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Care for 20 homeless teenagers in Tbilisi, Georgia

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

When Georgia went into lockdown, our residents all lost their jobs and their income overnight.  Our social business refilling printer cartridges also had to shut, so we lost a valuable source of funds.  This story is of course repeated thousands of times over, and many do not have the resiliance to cope.  

Not long ago, one of our residents saw a news report about a lad who tried to commit suicide.  He had lost his job, and with no income, he had also been evicted.  Vano recognised the young man because they grew up together in an orphanage, and he asked me to help him.  When I watched the story, I also recognised the young man.  He had been arrested about ten years ago for stealing toy binoculars.  He was then a child living on the streets of Batumi and Tbilisi, and he survived by begging and stealing.

We got involved and saved him from prison on condition that we took responsibility for him.  He came and lived in our shelter for two years.  After this time he started working and living independently, until he lost his job because of Corona virus.  After seeing the story, Jemal found him and brought him back.  He now lives at our shelter again, and will stay here until he can start work again.

Our daily life has changed of course.  The shelter is busy all day with parents and children unable to leave the house.  Fortunately, homeless young people in our city have been housed in orphanages, so we no longer need to take food out to them on the streets.  However, we still feel responsibility for families who have lived with us in the past, or who received training from us.  Wherever possible, we are delivering food parcels to them, with the necessary social distancing, of course.

Thank goodness we have also had some happy news.  We heard that one of our former beneficiaries has become a father.  One of our younger residents also celebrated his second birthday at our shelter.

We hope that you are all keeping safe and well, and thank you for your solidarity at this difficult time for us all.

 

Our newest resident (left) with Jamal
Our newest resident (left) with Jamal
Nikita's birthday
Nikita's birthday

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New Year food delivery
New Year food delivery

In December we received the money for the New Year celebration kindly donated by the donors on GlobalGiving and we started our preparations with great joy. However soon we received very sad news. Those of you with long memories may remember Luka, a boy with 5 siblings, whose father died. Luka’s mother was sick and unable to work, his elder sister and brother were studying well and they couldn’t afford to work, since they had a lot of study. Luka was fast at doing his homework and had more free time, so he decided to get a little money from the street and help out his mother. This is how our assistant Jemal met him and brought him to Mkurnali. Since that time Luka has never worked on the streets again.  

Luka is 14 years old now and it turned out that he is now struggling with one of the deadliest types of cancer. When this news was broken to Mkurnali’s residents, our young people refused to celebrate New Year and instead decided to buy and share essential food products between the present and former families that Mkurnali has helped, including Luka’s family. Amongst our beneficiaries were Marina’s family (4 children, between 6 and 12 years old and 5 adults), Christina and Arthur’s family (4 children, 4-6 years old and two adults with learning disabilities) and other families. The children were keen to help us buy food and joined us on a few shopping trips.  

For us it was our way to express our sympathy to Luka and make little kids from other families happy. Thank you to every one of you for supporting us 

 

 

 

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We have several families with young children living at our shelter.  We give them a stable home until their parents' situation changes and we can either re-house them independently, or they have a good enough job to be able to support their family.  While they are here, we do our best to encourage them and help them grow and flourish.  Their parents may have had very difficult childhoods, be we all want their children's experiences to be happier and safer.

One of our younger residents is Christina and this is her family's story.  Her mother, Luba, grew up on the streets selling flowers for a living. Ever since she was a little kid she was a hard-working and organized girl. Kote, her husband, used to live in the streets too and sold balloons on the same street. All the street kids used to spend nights  together in a nearby burnt house, so they knew each other and they fell in love.

After that, Kote went to live at a new shelter, but Luba's mother turned up and took her home. Her mom used to rent a room and begged for a living. Luba was happy to go home with her mom and live there with her four sisters but she kept in touch with Kote. They used to see each other quite often.

Time went by, they grew up, Kote started to work and eventually they got married. They rented a small apartment. Then Luba started working too and soon Christine was born. Luba couldn’t work anymore after that and Kote’s salary alone was not enough for them, so they moved in to Mkurnali. At that time Luba was pregnant with the second baby. The second baby was a boy. Nikoloz is now 1 year old.

Kote and Luba are wonderful parents, they do their best to bring their kids up. Christine is 5 years old now and she goes to gymnastics. We and they have done our best to support her extraordinary talent.  After going to classes for just six months, she competed in the national championship two months ago and won. She is the champion of GeorgiaAfter that she was invited to take part in the regional championship in Armenia, but her parents couldn’t afford the cost.  Kids like her must be helped and who knows, maybe one day she will become the champion of Europe, or even the world champion. Her dedication is clearly visible, she just needs a little bit of financial support.  That is why we have launched a micro-project to raise funds for Christina to compete at this higher level.  We are very proud of our little star and want her to be able to shine even brighter.

