Vocational Training Team (VTT)

The Vocational Training Team project to Bulgaria that was started in 2014 - 15 and approved by RI in September 2015. The Restaurant opened in Oct 2016, training young persons leaving the Care System and part of the FSCI House of Opportunity Programme.

Vocational Training Team  

Rotary International have approved the Global Grant application for a Vocational Training Team (VTT) to explore, develop, and help pilot a Social Enterprise Model to teach vocational skills to youth in Sofia, Bulgaria.  The award is for $101,695. The VTT, a relatively new initiative in Rotary, is the first in D1100. 

Young people leaving the Bulgarian care system at age 18 lack independent living skills yet are often left to fend for themselves. Facing these challenges alone leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, prostitution, crime, and human trafficking. 

The project is to provide a 2-year training programme and employment support through the Foundation for Social Change and Inclusion (FSCI).  Part of the project involves a VTT visiting Bulgaria, to develop a Social Enterprise Model. 

Details of the VTT Project - Intial publicity click this link

A team with the skills and passion to help develop these ideas has been appointed.   The project will developed by the joint team of FSCI, Sofia International RC, VTT team and D1100 eClub.

Vocational Training Team

Brendon Conboy - until recently CE of The Door Project Stroud

Frances Beecher CE of Llamau

Stephen Taylor  - Retired Company Director

Harry Gardner - Past Apprentice at The Door Project Stroud and now a Full Time Fund Raiser at Meningitis Now 

Martyn Harwood PDG who is coordinating the team

Sofia International Rotary Club ( Host club)

Michail  Sougarev and Hristina Malchevska represnt the club at the meetings

West of England eClub (previously called District 1100 eClub)(International Partner)

David Pratt


Following a delayed start, we have used Skype to hold two meetings with FSCI and Sofia International RC, the first in January and a second on 23 February. 

FSCI have sourced a number of properties that are avaiable to rent and will be  finalising the property that has the best position re footfall, facilities and location to start this new Social Enterprise project.

The next Skype meeting is at the end of March, by which time FSCI will hopefully have been able to  agree with agents the property that they will want to use. Sofia RC will be inviting FSCI to one of their meetings, so all their members learn about the project and become more involved.

Skype meeting 22 March 2016

FSCI have reviewed 30 + units that are available to lease. It was agreed that the one chosen by FSCI as the most suitable.  FSCI will proceed to enter into a two year lease with break clauses.

The next 2 months will see a development plan for the operation being produced by the partners. The VTT team are likely to be going out to visit in June and use their skills to help develop the cafe.

Further details about the opportunities that the building offers will be revealed once the lease has been signed.

Skype meeting 19 April 2016

FSCI have entered into a 2 year lease for the premises that had been previously used as a restaurant on Vladayska Street. There is a 2 month rent free period to do repairs and a break option clause.

They have also purchased some equipment that the previous tenant had left on the premises. 

Adverts had been placed for a Chef/Manager and 25 people had applied. Interviews will be held.

Premises can be seen here

FSCI had taken legal advice on the best way of setting up the Social Enterprise Café. FSCI will be setting it up as a new legal entity, which will allow VAT to be reclaimed.

By creating a new entity, it will give protection to the FSCI operation. Any profit from the trading company will either be reinvested in the Social Enterprise Café or be for the benefit of FSCI.  The legal process of setting this up will take about a month.
VTT Team first visit  

It was agreed that the VTT visit will be from Sunday 19 June – Sunday 23 June

Skype meeting 26 May 2016

FSCI reported on progress since the last meeting. He had had a meeting with a furniture supplier and during the discussion discovered that the owner had a restaurant that he needed to sell. 

The restaurant is in a good area is a good size, 120m2 and would offer FSCI a second outlet for food cooked in the first kitchen. The beauty of the second restaurant is that it is already set up and ready to go. The first one needs work on the public area but the kitchen is working. 

It was agreed that this second restaurant would add considerably to the project and that FSCI will enter into an agreement to acquire the a lease on the building and also acquire the furniture and equipment as needed.

 Good progress on  recruiting staff. An  excellent chef, with relevant experience, startups, menu planning, hiring and firing has been appointed. She has 15yrs in similar restaurant roles and could do or supervise most of the cooking. The lady is also qualified as a teacher so could help organise the training programme. 

Vocational Training Team Visit 19 - 23 June 

The VTT team  travelled by from Bristol on Sunday evening and arraived at out hotel in Sofia at 4am in the morning! The team that went were PDG / Team Leader Martyn Harwood, Steve Taylor, Bredan Conboy and Harry Gardner.


Sofia International Rotary Club participated at the meetings, represtented by Hristina. FSCI was represeneted by Chris Mold Chaiman of FSCI and Trssell Trust, Tedi Koleva Excutive Director and Gerorge Koleva Social Enterprises Manager

We convened at the offices of FSCI before we set off to the two Restaurant sites. We met the Roma builders that were making alterations to Restaurant 1 and then went onto Restaurant 2 , which is about 15 minutes by car.

These visits gave us useful background information, which informed the context of meetings in the following days.

We at the offices of FSCI then drove to the suburb of Fakulteta  to see the Roma community and the centre set up by FSCI. The party saw the good work going on at the centre, smart children in a kindergarten environment. In the Roma community there is no formal education for young people.

In the afternoon back at FSCI we discussed the finacial and legal parts of the project. The Social Enterprise Restaurants are being set up as a separate company in order that VAT can be claimed back.  The two premises for the Restaurants are being rented by FSCI. 

Training for the trainees and CPD for staff were also on the agenda.

