When Santa Came to Plovdiv

Santa Claus visits a kindergarten in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

The Idea and The Decision

It all began back in October 2023, and the decision was made there and then, without any input from my side. I had travelled to Plovdiv for a project site visit. Supras Limited, my Norwegian consulting company, is a partner in a project being implemented by Plovdiv municipality (see Note 1). I travelled to Plovdiv to meet with colleagues in the municipality, and for a site visit to the project area.

The project area consists of three kindergartens were substantial upgrading was made, including increased emphasis on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy security. While visiting one of the three kindergartens, Edelweiss kindergarten, after seeing the ongoing refurbishing work (external walls, roof insulation, new double windows, new radiators, etc.), I visited a group of children that were having lunch. The staff presented me briefly, with the consequence that they stopped eating altogether and staired at me very seriously with big eyes. I took several pictures of the children and of the refurbishing work in general (see Note 2)

The following day staff at Edelweiss kindergarten called my colleague at the municipality. It turned out that the children had beeen talking about me. More to the point, they were convinced that I was Santa Claus (see Note 3). In this way they decided that I had to and indeed I wanted to  return to the kindergarten at one point as Santa Claus. 


An obvious opportunity presented itself in which to play the role as Santa for and with these children, namely around Christmas. So we began the planning, with staff at the municipality and Edelweiss kindergarten. Which kindergarten to visit was decided (Edelweiss), the group of kids to visit was decided (the youngest group, around 5 years of age), the date was selected (15 December 2023), and a professional costume was found. I, on my side, took care about the presents, including content and wrapping, with the help of a good friend. Eventually, everything was set for the big day! 

The Event

On 15 December 2023, early in the morning, I travelled from Sofia to Plovdiv, and met with municipality staff to discuss some last minute details. We drove to the kindergarten, where the kids had been duly briefed, and I was informed  were beside themselves with anticipation and wonder at a visit from Santa Claus himself. After a brief introduction by colleague Tanya Petrova from the municipality, I entered, a sack with all the presents in hand. At first they just looked silently at me. Then they gradually approached me, and dared touch me, and suddenly the ice was broken, and they all wanted to hold my hands and talk to me (given my lacking mastery of Bulgarian I could not respond much, which was not important). The prepared program then unfolded, via photos in front of the christmas tree, the children perfoming several dances and songs, and ending with me giving presents to all the children. The photos give details of the whole program (see Note 4)

The Aftermath

The children as well as the kindergarten staff were overjoyed with the event. This was the case also for the municipality staff, as it provided an opportunity to give focus to their work in general and to this project in particular. Myself, I was glad to be able to this project that was funded by my government, through the EEA and Norway Grants, and through this give much needed attention to issues focusing on climate change, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy security.

Plovdiv municipality staff prepared an article about this event. It was published, together with photos, on three websites with local and regional coverage, on 19 December 2023 (see Sources). This text (identical versions published on all the websites) will likely eventually be deleted from the websites, and for this reason I have included it below, in Bulgarian, followed by a translated into English (see note 5).

The article (original version, in Bulgarian)

Дядо Коледа от Норвегия донесе подаръци в ДГ„Еделвайс“

Управителят на норвежката фирма „Супрас Лимитед“ ООД Ларс Сьофтестад се превъплъти в дядоКоледа и раздаде подаръци на децата от 3-та група в ДГ „Еделвайс“.
Компанията е партньор на Община Пловдив при изпълнението на проект за въвеждане на меркиза енергийна ефективност и изграждане на фотоволтаични електроцентрали в 3 детски градини -ДГ „Еделвайс“ и ДГ „Десислава“ в район „Тракия“, както и ДГ „Светлина“ в район „Южен“.
При едно от служебните си пътувания до Пловдив през август, Ларс Сьофтестад посещавазанималнята на 3-та група в ДГ „Еделвайс“. Заради приликата му с белобрадия старец, децата гопосрещат с възторжени възгласи „Дядо Коледа!“.
Още тогава на управителя на фирмата му хрумва идеята да се превъплъти в ролята по поводРождество Христово. В навечерието на празника Ларс Сьофтестад, преоблечен като дядо Коледа,подари лакомства на малчуганите, а те го зарадваха с мила празнична програма.
Проектът се изпълнява по норвежката програма „Възобновяема енергия, енергийна ефективност,енергийна сигурност“ към Министерство на енергетиката. Стойността на безвъзмезднатафинансова помощ е 2 346 798,00 лв. с ДДС, а съфинансирането от страна на Община Пловдив е вразмер на 452 230,90 лв. с ДДС. Крайният срок за изпълнение е 30.04.2024 г.

