You can donate to the BEST Foundation and make a step towards a successful future for more students in Bulgaria.
Every donation will go directly to supporting our 2017/2018 programming.
Click the icon below to donate to BEST Foundation by credit card through our fiscal sponsor, Salt Ventures. If you are a US donor, your donation will be tax-deductible. The payment system accepts Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express:
Every dollar counts! We are currently fundraising $66,474 USD for the upcoming 2017/2018 academic year. BEST operates through grants and crowdfunding efforts by our board of directors and management team. For the past 2016/2017 academic year BEST Foundation received a grant of $17,361 USD from the United States Embassy – Sofia and $1,900 USD from the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission.The America for Bulgaria Foundation also funds one returning Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to serve as a BEST-Fulbright Fellow for one year
What is BEST?
BEST (Bulgarian English Speech and Debate Tournaments) Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Sofia, Bulgaria that promotes citizenship education through speech and debate programs for Bulgarian high school students.
BEST is a thriving community committed to free, creative, and intelligent discourse. Our programs empower youth by giving them the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, confidence, leadership abilities, and most importantly, a desire to change their communities and the world for the better.
Ultimately, BEST seeks to redefine what “best” means: for us, success is not just about winning awards; success is a commitment and appreciation of lifelong intellectual and emotional growth.
BEST works alongside the Bulgarian education system to provide this unique space. Last year alone, we engaged 1000 students, teachers, and volunteers, as well as 40 high schools in towns and cities across Bulgaria.
Read more about how BEST plays a crucial and unprecedented role in Bulgaria, and how YOU can support our work!
Help BEST Become Even Better
BEST runs on a bare-bones budget. We need your help to ensure quality programming and educational opportunities to all Bulgarian youth!
Our 2016-2017 budget was $66,724 USD:
- Tournaments – $31,239.91
- Student Ambassadors – $2300
- Trainings – $860
- International Delegations – $13,964.19
- Administrative – $18,359
All donations will go towards the core educational opportunities which BEST provides:
BEST and Bulgaria
Bulgaria is located in Southeastern Europe and since 2007 is a member of the European Union. It has a rich cultural heritage and intellectual history. For example, did you know that the Cyrillic alphabet was invented in Bulgaria? Or that a Bulgarian invented the first computer? Bulgaria even has an astounding literacy rate of 98%!
Unfortunately, Bulgaria faces various challenges such as political upheaval and corruption, high unemployment, an average monthly salary of approximately $375, and surveys that rank the country one of the unhappiest places on earth.
However, amidst the complicated political and economic reality in the country, the BEST community is a shining example of how stereotypes can never really tell the whole story. Here are some examples of how BEST has empowered students to change their country for the better and have a positive impact, one step at a time:
- Newcomers to BEST often express their amazement at its participants’ positivity, can-do spirit, empathy, and support for each other at tournaments and BEST events.
- In BEST, Bulgarian youth voices are amplified: we foster youth engagement with the arts, build leadership skills, and provide professional development opportunities such as internships and merchandise design. Through fundraising and recruitment initiatives, teams develop resourcefulness and marketing skills.
- We empower local economies by bringing significant revenue to a town’s hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies during tournament weekends, and we pride ourselves on working alongside the Bulgarian education system, not in opposition to it. Our teams have also engaged with their local communities through a variety of student-designed service projects, such as volunteering at an orphanage and collecting clothes donations for vulnerable families.
- Our internal team is bi-cultural – with Bulgarians and Americans working side-by-side (1 full-time Executive Director, 2 part-time staff members and 11 volunteer staff members).
- Our alumni attend a wide variety of universities in Bulgaria and around the world, many on scholarships, and credit their involvement in BEST with helping them achieve success.
Convinced yet? You can take the first step to support our BEST community and donate towards our 2017/2018 programming.
BEST GROWTH: 2013 to Now
Our first tournament in April 2013 featured 6 schools and approximately 100 participants.
As BEST grew each year, we began to see that Bulgarian youth were taking what they had learned in BEST to levels we never anticipated. They talked about how hearing a speech made them change their views; how BEST helped them overcome personal issues; how they finally found a space where they felt they could truly be themselves. They were mentoring and coaching younger team members, giving back to BEST as volunteers, and incorporating speech and debate into other areas of their lives.
And since that first tournament, we have had phenomenal growth:
- Hosted 3 national tournaments, brought first Bulgarian students to compete internationally at US National Speech and Debate Association Tournament
- Became a registered non-profit, the BEST (Bulgarian English Speech and debate Tournaments) Foundation
- Started “Team Bulgaria” National Debate Team (10 students) and BEST Management Team Internship Program (2 students)
- Co-sponsored first “BEST-Fulbright” Fellow – a second-year Fulbright English Teaching Assistant who serves as Managing Director
- Hired first full-time Executive Director
- 6 students qualified to compete at the biggest speech and debate tournament in the USA, NSDA Tournament, that took place in Birmingham, Alabama in June 2017.
- In partnership with Sofia Debate Association (SDA) we organized the first Bulgarian National Debate Team (8 students) and ranked 8th at the Heart of Europe International WSC Debate Tournament in July 2017
In short, we’ve engaged more than 2000 participants from across Bulgaria in becoming the BEST they can be, and we’re not stopping there.
In Their Own Words: BEST is the BEST!
“BEST is the best because it makes me think BEST. Being part of the whole adventure has changed my attitude towards people and towards life as a whole. So far BEST has been a life changer for my students and for myself as well. It makes people do their BEST at any time, anywhere.” – Bisserka Alexandrova, a teacher, mentor teacher, and chaperonе at Petar Bogdan FLHS, Montana
“BEST is the best because it is not just a competition. It is a community. Here students receive a chance to express their opinion, share their thoughts and be heard. They create art and learn to share it with the world. And most importantly, they create a big team of intelligent and compassionate people ready to change the future.” – Boryana Milenova, judge and former competitor from Simeon Radev FLHS, Pernik
“Best is the best because it broadens kids’ perspective and it gives them an outlet to express themselves that they don’t get in school.” – Reid Furubayashi, former ETA Coach in Montana and BEST Assistant Director 2016/2017.
“I decided to participate because I really want to overcome my fear of public speaking, to be better at social interaction, to overcome my shyness. I also really want to meet new people and make new friendships. BEST gives me the opportunity to expand. It has helped me with my fear of public speaking. I’ve realized that even if I don’t perform well, I’m 100% okay with that fact. I don’t get stressed out that much anymore and I don’t get down.” – Dayana Baleva, former competitor from Pleven and 2017/2018 Translation Intern
“BEST is the best because BEST is not about trophies, but friendships. BEST is not about speaking, but it’s about communicating. BEST is a thrilling journey, rather than a means to an end. BEST is all about inspiration, self improvement and dedication. BEST is the best because BEST is a family.” – Seda Radoykova, student competitor, member of Team Bulgaria 2016, American College of Sofia/United World College
“BEST is the best because it brings the focus on public speaking skills which are generally disregarded and overlooked in most Bulgarian schools. BEST encourages young people to show their talent(s) and promotes creative thinking. I am really happy that I had the opportunity to be a part of the judges teams, and would be thrilled to have a chance to do it again. Thank you!” – Iliya Andreev, judge