1. We are volunteers, be nice to us!
Our team of over 250 volunteers gives 3 months of their lives each year to organize the largest Christmas campaign in Bulgaria for making disadvantaged children’s dreams come true. To make it happen, we work in the middle of the night, before and after work, on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as during the holidays. We are responsible for over 9,000 beneficiaries, nearly 19,000 personal presents, and we maintain communication with principles and their staff from over 416 social services in the country as well as over 20,000 donors, plus countless couriers. Even though the work is emotionally rewarding, it is also difficult and exhausting, and we are NOT getting paid to do it – we do it from the bottom of our hearts. That’s why we ask you – be kind and patient to us!
If we make a technical error or another mistake, it is probably because we need more help and more hands on board. In some regions a single person is responsible for all the work as there are no other volunteers there. That means only one person or a very small team must make sure to contact all the principles, collect all the necessary wish lists and documents and upload them to the site, respond to comments on Facebook for the region, receive and sort out the presents, and also deliver the them to every single disadvantaged child in the region. That is why we highly appreciate your kindness, patience and understanding!
2. Who do I donate to?
The beneficiaries of the “Operation Teddy Bear” Christmas campaign are children and young people:
• deprived of parental care
• with disabilities (from families with financial difficulties)
• from socially disadvantaged families
• at risk
… as well as adults with mental disabilities because they carry the soul of a child.
3. How can I donate?
You will find the following steps for donating here!
4. Does the present I donate have to be BRAND NEW?
Our campaign accepts ONLY BRAND NEW presents that match the exact wishes of the beneficiaries. We accept second hand donations related only to the “Basic Necessities” wish lists of the actual social services and not the children’s personal Christmas present wish list. These second hands donations can include home appliances, special equipment for disabled children, furniture and the likes.
5. Can I keep the child’s present until the visit date and then give it personally?
ABSOLUTELY NOT! Even if you are absolutely sure that you will attend the gift giving at the specific social service, where you have signed to donate we MUST have your present at the drop-off station before the deadline. This is a necessary procedure because you will be surprised how many donors forget, decide not to participate at the last minute or have an emergency and we are forced to search for and buy a missing presents hours before the visitation and gift-giving! Our policy is that we do not visit the children at a social service until all the presents for them have arrived! That means that if a present is missing we cannot visit the children until we find a new donor for the missing present!
6. Where must I send the present?
The present that you have chosen to buy must be nicely wrapped, signed with the nickname of the child, social services and city and then sent to the exact given address that has been announced below the name of the institution in the wish-list, where you are signed as a donor. For example, if you have chosen to buy a present for a child in the list for the Vratsa Region, you must send the present to the given address for the specified drop-off station in that region.
7. What are the possible ways for sending a present?
Presents could be personally delivered at the specified address or be sent via courier. Presents must NOT be sent via the Bulgarian Posts!
8. Why CAN’T I send the present via The Bulgarian Posts?
The reason is that we are volunteers. We work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at our other jobs and unfortunately that makes it impossible for us to run to the Post office 5-10 times per day as every one of us is responsible for at least 500 presents.
9. How should I wrap the present?
The personal presents must be wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper and inscribed with the exact region, city, institution/social service and the child’s number and nick-name from the list. This inscription is for our team that receives and sorts out the presents at the drop-off stations around the country. The address of the drop-off station is listed on the specific wish list that you have chosen to sponsor.
10. Why CAN’T I see the real names of the children?
This is because of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that no longer gives us the right to post the real names of the children. Therefore, in our lists you will find nick-names instead of real names.
11. If I have a question about the size, shape, type and specificity of the present, who should I ask?
Write your question as a comment bellow the wish-list that you have chosen and one of our volunteers that is in charge of that list will answer your question/s.
12. Can I pack some sweets along with the present?
You can send sweets along with the present as long as they are all wrapped and have a shelf life. This is only valid if you have chosen to send a present for a child with NO disabilities. Children with disabilities are usually on a special diet and cannot consume great amounts of sugar, but don’t worry the team at the social service, which the child visits/ lives in take good care of them and do give them sweets on occasions.
