Bulgarian Language for Free is a volunteer initiative for teaching Bulgarian language to refugees residing on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. It aims to provide fast and effective initial training in Bulgarian, thus enabling their learners to find work in the country and facilitating their further integration into society.

The students, mostly Ukrainian, have a real chance to learn Bulgarian in a very short time frame and to enter the labor market in a timely manner. In this way, the initiative supports both the refugees and the Bulgarian economy.

The team of Bulgarian Language for Free includes 6 volunteer teachers and 2 administrators. The organization has a waiting list for training and is constantly recruiting new volunteers to teach.

How did the initiative start?

The initiative was launched in March 2022 in response to the war situation in Ukraine. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, there were many people willing to help the refugees coming to Bulgaria in whatever way they could. Pavlina Bozhkova, the founder of the initiative, has a philological education and decided to help by giving lessons in Bulgarian. This could facilitate the refugees’ integration in Bulgaria – to help them communicate freely, look for and find a suitable job, be able to fit in, and feel more secure for themselves and their children.

Pavlina shared her idea in a social group for support of Ukrainian refugees. This is how more volunteers who wanted to help got involved. Together they started looking for ways to make the initiative more organized – to include more teachers, more students, to have a system and methodology that everyone follows, to have criteria for measuring quality and results.

During her search, Pavlina came across VEDAMO Virtual Classroom. She studied the platform carefully – what it offers, how it works, what possibilities it provides. It turned out that the platform fully corresponds to the needs of the initiative. Pavlina contacted the VEDAMO team, told them about her idea and they decided to support the cause by providing the platform free of charge.

In the beginning, the volunteers involved in the initiative had a very strong desire to help everyone and started working with all ages – both with children and adults. In the process, they understood that they were not not sufficiently prepared to work with children. After the completion of 2 children’s groups, they decided to continue teaching adults only and started referring the young learners to other organizations.

Almost all the teachers involved in the initiative since the beginning are still in the program. They are based in a variety of places – in different Bulgarian cities, as well as abroad – in England, Spain, Germany, the USA.

How is the training conducted?

The training is conducted fully online and is free of charge for all learners. The duration of a course with one group is a minimum 22 study hours. The teachers can increase their hours according to the specific needs of the different groups.

In the beginning, they started with groups of 10 people. It turned out that the refugees are not the usual students who have the time, the means and the opportunity to attend classes regularly. During each course there were people dropping out, as it happened that someone returns to Ukraine or goes to another country. At the moment, they gather larger groups – 15-18 people, so that at one point about 10 learners remain in the group and 5-7 of them successfully complete the course. So far, nearly 400 trainees were included in the program.

The teachers use different methodologies and didactic materials to create learning content, but adapt them according to the learners’ needs. At the beginning of each course, the teachers use another language that the trainees know (usually English or Russian). The idea is for learners to feel comfortable that they are understood and that they understand the content. As the group progresses, the use of the other language constantly decreases. The ideal case is for the course to be completed entirely in Bulgarian.

Recently the organizers have tried, in addition to the lessons included in the curriculum, to conduct online informal meetings, which provide more opportunities for communication in Bulgarian between the students and the teacher, and the students also by themselves. They create a free space to practice, improve conversational skills and help adaptation to the local context.

Advantages for Bulgarian for Free using VEDAMO:

For the administrators:

  • VEDAMO covers all the organization’s needs related to teaching and does not require the use of additional programs or applications.
  • The platform is extremely convenient, as it allows the entire internal organization to be gathered in one place – teachers, groups, levels, and textbooks.
  • Administrators can easily track the classes and attendance.

For the teachers:

  • The teachers easily get used to working with the platform and its tools.
  • They do not have to deal with organizational issues and can focus on teaching. Everything is pre-planned, described, set as hours and topics, all content is distributed by time. Teachers do not have to upload lessons or materials, send links, etc. They just log in and teach.
  • The teachers can easily share lesson content. After the online session ends, the teacher can share the whiteboard content in PDF format.
  • The teachers can communicate with their learners through the platform.

For the students:

  • The students can join the program no matter where they are based.
  • All they need is organized in the platform. They don’t have to look for their classrooms. They can see the course plan, learning materials, textbooks, and additional reading resources.
  • Students start using VEDAMO very easily – at first, the organizers made live demonstrations of the platform tools, but it turned out that the learners do not need any technical training.

For a year and a half, the initiative already has its success stories. Many of the program’s graduates manage to find work. Some of the trainees have successfully passed the Bulgarian language exams for medics and are already working in their field.

How VEDAMO Supports the "Bulgarian Language for Free" Cause

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