It would be great if we could all take note of what others have done in their lives and derive wisdom from their learning, but sometimes in life, we seem determined to choose to learn our lessons the hard way…
Naiden and Milan may not be biological brothers, but in so many other ways, they are as close as family gets. The two young men first joined the House of Opportunity programme in early 2022, having recently turned 18, and so come out of the Bulgarian care system. At that point, neither had positive relations with relatives. Both had a lot of friends – friends of the kind that get you into trouble. The lads were immature, and naïve about life, so their friends took advantage. Naiden and Milan were living irresponsibly, on the edge of the law. Neither had finished education and neither had a job. This couldn’t go on.
The House of Opportunity team pitched in to motivate Naiden and Milan, get them organised. But the prospect of setting goals and working hard and maintaining the discipline needed to reach those goals was too much. The boys would make promises about their schooling and the jobs that were found for them, but larking around and having a laugh was much more fun. Their friends wanted them back, and their continued influence in Naiden and Milan’s lives made it impossible for the boys to break away. The decision was made to put both out of the programme.
Now, this might seem like a failure, but the fact is that at least twenty percent of the young people who join the House of Opportunity programme will be asked to leave because of their lack of seriousness about their progress. And at least half of these will ask to come back when they at last learn the lesson – life really is no fun at all when you’re on your own without real family and good friends, and you have no prospect of getting a job. And here at House of Opportunity, we are firm believers in second chances.
A year passed and first Milan and then Naiden asked to meet the House of Opportunity team in Sofia. They talked about how they lived, what they went through, what lessons they had learned. They asked if they could come back to House of Opportunity. Of course, the team said yes, but with the condition that this time the young men needed to be serious about engaging with the programme. They would also live in different Houses of Opportunity so that one might not hinder the other.
Milan and Naiden are now part of the House of Opportunity again. Milan studies at evening school and works at a petrol station. He still struggles with relatives who are always ready to party, but he has a safe roof over his head, a good job and opportunities for development. Naiden has started a job at a grocery store chain and enrolled in night school where he will complete his secondary education. At first he found it very difficult to meet the challenges of being an adult, but he is now coping well and it looks more and more like he will be successful. Both young people have learned some valuable life lessons and now understand that they need to be serious about their future.
We are very glad indeed that House of Opportunity is able to give young people like Milan and Naiden a second chance. Some of the young people in the programme have to go through the cycle of trying, bailing, learning and trying again before they are able to gain the motivation they need to settle in and give life a serious go. It can be a very hard way to do life – the lessons learned on the streets or at the hands of those that use others for their own gain and gratification can be extremely harsh. But at House of Opportunity, there is at least a way back.