13. Can I put something additional to the present?
You can add extra items to the present if they are safe for the child and are appropriate for the age and gender of the recipient.
14. What is the deadline day of sending the presents?
Each year the deadline may very. However, we always write the date at which the present should have already arrived, NOT the last date you can send them by! So if you are sending your present via Currier, you must send it at least 3 days in advance. If you have chosen to deliver it personally to the drop-off station, you must do that no later than the actual dateline date! Take into account that the drop-off station at your city may not be working during weekends or holidays.
15. What is the “Basic Necessities” wish-list?
This is a list with the urgent needs of the social service/institution to take proper care of the children living there or using their services. As the budgets of these social services prove insufficient it is too often that a social service/institution runs out of funds within the first 6 months of the year and is struggling to provide proper care to its users. The dream of our team is for us, the society, to support these children and youth not only during the Holidays, but all through the year. The purpose of the “Basic Necessity” wish-list is to support not only the children, but also the staff that takes care of them 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. By supplying clothes, shoes, food, detergents, home appliances, school aids, furniture, etc. we make children’s lives a little easier and their homes a little cozier.
16. How do I pack items from the “Basic Necessity” item wish-lists?
You do not need to pack the “Basic Necessity” items with a holiday wrapping paper. Wrap them up sufficiently so that they will not break, spill or get damaged. Also, inscribe the content and the quantity of the package, so that we do not have to open it before we deliver it to the social service/institution it is intended for.
17. What if a child is left without a present?
Not a single child from the wish-lists has ever been or will ever be left without a present! It is our duty to make sure we have presents for all the children before we make the visitation. If we have not found a donor for a particular child until the deadline, we publish an additional emergency wish-list and find a donor within up to 5 days before the visitation date. In case we do not find a donor after all, we, NGO “Operation Teddy Bear” buy the present with our funds or a team member buys it with personal funds.
18. How can I be sure that the children are going to receive the presents?
Our team takes the responsibility of personally delivering and giving the presents to the children. Even if we are not allowed to take photos of the event, an transponder protocol is signed by the director or some of the staff of each social service. Also, we take pictures of the presents in front of every social service that we visit. And of course all donors are invited to participate and give out the gifts during visitations.
19. When are the presents given to the children?
The presents are usually distributed in the period between the 14th and 24th of December (+/- two days). The visiting dates are announced in the begging of December. The exact date depends on the schedules of the children, staff and director of the particular social service as well as the availability of the volunteers and transport.
20. How does the visit go?
On the visitation date our regional team of volunteers, the regional coordinator and donors or other volunteers gather up to meet at a previously appointed time and place, load up the volunteer’s cars with the presents and “Basic Necessities” items and go to the social service/institution appointed for that day. During the visit the volunteers meet with the children, get acquainted and spend a few of hours with them – they open up the presents with the children, help them assemble the presents if needed, talk to or play with the children and youths and share stories and dreams!
21. Can I participate in the gift-giving during visitations?
Each and every one of the donors is welcome to come with the team visiting and giving presents to the children. You do not have to be a donor to an exact child from an exact institution in order to visit that same institution. However, at some social services, especially with disabled children, there is a limit of volunteers allowed. In that case we must follow the institution’s regulations and the previously announced maximum number of visitors allowed.
NB: Dear donors, please have in mind that the visits of children and youth, especially with disabilities, are NOT for suitable for the most gentle-hearted. Please, inform yourself what are the beneficiaries you are signing to visit beforehand and assess whether you are emotionally capable of baring the visit before signing in as a volunteer for that visitation. You can also talk to a team member and ask for advice.
