Dream Big, Bulgaria!

May 30th, 2014


“…the big vision is there and quite amazing (and I take zero credit for it because it came from the folks in Bulgaria, not me!), so I am just focusing on the proper way to ensure it’s all very legally and ethically done on [the US] end so that it is a sustainable reputable non profit…”

~a dedicated behind-the-scenes friend of Pleven



Finally, finally, finally!

Finally, the time has come to tell you about some big plans that have been coming together for children with special needs in Pleven, Bulgaria, and beyond!

During these many months of seeming silence and inactivity, a handful of people have been very hard at work behind the scenes to establish a nonprofit organization with a stunning breadth and depth of vision.

The sweeping vision and the solid integrity of those setting up this new nonprofit organization are truly impressive.  No more questionable ethics, programs being run outside the law, cash changing hands under the table, and so on.  That was the old Pleven, and the old Pleven is no more.

If you keep reading, you’ll hear the details of some significant happenings that you can get excited about. 

For more information about the transformative plans God is right now bringing together for the children in Pleven and beyond, and how you can help make those plans happen, read on, my friends, read on!

NOTE:  If your time is short, you can still get the gist of this update by reading the words in bold print.


ONE)  A larger, overarching nonprofit organization called S.T.A.R.S. International is being set up with painstaking care, ensuring that every legal and ethical requirement is met to the highest degree possible, satisfying both Bulgarian and US laws and standing up to the strictest scrutiny.

This umbrella organization is being designed with a mission statement that legally provides the nonprofit with a broad base from which to work.

The Pleven Project is just the first of the projects that will fall under the umbrella of S.T.A.R.S. International. 


Sharing resources
Training parents and professionals
Advocating within local communities
Reaching out to government officials
Standing together with families across the globe so all members of society can be active members of their communities

A board of directors and a separate advisory panel will be created.  The available positions and job descriptions will be posted here and on the nonprofit website.  Be on the lookout for professional-quality volunteer positions in fundraising, social media, and web design, someone to be a contact person for the nonprofit, and someone with experience in planning mission trips.

In order to protect the integrity and mission of the organization, an ethics code is being written.  Anyone agreeing to serve on either the board of directors or advisory panel will be required to agree with the code of ethics.

This nonprofit organization is completely legally separate from adoption.

This larger umbrella nonprofit will require some very large donations as well as many smaller and ongoing gifts. 

The initial cost to set up the nonprofit is $2000.  For more information about giving toward this cost, please email me at susanna@theblessingofverity.com.


TWO)  You also need to know that while time and pains are being taken to ensure that the nonprofit is being set up according to the highest standards of both US and Bulgarina law–and that process does take time!–an immediate need has arisen in the Pleven orphanage.

The baba programs that were running within the Pleven orphanage recently ran out of funds.  This became an excellent opportunity to weed out the individuals whose hearts were not with their children, and to build a new program from the ground up!

There is even a new name for what was formerly known as a baba, which is the Bulgarian word for “granny.”  “Lelya” is the Bulgarian word for a nanny or caregiver of any age who is hired to care for children.

Click on this sentence to meet the first group of Lelyas!  Learn their names and listen to them tell you in their own words why they are doing this work!

This new Lelya program will be operated by The Pleven Project, and will require funding on an ongoing basis.

The contract with the Lelyas will operate month to month, and the Lelyas will be closely monitored.  They will not be paid for the month unless they have done their job that month according to the contract they have signed.

Under the new program, the Lelyas will receive instructions from the head nurse of the floor that the child lives on.  Directions for each child’s feeding and care, et cetera, will come from the person who is actually most familiar with the child’s needs.  The Lelyas will also be required to keep a daily log of their activities with their children.

For children with more severe needs, one Lelya will work with the same two children one on one every day.  For children with less severe needs, one Lelya will work with the same two children one on one every other day.

The contract for the Lelyas states that the nonprofit has the right to bring teams into the orphanage in order to train them in the most effective ways to interact with the children in their care.

Funds have already been raised to pay for two physical therapists for one year, and for the first two months’ pay for ten Lelyas.  That means the salaries for ten Lelyas have been covered for May and June.

The Lelyas will be paid a salary that is a monthly wage per Lelya of the approximate equivalent of $132. This salary includes their health insurance fee and social security (if the Lelya is not of retirement age).

The total amount needed to fund one Lelya’s salary for one year is the equivalent of $1,586. The orphanage has requested a MINIMUM of ten Lelyas, for a total financial need of $1,322 a month. $15,855 is needed to fully fund ten Lelyas for one year.