The article (English translation)

Santa Claus from Norway Brought Gifts to "Edelweiss" Kindergarten 

The CEO of the Norwegian company Supras Limited, Lars Soeftestad, transformed himself into Santa Claus and distributed gifts to the children of the 3rd group of kindergarten Edelweiss in Plovdiv.
The company is partnering with Plovdiv municipality in implementing the project 'Introduction of Energy Efficiency Measures and Construction of Photovoltaic Power Plants in three Kindergartens on the Territory of Plovdiv Municipality'. The kindergartens are Edelweiss and Desislava in the Trakia region, and Svetlina in the Southern region.
During one of his business trips to Plovdiv in October, Lars Soeftestad visited the 3rd group at kindergarten Edelweiss. Because of his resemblance to the white-bearded man, the children greeted him with enthusiastic shouts of 'Santa Claus!'.
Because of this, Lars Soeftestad came up with the idea of reincarnating himself in this role on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ. On the eve of the holiday, dressed as Santa Claus, he gave presents to the children. They, in turn, delighted him with a nice holiday program. 
The project is part of the Ministry of Energy's 'Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Energy Security Programme', funded by the EEA Financial Mechanism Programme 2014-2021. The grant's value is BGN 2,346, 798.00 including VAT. Cofinancing by Plovdiv municipality amounts to BGN 452,230.90 including VAT. The project will close on 30 April 2024.

Broadening the Perspective

This event can, in retrospect, be understood as a case of a business entity that, while located wholly in the private sector, engages for and with the public sector in a very different way than what is usual. In doing this Santa event, Supras Limited didn't count hours, did not deliver anything in support of this project, and did not prepare and submit an invoice. That is, we did this for no payment, while using our own time and resources. Why, you may ask? Because it gave us, and everyone involved in organizing it, the very special pleasure of seing happy and smiling children. It is an experience that I will bring with me forever. On a broader note, it can be understood as contributing to one of the goals with the EEA and Norway Grants, namely to connect people in Bulgaria and Norway with each other. 

A term for this type of selfless activity is pro bono. This term may not fit wholly on the activity presented above, though. Nonetheless, I aim to addres the connection between the private sector and the public sector, working together on development cooperation projects, in a separate Devblog article. 

Lars Soeftestad
CEO, Supras Limited, Norway

1/  The project "Introduction of energy efficiency measures and construction of photovoltaic power plants in three kindergartens in Plovdiv municipality", was under the "Renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy security" program, under Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2014-2021, and was implemented by Plovdiv municipality in 2022-2024. A separate Devblog article addresses aspects of this project (see Note 7).
2/  The photos from the site visit on 13 October 2023 are available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/supras/albums/72177720312328892/
3/  From the perspective of 5 year old children I gather I looked like Santa, what with somewhat long hair and a beard, all of it mostly white. 
4/  Kindergarten and municipality staff documented the Santa Claus event in detail, available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/supras/albums/72177720315014300/
5/  The English text is slightly revised. 
6/  Image credit: Staff at Edelweiss kindergarten and Plovdiv municipality. The photos show Santa (that is, me), together with children at Edelweiss kindergarten, in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 15 December 2023.
7/  Relevant Devblog articles: 'Project: Bulgaria - energy efficiency in kindergartens', at: https://devblog.no/en/article/project-bulgaria-energy-efficiency-kindergartens 
8/  Further relevant Devblog articles: 'Devblog: on EEA and Norway Grants' (lists all 14 articles) at: https://devblog.no/en/article/devblog-eea-and-norway-grants 
9/  Permalink: https://devblog.no/en/article/santa-came-plovdiv
10/  This article was published 16 January 2024. It was revised 20 February 2024.

Дядо Коледа от Норвегия донесе подаръци в ДГ„Еделвайс“, at: http://www.marica.bg/plovdiv/gradat/dqdo-koleda-ot-norvegiq-donese-podaraci-v-dg-edelvays
Дядо Коледа от Норвегия донесе подаръци в ДГ„Еделвайс“, at: https://u4avplovdiv.com/дядо-коледа-от-норвегия-донесе-подаръ
Дядо Коледа от Норвегия донесе подаръци в ДГ„Еделвайс“, at: http://podtepeto.com/gradat/dyado-koleda-ot-norvegiya-donese-podaraczi-v-dg-edelvajs