentoring”, we refer to our model as “buddying”.
- We use standardized questionnaires from the USA, developed by Applied Research Consulting (ARC) and University of Pennsylvania, to ask both children and volunteers about a number of aspects concerning their relationship. These answers help us evaluate the quality of a particular relationship, what works and what needs strengthening. At the same time, the quality of the relationships is evaluated by our coordinators-psychologists, as well as the centres for children and families.
- “For the mentoring relationship to have a positive effect on children and young people, they need to be strong and long-lasting. Satisfaction in the relationship is a key indicator of how well the program is meeting children’s needs. If the match is good, the frequency of meetings goes up and so does the probability that the match will last and have a positive effect on the child.” (Applied Research Consulting - ARC). Results of the independent evaluation carried out by ARC in 2019 confirmed that the BUDDY program creates and maintains strong relationships, which then enable the child’s development.
- We know that these children mainly need love, attention, support, safety and certainty, trust, acceptance and stability. At the same time, they need a friend. They need to strengthen their self-esteem and self-confidence. They need help with emotional regulation, motivation, their addictions, or with learning to be reliable and independent. They also need help with financial literacy, finishing school, and finding accommodation and a job.
- It’s a lot. But answers from our regular yearly questionnaires from children indicate that BUDDY works; children in the program don’t feel alone and have somebody who they can trust, somebody who will help them with anything in life. They are more resilient and self-confident, and have their own personal accomplishments – in their personal relationships, trust in themselves and others, positive changes in their behaviour or at school. Many children have said that since having a BUDDY volunteer, everything in their life has changed.
- Yes, by 2019 30 young adults from the BUDDY program had graduated from their centres. Almost all of them had work and accommodation, some of them were in stable relationships and some even had a baby. It seems they are gradually integrating into society successfully.
- Our goal is for the children to become more independent and resilient. We use a licensed, evidence-based tool, The Outcome StarTM, to support and measure change in children’s lives, so we can help them on their journey to independence and resilience in key areas of their lives: health, how they feel, decision-making and behaviour, people and support (relationships), money and rent, accommodation, work and education, and practical life skills. Children move from a point where they don’t even realise they have a problem to accepting help or advice, then slowly on to a position where they can manage difficult situations with help and, ultimately, on their own. This is how it works for all of us in our lives, although we don’t use a specific tool. It is likely that we will always find some areas more challenging that others, but the goal is that we continuously move forward and cope with various life situations with more ease and independence.
BUDDY and child
- Yes, every child in the program has one volunteer. It is a one-to-one relationship.
- No, the volunteer cannot choose, although they always have a chance to express their opinion about the proposed match. After completing the initial training and selection process, our team of professionals manage the whole matching process with a particular child, in a particular centre at a given time. Our coordinators-psychologists know the children, and their needs, life stories and hobbies, and use this as a basis to find the right volunteer for each child. They take into account the personality and preferences of the volunteer. The volunteer has to live or work near the child’s place of residence or school. The pairs are always of the same gender, and there has to be at least 10-year age difference between the volunteer and the child.
- Usually once a week.
- We need them to meet regularly every week at least for a few hours (two-four hours), especially during their first one-two years, until a trusting bond is created.
- Yes, they can, but first they have to discuss it with the coordinator and the centre.
- Yes, they can, but first they have to discuss it with the coordinator and the centre.
- Yes, it is probably one of the most demanding types of volunteering. It is a long-term commitment – we require at least three years from the volunteer but ideally the volunteer will stand by the child during their entire life. The intensity of support and care for the child will naturally change over time. That is why the selection process takes longer: so that we have the opportunity to find out if the prospective volunteer has the right motivation, personality and ability to become a BUDDY volunteer, and also so that the prospective volunteer has time to think through whether they can commit to the child and the program. We search for volunteers who are empathetic, patient and responsible. Our priority is not to let down an already traumatised child, and for the volunteer to become a stable rock in the child’s life.
- Individuals, firms and foundations.
- We have donors who support us monthly or yearly. In order for us to take care of the children regularly every month over many years, monthly and long-term donations are most welcome.
- Yes, we get regular donations from successful entrepreneurs. We receive €100, €200, even €1000 donations on a regular basis.
- Yes, we are grateful for all help. Every drop in the ocean counts. :-)
- Directly by bank transfer, just identify the donation as “Donation BUDDY” and provide the donor’s name.
