Remote Year Repost

The Hidden Talents of Bulgaria – Operation Teddy Bear

November 1, 2016

I wrote in a previous post that one of the aims of Remote Year is to give back to the communities that we call home for the month. One weekend in November a group of remotes got together for a 24 hour hackathon for the benefit of Operation Teddy Bear – an NGO that collects and distributes gifts to underprivileged children for Christmas. The goal of the hackathon was to provide them with a website and fundraising strategy moving forward. I’m happy to say that the weekend was a success, awareness was raised, and donations are coming in to support this great cause.


By Michelle Stoykova

Be part of a special child’s future!

In Bulgaria, there are more than 350 institutions with over 10,000 children who haven’t grown up with the privileges of many. Every year we will select 10 hidden talents from disadvantaged backgrounds to be supported through their education and development with our mentoring program, accelerating their learning and opportunities to make an impact in the world through their talents.

Why we Exist?

For the past 8 years OPM has brought together and coordinated a 130 volunteers and more than 25 000 benefactors, the purpose of which is buying and personally donating Christmas gifts for orphans, children at risk and children with disabilities.

The NGO receives a wish list from all institutions dealing with disadvantaged children in Bulgaria after which the team at OTB finds a donor for each child.

With this process now growing and last year reaching over 7000 children, we now plan to develop a child mentoring program alongside Operation Teddy Bear. This is designed to support children aged between 12 and 18 from disadvantaged backgrounds, through mentors, private tutors, access to learning support, resources, internships.

How it currently works:

The initiative has rapidly grown over the years: the Christmas campaign in 2015 had more than 20,000 donors and our team visited more than 7,000 children from over 300 institutions (Orphanages, Daily centers for children with disabilities, Public Support Centers, etc.)

From 2013 till 2015 the whole campaign was organized through Facebook and its now developing into a web application to enable further growth.

(find us on:

How the Mentoring Program will Work:

  1. Institutions, such as Orphanages, submit candidacies of children suitable for the program
  2. A selection committee reviews candidates applications and selects 10 exceptional talents.
  3. Benefactors/Donors can support through funding
  4. A special selection of mentors for each kid takes place (the mentor is chosen according to the talent of the child.)
  5. Private tutoring is scheduled for the whole year
  6. The mentors acquaint themselves with the needs and wants of the children through regular weekly meetings and finds the appropriate learning opportunities (seminars, workshops, presentations, competitions, etc.)
  7. Benefactors receive regular updates on the progress quarterly throughout the year
  8. Our team finds: internship possibilities or/and financial support for the future growth of the children after that 1 year.
  9. 10 new children are chosen at the end of the first year.
  10. Each participant in this Exceptional Talent Program will be required to return and make a positive impact on another child from unprivileged background.

Why we need funding for the Program?

  1. Tutoring – specific subject advancement
  2. Events – seminars, workshops, competitions etc
  3. Materials – study equipment
  4. Travel – to events and for mentors etc
  5. Resources – Books, online learning etc

Thank you for taking the time to understand the lasting impact we want to have on the future of Bulgaria’s children.


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Current Location: Toronto, Canada

Hi there! I started this blog when I joined Remote Year in August 2016. After an incredible and unforgettable year I returned to Toronto to let the dust settle and plan my next move. I hit the road again in the winter of 2018 and spent 7 months travelling around Europe, mostly Eastern, and ended with a bang at Oktoberfest. After over 2 years of living out of a suitcase I've decided to return to Toronto to slow down and take an inventory of where I've come from.