So our initial goal is to raise funds for a whole year of ten Lelyas, one month at a time, beginning with July.  

In the past, babas took the whole month of August off, leaving the children with nobody to take them out of their beds and spend one-on-one time with them.  Lelyas will work in August. They will take vacation on a split schedule. So, some will be off the first two weeks and others the second two weeks. They will get paid for the number of days that they work.

Dr. Georgieva, the current director of the Pleven orphanage, is working directly with a Bulgarian organization that has promised to provide ten more Lelyas.  This other organization has not yet followed through on setting up a contract to provide ten more people, so we don’t know if this will become a reality or not.

If an abundance of funds comes in for the Lelya program, more Lelyas can be hired.  One goal is to provide Lelyas for the little babies with special needs, in order to help ameliorate the damaging effects of being institutionalized, effects we see every day with Tommy and Katie.  It would be very beneficial to have as many Lelyas as possible employed before August!  Twenty Lelyas would be a best case scenario, with the hopes that the other organization will follow through and provide the ten Lelyas that they promised. That would put the total at thirty Lelyas, which is really the number required to cover the extensive needs of the children.

These sums of money that appear large to us are nothing for God.  Our eyes are on Him!  He can provide it all today if He so chooses! 

THREE)  The big, long-term vision for the Pleven baby house?

Here it is in the words of the head of a Bulgarian non-governmental organization–

The long term plan according to the Bulgarian government is to close all Bulgarian orphanages. This is why everyone is working hard to make a plan for Pleven a reality. The director, Dr. Georgieva, has a huge, long term vision that includes the following:

1) purchasing the building,

2) opening a day center for all children with special needs so that they can remain in their families,

3) having a group home set up for the children who do not have families, to prevent them from going to adult institutions,

4) expanding the maternity areas so that mothers can learn how to properly care for their newborn babies with special needs and also to provide proper maternity care to help prevent some of the birth trauma that causes some of the special needs.

It is a very big vision and it will require a lot of work, support from many people and long term sustainable funds.




Current Pleven Stats

There are between 90 and 100 children left in the Pleven baby house.  All children ages four and over have special needs.

~12 children are over the age of 14

We don’t have a breakdown of the ages of these children, but none are currently available for adoption.  Unless God does a miracle for the children who may still have time to be adopted (Tommy was fifteen and a half years old when we committed to adopt him), these are the children who urgently need a family-type home set up within the orphanage!   Otherwise, they face a desolate, loveless existence in adult mental institutions.

~7 children are ages 8 to 14

Four of these seven children (Brandi, age 8, Garnet, age 12, Theodore, age 12, and Tony, age 14) should be coming home this year, leaving three children in this age group.  All three of the remaining children (Mikah, age 12, Brandon, age 10, and Tiya, age 8) are currently available to be adopted!

~9 children are ages 4 to 7

One of these nine children (Owen, age 5 1/2) is currently available to be adopted!  Please pray that the remaining children in this age group whose parents have terminated their rights are made available and chosen for adoption!

~The rest of the children in the Pleven baby house are ages three and under, including some children without special needs and some who were placed there because they have special needs.


As great as this task is, friends, our God is greater! 

Our hope is in Him to provide the funds and people needed to get this job done!

I’m planning to keep blogging about this need until it is met in full.  Click on this sentence to read the most recent update on The Pleven Project website.  The website will be kept updated now that it has gone live, with plans in the works for an email update list.

Feel free to comment to this post or email me with related questions at susanna@theblessingofverity.com, and I will connect you with those who have the answers to your questions.  [Please pray that God will quickly provide another individual to be the contact person!]   

And stay tuned for news about how God is providing and ways you can help!  Some fun and unique incentives for donating and sharing on social media are in the works right now!  Another t-shirt fundraiser is in the near future, with more options for styles and sizes!

And in the meantime…

It’s time to PRAY!

This is God’s work, and when He does something, He does it right!  Pray, church, pray!  Pray that every detail will be done in His way!

Pray that the right people will offer their talents as board members, advisory panel members, and professionals to train the caregivers in Pleven.

Pray that God will open the hearts of some visionary donors, including many who are able to give on an ongoing basis and some who are able to give very large donations.

It’s time to SPREAD THE WORD!

Please share this post by every means available to you!  Let your fingers do the clicking and help get the word out–here’s a chance to make a significant, direct difference in the lives and futures of some very special orphans in Pleven, Bulgaria!

