I first met Fedya and his brother Artur in 2002. They were sleeping near Dighomi market along with other “street children”. He was always cheerful and friendly despite all the difficulties. After the death of his father, Fedya, his mother and brother were thrown out of the house by their uncle and had no other place to go. They had to live on the street and sleep in cellars or wherever they could find a shelter.
One morning, Fedya’s mother didn’t wake up and 6-year-old Fedya and 8-year-old Artur were left alone on the street, surviving thanks to strangers who fed them. Nevertheless, neither of two brothers has ever stolen anything. They were highly respected by the market traders who trusted them to look after their market stalls from time to time. In the streets, both brothers met other homeless children. Fedya’s dream was to go to school but sadly it didn’t work out.
Fedya is a hard-working person. He worked in the market of Dighomi during the day and as a night watchman at night. A little while ago, Fedya got married, and the market management allowed them to live at one of the market premises for a while. This became impossible when his wife became pregnant and they were told to move out.
Fedya turned to us for help. Even though we didn’t have any rooms free at our shelter, the boys gave up their small room and moved into a small room at the garage run by Pavel, a former beneficiary of Mkurnali. This garage already provides training and employment to formerly homeless young people.
We have been working on building a new room and fitting out a new bathroom so that we can accommodate more people. Fedya's situation makes this work all the more urgent. We don't have a choice but to help him and his family through this most difficult time.
Since 2020 it feels as if each time we've written to you, we've had to report that life is getting harder in Tbilisi. After the hardships of the pandemic, now poorer residents of our city are facing a new blow. This year we have seen very significant rent rises, in part because of the influx of Russians and Ukrainian refugees.
Because of these rent rises and the general economic situation, we have recently taken in two families, both of which have a history with our organisation.
You may remember that in 2020 we reported on the story of Grigol*, who had attempted suicide after he lost his job. One of our beneficiaries recognised him on a TV report and brought him to live at our shelter. Since then he had got his life back on track. He had moved to a suburb of Tbilisi, where he had a job in a garage. He married and gained a step-child. Even after he lost his job at the garage, he managed to find work as a builder. The family were very poor, but coping independently until the birth of their baby two months ago. Their flat was not suitable for a baby and their landlord also put their rent up. With his wife unable to work, Grigol wasn't able to support the family financially.
Grigol is not the only person to be made homeless. We have also taken in another family of a former beneficiary, who was evicted with his wife and two children so that the landlord could raise the rent. Now both families live at our shelter.
In order to make space for our new arrivals, we have completed a loft conversion.
We know that this is a difficult time around the world, but if you can spare a little to help us look after these families, we would be very grateful. Giving Tuesday is round the corner on 29th November. If you plan to make a donation during the holiday season, this is an excellent day to give because you can help us win a share of GlobalGiving's million dollar incentive fund (or actually $1,200,000 fund). The more we raise on that day, the greater the share of the fund we will win.
*not his real name
Since we last wrote, we can report that our new roof is on! Our residents and volunteers did all the work themselves. We have also some money saved to employ builders to create a room in the attic so that we can increase our number of beds. Sadly, there are always more needing help than we can house.
We all hoped for, and looked forward to an end of the pandemic. The health situation has improved, but it turns out that some of the economic changes are more permanent, and this is affecting us very much. We don't aim just to provide housing for young people, we also want to give them skills and work experience so that they can improve their situation.
One of the ways we have done this is through running workshops. Before the pandemic we had a very successful social business refilling printer cartridges. Now the number of clients has reduced by half. Many businesses switched to entirely online working in the pandemic, and they have not gone back to the old way of working. They barely use their printers now, so no refilling for us.
Our other big employer was our jewellery workshop. Since the war in Ukraine started, Georgia has been designated a risky country, which means fewer tourists. Before the pandemic we would sell our jewellery mainly to tourists. We have had to cut the number of people working in this business too.
Pavle and his brother, Kolya, have more success with their garage. They continue to train apprentice mechanics and to provide employment. One of our residents uses our scooter to work as a courier. Three more residents also work for private firms outside our organisation.
Our great pride and joy is Christina. She has been accepted on the Georgian gymnastics team and has been given a scholarship. We are delighted that she is able to develop her talent. Her progress has been very promising so far.
Given the difficult situation with our workshops, we are thinking about alternative ways of providing jobs and helping support ourselves. We hope very much to be able to set up a courier business and also a small-holding.
If you would like to contribute, this is an excellent week to donate. GlobalGiving have their Little by Little campaign running from Monday 12th to Friday 16th September. During this week they will add a 50% bonus to any donations up to 50 USD (£40).
If you live in the UK, you can also buy some of the beautiful jewellery our residents have made. The link to our shop is below.
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.
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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