Computers for the disadvantaged

ComputerZaJoro, an American/Bulgarian charity helping students

Interviewed by Scott Green, photos by Anna-Sophia

Anna-Sophia Stoytchev, a 17-year-old girl with a desire to improve the lives of young Bulgarians reached out to us here at Open Bulgaria to try and find a way to increase her exposure with the charity she has started and the dream she has. She is a girl with ambition, one who is striving to make a difference in the world by giving access to education and information via technology to those who struggle with day-to-day expenditure. Anna-Sophia is Bulgarian by descent, Bulgarian is her first language, but she was born in New York City. “Every summer I have the privilege of visiting Bulgaria. Although in recent years I have not been able to spend my whole summer there the way I used to when I was younger, I treasure the time I do get to spend there each summer.”

Her story and the story of Computer for Joro starts with a simple call to her grandmother here in Bulgaria. “In between classes one day I called my grandmother. She told me the story of Joro. Joro was 15 at the time, now 17, and lives with his grandfather in Sofia. During online school, he did not have a computer so he had to do all of his classes through his phone. With my savings, and the help of my friends and family we were able to get Joro a laptop so he could get the education he deserves. There are many other students like Joro, but not nearly enough support and mobilization for them. I decided I wanted to help more students like Joro. For this reason I named my organization after him.”

"Helping Bulgarian students is part of the way I maintain a connection with and serve the Bulgarian community although from afar. Not only do I feel connected to those I help, but those who help me with my work. In the process of serving and seeking a connection with one community, I have started to forge a small but growing international community comprised of those who care about the future of Bulgaria as much as I do.” Anna said when asked why she wants to help Bulgarian students.

“There is also a great need to support Bulgarian students. The poverty line in Bulgaria is 363 leva per month while a computer suitable for online education is 600-800 leva. 1.6 million Bulgarians live below the poverty line.  Even when online education comes to an end, the presence of technology and the need for digital literacy will not. It is vital our generation is equipped with the means to succeed. This is especially critical in a country like Bulgaria whose most important resource is its people. Supporting Bulgarian students is also my way of making a contribution, even if small, to the positive change Bulgarians are trying to make for the future of our country.”

When asked about her favorite memory of Bulgaria, Anna-Sophia responded “Some of my favorite memories have been at summer camp in Bulgaria. I would spend two weeks in the beautiful Elenski Balkan in the small village of Miykovtsi. I would swim in the river and hike in the mountain with my friends, many of whom I am still in touch with. This past summer I returned as a camp counselor and gave English lessons, which I have continued over zoom. Although I cannot wait to return this summer, In the meantime I still love seeing my campers even through a zoom screen. In some ways I think these experiences informed the work I do and what I am passionate about.”

Currently, 30 students in need have been helped by Anna-Sophia and her charity. She continues her work and is in the process of helping several others, now not only with computers but also expanding to offer tablets, routers, internet connections, etc. 

To continue her amazing work she needs more support and donations to continue helping the disadvantaged students here. “One of the simplest but most valuable things you can do is to just tell your friends and family about Computer for Joro and share our website. Share this article with them!”

If you have any old tech(or new for that matter) lying around or know anyone who does, drop it off at one of the below locations, and Computer for Joro with collect it and donate it to a student somewhere in Bulgaria who is eager to learn. Lastly, but no less important, as they are a charity they appreciate and thrive off of donations, if you are able to donate, no matter the amount, you can donate through her website or GoFundMe

Dropoff locations in Sofia:
-Integrated Artists Gallery. 33 Sv. Kiril i Metodiy Street, 1202. Weekdays between 9:30 am and 5:30 pm.
-Networking Premium Rakovska. Rakovska 25, 1202. Weekdays between 10 am and 5 pm.
-ELA - Centre for Inclusive Education. ul. "Knyaz Boris I" 133, 1000. Weekdays between 9 am and 6 pm.
-More locations will be added soon

My computer helped me during remote learning and to not fall behind with my classes, I learned how to work with the computer: to search for and watch animations for kids and how to play games.  Thank you so much.

I am sending many thanks to Computer for Joro, especially towards Anna-Sophia. The laptop I received is a huge joy for me. I work on it with joy, It also helped me with remote learning.