Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Bulgaria '09-'10 alumnus Tsvetomil Ivanov, together with students from his Vassil Levski High School class of 2011, recently hosted the largest charity organized so far in their city of Sevlievo. The Smile For the Future benefit concert was presented on April 14, 2011, after six months of daily after-school meetings and rigorous concert rehearsals.
Ivanov and his classmates raised just over $5,000 with Smile For the Future to benefit a learning center for children with disabilities in their hometown; the Sevlievo Municipality donated the remainder of the needed funds. With those funds, the learning center will gain playground equipment designed to engage and aid in the rehabilitation of the students with disabilities. The equipment will also rehabilitate the front yard of the learning center which was barren and uninspiring.
Smile For the Future raised not only funds, but also awareness at all levels of the community, enabling Ivanov and his team to reach project goals and beyond. Says Ivanov, “I am really proud to say that we have met the original goals the project had. In the beginning we wanted to just get the money to rebuild the yard, but we have done even more. We got a lot of people aware of the problems children with disabilities and their parents have to deal with every day.”
The students opened a bank account and set up a website with the help of teachers and began the hard work of fundraising. Ivanov held several meetings with the Mayor and other representatives from the town of Sevlievo while big corporations helped by making donations. “And for the citizens of Sevlievo,” Ivanov says, “we had the children from the learning center make beautiful drawings which we turned into postcards and sold, with all the money going to charity.” And over a single, yet important lunch with a producer in Sofia, Ivanov secured the involvement of Bulgarian national celebrities. Model/actress Dilyana Popova, television personality Yana Grudeva, singer Dicho, and the first Bulgarian Music Idol winner, Nevena Tsoneva, all contributed their talents and fame to making the benefit concert a success.
In addition to his gratitude for the contributions of the 85 or more volunteers, community members, organizations and the Sevlievo Municipality, Ivanov also wishes to thank the YES program. “I must say that none of this would have happened if not for the YES program which has taught me to work and think not only for myself but also for the community I live in. Thank you!”