We had the good fortune of connecting with Ceitci Demirkova and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ceitci, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I am originally from Bulgaria. Grew up under communism till I was 16 years of age. At 19 I had the opportunity to come to the United States. I arrive with a $100 and 100 words that I knew in English. It was the start of my biggest faith journey – starting with nothing, in a completely new nation and culture, relying solely on my faith in Christ and His promises.
One of the most tragic things I saw growing up under communism was the lack of personal development, restriction of individual interest, no private business opportunities and extreme poverty. We were all subjected to living below the poverty level, except those who rule over us. I saw the injustices done to people who disagreed with the communist party – often concentration camps or death. We all live in fear and shame, every day we tried to do our best to survive.
Despite the restrictive environment, I have chosen to look at those experiences as character builders. I have developed extreme discipline, perseverance and determination. Starting a non-profit within the first year after I arrived in the States with a very small amount of funds seemed like the most impossible thing to do. Yet, I had all skills to help me survive and instead of getting discouraged when I had nothing, I chose to be thankful for the opportunity to be in the States and to press through in order one day to be able to help many others have a better life.
Fast forwarding, today I am an international speaker, best-selling author, life-coach and our non-profit Changing a Generation is celebrating its 27th year since its founding. We have over 1000 children in our programs in Bulgaria and East Africa. We help families, orphans and communities in very economically struggling locations to have better education, opportunities to play (we build playgrounds for the kids) and teach the kids Biblical values. As a speaker, I often get to share stories from my childhood days with various audiences; my stories help people understand how to create a proper value system and how to never give up amidst challenges. My childhood and upbringing under communism is my greatest invisible mentor and a stepping stone in life, because I chose to never surrender to its victimization, rather overcome it by giving it a purpose to live in my present and in my future.
What should our readers know about your business?
The name of our non-profit is Changing a Generation (www.changingageneration.net). This year we celebrate 27 years since I started the organization. We have over 1000 children in our programs and are located in 20 different cities across Bulgaria. We also work in Uganda and Ghana. In the beginning, when I first founded the organization, I had absolutely no funds and no connection to develop partnerships and fundraisers. All I had was a $1 in my hands and I chose to start supporting an orphan in Bulgaria with $1 a month. In order to get more people interested in our non-profit (and since I didn’t know many people in the States at age 19), I would go to Walmart, the Mall or parks near my college in Oklahoma and would try to meet different people. I always carried a piece of paper and a pen with me in order to get their address and would ask them if they would be on my mailing list for our non-profit. I literally started with 50 random strangers that I met at various places. The hardest years were the first 5 years – proving myself to those around that I wasn’t going to give up prematurely. I also had to show people that I had I was willing to sacrifice and live for the greater purpose of why I was doing this, so those who donated would know that their money was utilized to help children in need. One of the first things that I did is write my vision down. I kept it simple and kept in in front of my eyes daily. I also read inspirational books (besides the Bible) or missionaries and visionaries whose lives have made a world-wide impact. I gleaned from their tenacity and understood that everything takes time to build. I started attending conferences and taking classes for non-profits. Every day I worked toward the success of the organization. Even if nothing could be seen in reality, I lived and conducted myself as an influential CEO and a speaker. Each month I was mailing newsletters to those who would join my mailing list and I made sure to develop each relationship that I felt would be important. I pursued these relationships, and called people, tried to meet with them. Today we live in a modern world where follow up can be done a lot easier. We have changed some of our techniques but we haven’t changed our principles – each person is important, they must be treated with dignity, and timely follow up is of essence. After 27 years we still send out monthly newsletters, as well as personal notes, partner’s letters. Each Christmas I write hundreds of cards and mail out small gifts of appreciation to our partners because no matter how much we grow as an organization I want people to still feel like they can reach me and stay in touch with me. I don’t believe that as a CEO I am above everyone else, As a matter of fact, the way I have structured our organization is that those of us who a part of running the main departments are to be the biggest servants to everyone else. We operate on transparency, honor and respect.
I would like to encourage every entrepreneur to never give up. The first 3-5 years are really important to stay consistent and to work toward your goals even if things don’t look like they are taking off. I believe in compound interest – keep on doing what you are doing to best of your abilities as you continue to develop yourself, and ONE DAY someone, somewhere will notice what you do, they will join your network, they will believe in you because you believe in yourself and in what you do. Most importantly, you will have many opportunities to give up. I have had those moments. But if you carry the vision and the dream within your heart long enough, that dream will not allow you to give up. Live in the present by making space for your future to come in – allow the interruptions of life during the day/the week to help you find creative ways to live stress-free and motivated to persevere.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love it when people come and visit my city and my home country Bulgaria. Here is what I would do to make a week-long trip to Bulgaria full of adventure and beautiful memories: We would start in my hometown, Veliko Turnovo. I would take them to our historical castle, Tzarevetz where our kings used to live. From there you can see the entire city, with all the mountains and rivers surrounding the city. It’s beautiful and such a historical place where you feel inspired to make a history!
From there we would visit the shops and restaurants in Old Town Turnovo, grab a coffee at one of the local restaurants that has a balcony overlooking the castle, mountains and Yantra river. We have a lot of yummy authentic food. Banitza, musaka, and lots of varieties of desserts are always on the menu along with Shopska Salad (made out of cucumbers, tomatoes, oil and vinegar and feta cheese).
The next few days we would go to the East side of Bulgaria to the Black Sea and visit a few of the coastal cities. Each city is filled with so much beauty and character and the food is absolutely amazing.
On the way back we would stop at the Rose Valley and explore the museum and outdoor park with thousands of roses. Bulgaria is know for producing rose oil. It smell absolutely amazing the moment you enter the rose park.
Our last two stops would be Plovdiv (the second largest city in Bulgaria after the Capital) and the Capital Sofia – there is a lot to see there, but both of these cities offer so much. Their main streets have hundreds of shops, as well as restaurants, along with multitudes of people walking around, which makes you feel like you are a part of the entire culture and community. I would take my guest/s to a folk dancing performance or a place where they can learn how to do Bulgarian folk dancing ;-). The best time to visit would be spring and early summer and fall. The months of April/May, late August through mid October offer the best temperatures. Who is ready to come over for a visit? 😉
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My biggest shoutout goes out to my Savior and Lord, Jesus, who has been with me through all of the valleys and all of my victories. Whose word (the Bible) gives me supernatural wisdom and strength to face the unknown without fear.
I also would like to give a shoutout to my amazing and loving husband, whose love, loyalty and support empower me and give me daily courage.
Instagram: /ceitci OR /changing.a.generation OR /invsiblementors
All 7 images belong to our organization@2022 Changing a Generation. One image at Daystar TV is used with permission @2021 Daystar TV.