Care for 20 homeless teenagers in Tbilisi, Georgia

by St Gregory's Foundation
Care for 20 homeless teenagers in Tbilisi, Georgia

Sadly in the last year our organisation has been hit be a great deal of illness.  Nino Chubabria, our director, is currently in treatment for cancer.  This has not prevented our shelter from offering a home to young people and families or our outreach to our community.  We have been distributing much-needed food parcels to families in Tbilisi and fomer residents now living in nearby villages.

Nino's illness has delayed some work that we have been planning for a while.  However, we are now all set to retile the roof of our shelter.  Two groups of supporters, one in Britain and one here in Tbilisi, have made these repairs possible, and we are very grateful.  We have also replaced our moped, which we use constantly in our outreach work to young people on the streets.

Food parcels are one way that we support some of our residents after they move out.  Sometimes, more substantial help is needed. 

Keti is a young woman who we helped as a teenager.  She had left school at 14 and we helped her get back into education and graduate with a qualification in HR Management.  After graduating, she got a good job with a local authority.

In early 2020, the leadership of the municipalisty changed and the new boss asked Keti to resign and be transferred to another post.  He wanted Keti's position for a relative, and, to justify himself, he said that he couldn't trust a stranger in that position.  Keti refused to resign.  After a period of harrassment, auditors found several faults in Keti's work that led to her being fired.  She said that she had done nothing illegal and that it was all fabricated.

It was difficult for Keti to find a lawyer willing to defend her against a state institution.  Fortunately, we were able to step in.  After examining the documents, we found that Keti's allegations were true.  A long court battle ensued, but eventually Keti's former boss agreed to testify and the court concluded that Keti was not guilty, and that the conclusion of the audit was based on fabricated facts, was biased and lacked any legal basis.

According to the court decision, Keti was reinstated in the job and the municipality was ordered to reimburse her for loss of earnings, which was a considerable sum (from January 2020 to April 2022).

Keti is someone who has worked incredibly hard to turn her life around and we are glad that we have been able to help her in this way.

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In our last report we told you how Lia, a local volunteer, had been teaching our women's craft group how to make Christmas decorations to sell at a local market.  Today we have part two of this story.  Today's chapter tells of how the Tata, a young widow with three children found her place in the craft group, learning new skills and supporting her family.

To tell Tata's story we have to go back to when she was five and her parents divorced.  After some time Tata’s father re-married and stopped helping Tata and her mother. Tata has not seen him since then. Her mother worked very hard to raise both Tata and her younger brother but it was very difficult. As the mother didn’t have anyone to help she often had to leave the children alone at home with Tata taking care of her 2 year old brother. The family struggled to make ends meet, and Tata’s mother could barely afford to feed the children.

When Tata turned 8, her mother re-married and it turned out that her husband didn’t like children. He would often beat them while her mother did nothing to protect the children. Tata could not bear it and ran away, befriended other children sleeping rough and lived on the street for a few years. Tata was 15 when she met and fell in love with one of the boys who lived in the area where Tata and other young people had been sleeping rough. He was the same age as Tata and later when she became pregnant with their first child, he got scared and left her.

We found out about Tata’s situation some time ago and at first helped her to get enrolled in a programme run by the Every Child organisation. Tata stayed in the shelter provided by Every Child for some time and later on she moved to our shelter. After some time she got married and had two more children and they all moved into their own home. Sadly two years ago Tata’s husband died in a car accident and she was left alone with three children and her mother-in-law who was ill. The family only income was Tata’s work as a cleaner.

About 3 months ago Tata accidentally met Jemal, who helps run our shelter, on the street and told him her story. Jemal offered Tata the opportunity to come and stay with her children at our shelter and join our women's craft group. This would solve the problem of food and heating and Tata could also earn an additional income through the crafts. Tata happily agreed and now lives with us. She has been learning new skills and made a wonderful contribution to the Christmas crafts the group sold at Christmas and New Year markets in Tbilisi.

So Christmas may be over, but its effect lives on.  Our residents will be warm and fed thanks to your generosity in the holiday season and their own efforts.  We will not forget that it is thanks to you paying Jemal's salary that she is with us at all.  Thank you.

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Christmas decoration made by our resident
Christmas decoration made by our resident

In our last report we had some difficult news to report.  Our lawyer, Inga, was ill with Covid.  She has now recovered, but has been diagnosed with cancer.  We continue our legal support to homeless and vulnerable young people with the help of her sister, Lali.  Nino, our charity's director, also had a serious bike accident on the way to work and needed surgery.

One of our residents has also been suffering health problems.  He was diagnosed with a severe stage of polyarthritis and his walking and sight have greatly diminished. Sadly the treatment he received has not yet been effective. He now needs a medicine that costs 5,000 GEL ($1,615/ £1,228) per dose. It turns out that Dato will need 4 doses a year. Sadly such medicines are not funded by the state.