It’s time to GIVE!

We all care about speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.  This is the part where we can all turn our passion for the voiceless ones into real action, each of us giving according to our means!  

Friends, the need for funds is urgent and immediate!  Is there someone out there who can cover the $2000 needed to cover the initial nonprofit set-up?  Maybe you can give a monthly amount toward the Lelyas for Pleven program?

Let’s rally around the children left in Pleven and stand with Dr. Georgieva as she diligently pursues her big dreams for the children under her care!  She is fighting an uphill battle to meet the children’s needs, with constant opposition, and needs to see that those who stand with her are more than those who stand against her!

It’s so beautiful to see God pouring out provision for His neediest children! I’m already eagerly anticipating the sight of those thermometers rising, ’cause we may be limited, friends, but let me tell you, HE IS NOT!  I’ve seen you in action before and am already grateful for the response you will give to this urgent need!

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Lelyas for Pleven through an existing nonprofit organization in the US, please click on this link:  Lelyas for Pleven tax deductible donation

If you want to make a direct donation to the Lelyas for Pleven Paypal account in Bulgaria and don’t care about receiving a tax deduction, please click on the following link:   Lelyas for Pleven direct donation    NOTE:  If you use this link, please consider leaving a personal message for Dr. Georgieva and/or the Lelyas!  The messages will be translated and will let them know that their efforts for the children are not going unnoticed!  


Have you wished there was something you could do to help?  It’s time, friends!  The time to help Pleven is now!




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9 Responses to “Dream Big, Bulgaria!”

  1. Cindy W says:

    Amen!!!  I was just praying for Pleven last night, that is so neat.  May God continue to be glorified and these children, and families be strengthened. 

  2. Katie says:

    I’m going to email you (hopefully to help rather than overwhelm you).  I have no money, but I have nothing but time.  Perhaps there is a way I can donate that.  In the meantime I will be sharing this post far and wide.  Katie’s story broke my heart for orphans with special needs all over the world, changed my life from a place of darkness to a place of purpose.  Those children at Pleven will always hold a special place in my heart because I know, from the ones who have come home, what they have had to endure.  Because they are people.  Because they are beautiful.
    Thank you and God bless you for all that you do and have done for the ones left behind.  Your faith inspires mine.  

  3. MamaV says:


  4. Melissa says:

    I am amazed at all the wonderful work that is already being done for the children in Pleven and I pray that the funding will be given to provide even more for these beautiful children. If people come together and donate even just a small amount it will add up. Just this morning I was looking at a fundraiser on Kickstarter that has been in the news and couldn’t believe its success. In just 3 days over 3 million dollars has been raised. Although it is for a fairly worthy cause it is not a life changing cause like helping the children of Pleven. I can’t even imagine what that kind of money could do for those children. I pray that as many people are touched by the plight of these children as have been led to donate to help bring Reading Rainbow back into the spotlight. I know that God has a plan for Pleven and I know that nothing is impossible for Him. I pray that when people hear this story and see the images and see what a difference love, nutrition and PT makes on the life of a child that they will donate whatever they can to help. 

  5. Susanna, is there any way I could find out who Noah’s Baba was? Is she one of the women on the website? Tom and Gabriel did not get her name, but I know Noah misses her. She was/is a very special woman. Thanks~ ((((HUGS))))

  6. Melissa says:

    I have Owen’s photo next to my desk; I look at it many, many times a day. So very glad his current home is going to get better…but it’s still no substitute for the love of a family! My husband and I know his story; we inquired about him about a year ago or so…I still wonder if he is our son, and that’s why he hasn’t been adopted yet! The thought of undertaking such a thing seems so overwhelming…like the changes in P, I suppose, and THOSE are happening! :) Funny, I get so comfortable in my life and then I’m reminded of Owen…

  7. Carol says:

    Elizabeth –  Noah’s Baba was Lelya Elenka I.! I was excited to see her on the page along with some other familiar faces including of course, dearest Lelya Lillianna (our son’s baba). It was such a highlight to me when Elenka showed me how she had taught Noah to walk up and down the stairs and drink from a cup. She was so proud of him.
    Susanna – thank you so much for sharing the exciting things happening in Pleven. It is such a gift to be able to be a part of the good things God continues to do there.

  8. Julie says:

    I am thankful for the work you have done at Pleven, at least these children now have hope.

  9. Sarah G says:

    This is so exciting! Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to see what God does!

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