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Georgian hospitality
Georgian hospitality

Our shelter is an open place, where we welcome members of our local community who wish to get involved and visitors from further afield.  Recently, Theresa Tollemache visited from the UK.  Seeing our work with fresh eyes, she gives a good rounded picture of our set up, which we hope you will find interesting. 

"We spent a very happy and extremely impressive two hours at the Mkurnali House and the centre where several young people and families live having been rescued from poverty and a criminal past.  They are all suffering from punishment for petty crimes and in some cases an action that should not be considered as a crime.   Our host Nino Chubabria has dedicated her time to finding legal support for these teenagers and pledges to look after them in the Mkurnali house until they find permanent work.  Jamil has been with her since he was 14 and arrested with a prison sentence for stealing an apple in a neglected garden in his village where he tended the cows.  A few years later Nino has put him in charge of running the house which he does in the most efficient and loyal way.  

We visited Pavel who is working on restoring cars in a garage near to the home.  He is determined to set up a business with a local business man restoring and selling cars and he already had an apprentice who was working with him.   We were shown a little work shop in the house where some of the residents are filling cartridges with ink for re sale.  Pavel’s brother and others also make beautiful enamel earrings and pendants for sale.  

A fine Georgian feast was laid on for us and prepared by Inga who is one of the volunteers.  All those in the house joined us at the table to enjoy really delicious food.  Most were still out working so we did not meet all the residents.

The house itself is spacious and has its own courtyard where they are able to light a fire and make shaslik (kebabs).  The building is in a very quiet area on the edge of Tbilisi, with leafy courtyard gardens, chickens wandering and helpful friendly neighbours mainly from Azerbaijan.  The houses are dilapidated and the Mkurnali house itself is in need of attention.  Their neighbours are going to help them with renovating a concrete stair case and adjoining party wall but the roof of the building badly needs repair. 

Nino Chubabria is an exceptional person and is working tirelessly to help the young men, “her boys” in her words!,  to forge a new life away from the despair they had been living in before.  From her gentle and firm kindness they are learning to build up trust in the world around them and become honourable hard-working citizens.   We were so impressed by everything we saw and know that the support the GlobalGiving community gives them is extremely important for the future of these young people and the people who are caring for them."

 

 

 

Nino Chubabria, Mkurnali director
Nino Chubabria, Mkurnali director
Our courtyard and beyond
Our courtyard and beyond
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Parkhat at work making jewelery
Parkhat at work making jewelery

We love a win win solution and that is what we were able to create recently in our own neighbourhood.   Rather than choosing between a troubled teenager and the community he was disrupting, we have been able to improve life for everyone.

Parkhat is a neighbour of ours.  He came from an Azerbaidzhani family who settled in Tbilisi.  He is 15 and a half years old and has been growing up without his mother.  She left him and his father and went off with another man after finding that her husband had cancer. Parkhat’s father is a good, hardworking and honest man and it is terribly sad that he is ill and does not have anyone to help him. He is unable to look after Parkhat whose behaviour became much worse after his mother left them. 

Before we got involved, there were a lot of complaints from the other neighbours:  

- My car was scratched this morning. It must’ve been Parkhat 

-My car was broken into and they stole cash and cigarettes from it. It must’ve been Parkhat 

- Parkhat made my kid smoke cigarettes.  

- He’s a disgusting kid. I forbade him to be friends with my kid. I told him a million times, but he still comes around and calls my son quietly.  

Nino’ our director's car has also been scratched a few times but she and the other neighbours didn’t want to go to the police, knowing Parkhat’s circumstances and the family he grew up in. 

Parkhat was obviously known to the local police, so as soon he reached the legal age of 14 he got arrested for damaging someone else’s property. We found out about it when the other neighbours came to us to ask us to help the boy and save him from imprisonmentWe were all terribly sorry for Parkhat’s father - he was unable to handle this situation on his own as he badly needed help himself.  

We stepped in and talked to the police and Parkhat was finally released without a court hearing. We talked to Parkhat and made it clear that if he wants to put his life back together, we are here to help him. The boy was scared and lost and he promised that he would join our trainning course and change his behaviour. Since then Parkhat has found a second home at the Mkurnali shelter where he spends a lot of time learning his new skill of making jewellery.  He has become great at making beautiful enamel and silver pieces. Now he never misses his school and helps his father as much as he can.  He loves music and jokes and he is just happy and adorable.  

We are very grateful to you for helping us extend our hospitality to young people like Parkhat.  He may not be homeless, but we are thankful that we were able to turn his life around before it went seriously off track.  In doing so, we've made our neighbourhood a better place for everyone.

 

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Organization Information

St Gregory's Foundation

Location: Hampton Wick, Surrey - United Kingdom
Website:
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Project Leader:
Julia Ashmore
Hampton Wick, Surrey United Kingdom
$29,061 raised of $32,500 goal
 
391 donations
$3,439 to go
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