Mkurnali’s director, Nino, and her helpers have tried to earn this amount but this has proved difficult in the current climate. Nino says: “I turned to my friend, Dr Marina Ramazashvili, who has her own eye clinic and who has helped with free treatment for some Mkurnali’s beneficiaries in the past. Marina ran a free check and confirmed that arthritis caused Dato’s sight deterioration. Thankfully she connected us with another clinic in Tbilisi where the required medicine and treatment will become available in two month’s time with support from Germany. Amazingly this local clinic led by Ms Darejan Shelia will match Marina’s free offer for Mkurnali and serve our beneficiaries free of charge”.

A volunteer has also been stepping up to help us improve our local income.  Our social business refilling printer cartridges has lost 70% of its orders because of the pandemic.  So we were glad when Lia offered to teach residents how to make Christmas decorations and gifts. Together they have made a lovely collection for a pre-Christmas sale at the US Embassy in Tbilisi.  Our former beneficiary, Pavel, is also moving his garage to bigger premises.  He hopes to be able to take on another apprentice mechanic from among our residents soon.  

We also continue to make enamel jewellery and this is now on sale in the UK via the St Gregory's Foundation online shop.  If you'd like to see the pendants and ear-rings made by our residents, you can follow the link below.

All that remains is to wish you all a very happy New Year and Christmas (which we will celebrate tomorrow) and to thank you for all your support through this year.  As you can see, we work hard to be as self-sufficient as possible, but without your generosity the pandemic would have been catastrophic for us.  You are helping us serve our community when they need us most.  Thank you!

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Hard at work in our jewellery workshop
Hard at work in our jewellery workshop

Usually we try to make our reports upbeat.  After all, we have many wonderful things to report.  With your help we are able to change many people's lives.  This month, however, it's harder to sound cheerful.  Corona virus continues to ravage our country.  Vaccination rates are low, and we have as many as 6,000 new Covid cases a day at the moment with up to 65 daily deaths.  Our population is only 4,000,000, so you can see the scale of this wave.

Covid took Lia Salakaia, our singing teacher and a great friend of our organisation.  Currently, Inga Bibleishvili, our lawyer who represents homeless and vulnerable young people, is ill and her sister Lali is helping us instead.  Many of the young people we help have also suffered from this terrible disease.

The indirect economic effects of the pandemic are also taking their toll.  Two weeks ago one of our former beneficiaries committed suicide.  Our residents continue to make enamel jewelery (see photo), and the garage is still working when there are customers.   Our workshops can't work to full capacity however because of trying to reduce social contacts and because demand still hasn't picked up.

However, we do have some good news.  We congratulate Luka's sister, who has started university with our support.  You may remember her brother's story: he dreamed of going to university and ended up working on the streets to help his mother.  He passed away with cancer eighteen months ago.  We continue to help his family to this day.

Our young gymnastics star, Kristina, has also been able to go to a team meeting in Bukariani.  She has shown incredible determination, continuing to train through the last year, even when she had to do it in our living room.

We have also found the money to get our roof fixed, and work will start soon.  

The other good news is that this week GlobalGiving are offering a 50% bonus on all donations up to $50.  So if you donate 50 USD (aprox £35) we receive an additional $25 (£17.50) to help our residents and ex-residents through this difficult time.  The offer runs until midnight EDT on Friday 17th September.

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Planting potatoes
Planting potatoes

Today it's all about food.

One of my acquaintances who owns a grocery store in Gldani (one of Tbilisi’s suburbs) asked me to come and check his in-store camera recordings. He showed me that one of our fomer residents has been stealing sausages and bread for his family from the store. The owner told me that they think the boy does this every day because he is not aware of the cameras. He suggested talking to the boy and telling him that rather than stealing he can ask the owner directly for food. The owner had noticed that the boy had only taken essential food. "He did not take one packet of sweets" he added. It was a big relief that the owner didn’t press charges and understood that the boy’s family must have been in such a dire situation that he had no other option but to steal food. The owner helped this family on a few occasions after that. This is how tough the whole situation is in some regions of Georgia.

Our young people at Mkurnali who are currently jobless, decided to grow a small vegetable garden rather than sit still and do nothing. They planted potatoes and corn. They also bought chickens and rabbits to start a small scale farm. It is inspiring that they took the decision and organised this all by themselves. Remarkably one of the inspirers of this idea and work was Achiko, our new resident recently released from prison. Together with Jemal and others he worked hard in the garden - it was a particular joy for me to see that he treats Mkurnali as his home.

In Georgia just 5% of the population have received their first covid vaccination, compared to 61% in the UK or 51% in the US (based on the latest figures available).  This pandemic and its health and economic consequences have a long way to run in our country.  We are very grateful to everyone who is helping us to adapt to our new circumstances so we can continue to put food on the table for our residents and some of our fomer residents who need us too.

Our chickens
Our chickens
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St Gregory's Foundation

Location: Hampton Wick, Surrey - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @SaintGregsFound
Project Leader:
Sarah Gale
Hampton Wick, Surrey United Kingdom
$37,787 raised of $43,857 goal
 
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