22. Why are there wish-lists with the exact same items for each child, such as jackets and shoes, or cosmetics?
This could be for several reasons:
a) Everyone is actively committed to donating at Christmas. In large towns and cities, we are not the only donors. The specific social service/institution could also be provided by other organizations and donors who have committed to fulfilling children’s wishes, therefore we have the honor to make sure that the children are warm and well dressed.
b) If the children in the institution are with very serious disabilities we trust the principle’s judgment when assembling the wish-list. They surely know best what is most suited for their children.
c) Sometimes this is a corrective measure towards the children or youth in a social service/institution in case they do not follow the regulations of the institution, have acted disrespectfully or have serious offences.
23. Why are there Christmas wish-lists for elderly people?
The campaign aims to bring back the childhood of disadvantaged children and youth in Bulgaria. Elderly people with mental disabilities are classified as “children” because they have the mental and emotional capacity of a child. They are also some of the happiest beneficiaries to see us before Christmas as no one ever visits them! Thank you for opening your hearts for the elderly with mental disabilities!
24. Am I going to see a picture of the child that I have donated for?
There are over 9 000 beneficiaries in our campaign across the country. In order to make a photo of every child we must have the principle’s or guardian’s permission, since we visit children and youth with disabilities or victims of violence, or some that simply do not wish to be photographed. Unfortunately, we do NOT receive such a permission from everywhere. We take photos only after a permission document is signed and upload them to the Facebook pages in the form that we are allowed (for instance: with hidden faces or from the neck down). We wish each and every one of you can see the smile on the faces of those children – and that is one of the reasons we invite you to participate during the visitations. However, if you can’t come than we can only tell you the story – thank you for your understanding!
25. Where can I see pictures from the visits?
The photos we are allowed to take, we upload on the Regional Facebook pages of our campaign. You can find links to the pages of each region HERE.
26. When can I see photos of the visits?
We ask for patience, since by the end of the campaign we are usually exhausted. In order to upload all the photos we need an extra resource of time, energy and volunteers that we usually do not have after the numerous visits for the last 10 days before Christmas. The pictures often have to be retouched to match the regulations of the social services/institutions, which also takes a great deal of time. All the photos are usually uploaded between 25th of December and 15th of January. However, we are looking for a solution to this problem.
27. If I donate to a few children from the same social service/institution, can I send all the presents in one package?
You CAN send all the presents in one package, but you must inscribe the whole information on the package, so that our team would know that the presents for these children are in this particular package and not search for them elsewhere.
28. Can I deliver the present straight to the social service/institution address?
ABSOLUTELY NOT! Presents MUST be delivered/dropped off only at the exact specific address for that wish-list you are donor to and NO WHERE ELSE! You CAN’T deliver the present directly to the social service/institution address, unless that is the address we have given as a drop-off station on the specific wish-list page. November and December are the busiest months for the social service’s principles and their staff. It is impossible for them to handle 300 donors, numerous calls and visits from curriers and take proper care of the children at the same time. We are asking you NOT to engage them with additional work since they do not have any spare time – after all they take the responsibility for human lives on daily basis.
29. Can I donate money for the Christmas campaign?
If you wish to donate money, our team would use the amount to pay for gas for the transportation of the presents, urgent items from the “Basic Necessity” wish-lists and/or missing presents after the deadline.
30. Where should I place the warranty card if the present comes with one?
If you have bought home appliances or another item that goes with a warranty card, you MUST attach it in a pocket to the outside of the present and our team will pass it on to the principle of the social service that you have donated to.
31. I would like to donate, but I live abroad. What should I do?
a) You could send money to some of your relatives or friends and ask them to buy and send the present to the specified address before the deadline date.
b) You could send the present from abroad, but you need to do it a lot earlier than the deadline date in order to be on time.
c) You could order the present from a Bulgarian online store and have it delivered at the specified address of the regional drop-off station for the region that you have chosen to donate for.
32. Can I buy the present online and send it directly to the drop-off station?
Yes, you can do that! That is the only case that you could send the present via Bulgarian Posts but you must make sure to inform the regional manager so that they would go and collect it from the Post Office.
33. Is there a way to help in the long-term?
Yes! You can help us long-term by supporting our year-round mentoring program “The Hidden Talents of Bulgaria”. Click HERE for more information!