- You can donate through our page: https://tvojbuddy.sk/en/finance
- Yes, you can, as non-deductible cost. As a firm you can donate once a month or once a year.
- Yes, you can. There are various ways. We will be very grateful.
- Please feel free to contact us with your ideas and we will see how we can help you in your efforts (e.g. with marketing materials).
- There are many organisations who are great at what they do. You have to trust the organisation you decide to support. Most of our donors join us on our path because they trust the founders, our expert BUDDY team, our style of work, our vision and our mission. They understand that none of us would make it alone in this world. They also understand that caring for a child is long-term and that the most valuable thing we can give to all children is love and attention, and therefore our time.
- Yes, we have donors who provide us with services our organization needs. For example, we have donors who give us pro bono legal services, print services, or their employees’ time to prepare and organise events. We have donors who provide us with event venues or catering.
- Yes, you can. First, however, we would have to discuss with you and our team the type of volunteer work, how often and what expertise you can provide so it is aligned with the goals of the organisation.
- You could organise a small fundraiser or fundraising event, for example. Or you could find ten friends who would start donating small amounts like €5-10 monthly, which for us would mean a regular monthly income of €50-100.
- Only individuals older than 25 years can work with the children, after they pass our selection process. If someone would like to tutor one of the children, they can turn to a particular centre for children and families and make arrangements directly with them.
- A student can also spread the word about our program to his/her friends and family, and maybe this way we may find a new volunteer.
- Civic association PRO VIDA.
- In 2019/20 the money was spent on our team (on average 13 paid professionals) who enable the operations of the entire program – volunteer recruitment, selection, training, caring for the volunteers and children, working with centres for children and families (former children’s homes), donor care and finances. They are professionals in the field of psychology, social work, marketing and operations.
- No. Volunteers have their normal employment outside the BUDDY program. Spending time with the child is done voluntarily, without any financial reward.
- Yes, we can. Volunteers can give us 3% of their taxes.
Financial management takes place on three levels:
the board of directors of the civic association
the accountants of the civic association
a paid independent professional firm of auditors – KPMG, a renowned consulting company which carries out a pro bono audit
- So far, we do not receive government funding – we work with the state, as we are collaborating with centres for children and families, which are usually publicly funded. We collaborate with them as we provide support to children placed in these institutions.
Prevention is better than cure (D. Erasmus, 1500). It is also cheaper. The earlier we can help someone or offer an intervention, the lower the cost and higher the positive impact for society (e.g. prevention vs. treatment for an addiction, cancer or other illnesses). Also, evidence from the Nobel prize winner James Heckman and his colleagues suggests that society benefits from early and targeted interventions to disadvantaged children. Therefore, programs that intervene and help vulnerable children early on also have the potential highest positive impact compared to those which are already focusing on working with people without a home or with serious additictions. Program BUDDY works with children aged 12-16 when it can still influence their lives, as well as the lives of their children. Organisations offering mentoring programs similar to BUDDY such as Big Brother Big Sister in the USA or Balu & Du in Germany have been calculating the social return on investment and found that 1 invested Euro in such program has a return of Eur 4-18 (for more details see https://www.balu-und-du.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Wirkung/BuD_127_SROI-Analyse_englisch.pdf or https://bgcbigs.ca/181-mentoring-delivers-a-high-return/ ). Our own calculations also fall into the same range of return. A trusting relationship between the BUDDY child and volunteer has a significant impact on the ability of the vulnerable young person to find work, housing, and build healthy relationships rather than depend on state social benefits. It als has an impact on future generations as the children of BUDDY children are less likely to end up in institutional care again.
- We are based in Bratislava. Registered address is at Strážna 11, offices are at Štúrova 3.
- Currently around 20, some of them work only part-time.
- PRO VIDA as a non-profit organisation and its main program BUDDY arose from the gratitude its founders felt, to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged groups. A better life to us means a life based on universal human values, in which we believe and by which we want to be guided in our life and work interacting with children, donors, partners, friends and colleagues. For us, BUDDY means: Bezpečnosť (safety), Úsmev (joy), Dôvera (trust), múDrosť (wisdom), vYtrvalosť (endurance). We strive to be honest and professional, and to continuously improve, so that we can guarantee the high quality of the BUDDY program.
- You can find more information on our website www.yourbuddy.sk. To apply easily to be a volunteer on our program, you can click https://tvojbuddy.sk/budbuddy.
- You can check also our latest Annual Report, which presents our history, an overview of the program, and our impact, achievements and plans for the future