Today on the agenda was Marketing and Conference. The Conference which will showcase the the Social Enterprise project will be held in Sofia in December 2016.  Brand name was agreed. This will be part of the opening of the Restaurants in the next couple of months.

Attened the Rotary Club Sofia INternational our International partners and had a very warm welcome. A presentation was made about the project.

Team fly back to UK

The first Restaurant has a very large basement kitchen and is part of a new building that has a hotel above. The hotel wants the Restaurant to provide its customers breakfast. The kitchen will provide the food for the second Restaurant.

Both are well located in Sofia and will provide training for the House of Opportunity Trainees from FSCI.

Thanks you to the team at FSCI and RC Sofia iNternational for making our stay so rewarding. 

The VTT team will be making a presentation at the first District Council meeting on 11 October 2016.  

The next Skype meeting is on Aug 10th.

Skype meeting 10 August

Premises update

Restaurant 1

95% of the works complete before it can trade

O/S equipment - fryer and smaller items such as knives and forks etc. 

Bar/Counter being installed 20 - 26 Aug ( some delay finished last week Sept)

Chairs and tables from R2 will be used in R1

Est start trading date 2 wk in Sept

Pest control contract let

Licence to position 3 tables and chairs outside obtained.

Restaurant 2

As a result of the problems with the lease and planning, the premises we all looked at will not be suitable. A different venue will be sourced after R1 has commenced trading. It will need to have a secure outside area that can be utilised as a play area for children.


A second chef is being hired next week

A cleaner has been appointed and will start when needed.

A trainee from HOP will start work when R1 starts trading

Legal entity

A separate trading company HOP ltd has been registered

Summary from Chair FSCI Chriss Mold

The builders have left the restaurant, the inside looks good and is ready for use. Chef is developing menus. It is a big challenge that we face but we are excited to be close to the start of the project. Our promotional material must attract people to the restaurant, we need to tell the world that we are supporting young people but that should not be the main reason for using the restaurant. People need to come to the café because it is a good place to eat. We must aim for high volume and fast, friendly service


What is the benefit of a conference?
Opportunity for FSCI To promote themselves to other Rotary clubs throughout Bulgaria and Balkan States. Also will provide a Launchpad for further international relationships for FSCI. Target audience – Bulgarian Rotary Clubs, Children’s organisations and networks. Involve radio, TV and other digital media.

Conference can be videoed.

Skype meeting 16 Sept

Progress Report

Bulgaria seem to have a lot of public holidays that have delayed progress somewhat. However good progress has been made and the restaurant is nearly ready for use. 

George and Tedi will send pictures of the restaurant as it is today, 16/9/2016. Customer area is now organised with furniture. Kitchen areas are also ready and operational and test runs will be made in the next week or so. The bar is not quite ready but will be within the next week. All branding has been agreed and will start to appear on the restaurant windows, walls and doors. The trading company is ready and all necessary licenses are in place.

They have decided that once the café is open they will stay open longer. Typically until 8:00pm as there seems to be a demand from the local residents. Only time will tell whether this will be profitable.

We have had photos of the café, a video of the staff and a link to the website. All looks good.

Target opening days are either 26thSeptember or October 1st.

Current staff consists of 4 women and 1 male (Stravco?), all of whom must become multi-discipline.

The number of covers is 22 inside and 12 outside with the promise from the local authority that the outside numbers will increase to 24 in 2017. However in winter only the inside covers will be useable.

The restaurant is close to a dance studio that is sometimes used for parties. That is another opportunity to supply party food.

Training Programme

Stravco will be the first student and will effectively be the guinea pig of this project. It is important to develop a series of training modules. After each module it is envisaged that an award of some form of recognition be made so that the student can feel that they are making progress. Brendon commented that at the end of the training period it is essential that the student enters a further transition phase. This is to ensure that the individual is not left on their own. They will either stay on at the restaurant or move out into the wider world with a growing CV and qualification. May need some mentoring at this stage. To emphasise, it is important that the café does not lose touch with the students until they are fully confident of progressing on their own.

That is why it is so important to develop an operations and systems manual so that progress of each student can be monitored and compared.


Billy has had some contact with the Hilton who are happy to host the conference. However it will not be possible to bring any of the restaurant food into the hotel. That is a problem. Teddi has found another possible venue, a Miltary Club in the centre of Sofia. This is used as a wedding venue. The only downside to this venue is that it is a bit old and dark. The upside is that we can bring our own food into the place and can pretty much have the run of the place. We also understand that there is parking which is a bonus in the centre of town.

It was decided that December 8this too soon, so we are now looking at the new year. Dates between 6thFeb and 5th March were suggested with the provisional date of 9thFeb. That would mean that the UK delegates would fly from Heathrow BA on 7thFeb and return at the weekend either Saturday or Sunday.

FSCI are continuing to Franchise the HOPE houses and have created one in Belgrade. One of the Rotary Clubs in the city have shown interest through the club secretary and wanted to come to our conference. That will be a good contact to show that things are happening elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Teddi has met the UK ambassador to Bulgaria who was very interested in the work of FSCI. She could also be invited to the conference.

Brendon noted that the first student Stravco will have finished his 3 month training by the time of the conference. This will give more credibility to the on-going project.

Next meeting

Date of the next meeting will be 7 November 2016

The Hope Restaurant opened on Monday 3 October 2016

A Conference to showcase FSCI and the HOPe Restaurant Social Enterprise VTT project is taking place in Sofia on 9 February 2017 at The House of Moscow 4pm start. 

Final Report to RI submitted 22 July 2017

Thank you to all the clubs that supported the first VTT in D1100