“What kind of example could I set for my children?” This question has been haunting Verginia Asenova for years. A single mother of two young children, unemployed, and she didn’t have her own place to live. Thirty-one years old, Verginia had worked many jobs, but none lasted. She graduated from the elite Secondary School for Foreign Languages in Montana but that didn’t offer any prospects for a permanent job.
“I couldn’t last anywhere because of the working hours, not having an employment contract, and the kids were sick a lot while I wasn’t allowed to miss work. Not having a place of my own, money was always short and I was desperate, because my children were growing up and I couldn’t provide them with a basic family environment, let alone a prospect for a normal life. What kind of example was I setting for them?!”, Verginia asks. She was born in the village of Madan and still lives there with her two boys, 11 and 9.
In 2016, Verginia found purely by chance that she was eligible to receive support for applying for higher education. She heard about the Student Society for Promoting Interethnic Dialogue (SSPID) foundation from Nikolay Iliev, an expert with the Montana Municipality. “At first, I was very sceptical, but then I thought it wouldn’t hurt me to try”, the girl says. She asked her cousin if she wanted to apply together. Two months go by without a response. And then, one day Milena Ananieva called her. “I was sitting there, in the foundation’s office in Sofia, I was listening to Milena’s and Lyudmila Zhivkova’s explanations, and I still wouldn’t and couldn’t believe what they were telling me was possible”, remembers Verginia. She and her cousin were approved to enter the programme.
Verginia’s greatest worry was if her hopes should prove futile and yet another disappointment. “However, in just a few days the ball started rolling – I was signed up for lessons to prepare for the university entrance examination, they were paid for by the foundation, as were my travel expenses”, the young woman explains, adding, “The only thing I had to do was study!”
After months of intense studying Verginia was admitted to the Elementary Teacher Education with English programme at the Veliko Tarnovo University “Saints Cyril and Methodius”, Vratsa branch. Verginia had barely enrolled in the programme when she had another surprise – she was offered a place as a kindergarten teacher at the “Happy Childhood” („Щастливо детство“) kindergarten in her village, Madan.
“I am now in my second year of university, I go to lectures, I do the job I had always wanted to do and I have a steady income which affords me stability. I have started making plans for my children’s future. I do not deny them anything anymore just so I could pay the bills. This year I was also approved for a scholarship from the Roma Education Fund which covers all my expenses for the full academic year”, Verginia tells us.
Two years ago Verginia didn’t know which way to go. Now she is considering taking out a loan to buy a place for her and the children to live in. What is more, Verginia succeeded in convicing and motivating two more young mothers of two from the village to apply for the programme. “I am showing them through my example that I have achieved everything I’ve wanted because I had help”.
And, as Verginia put it – there is no greater motivation for a woman than the desire to secure a better life for her child.