Last week, Nino Chubabria, director of the Mkurnali project for homeless teens in Tbilisi, received a call at midnight to go and collect two boys who were about to be released from prison there and then. She went with the charity's lawyer, who has secured the release not only of these two, but also of a third prisoner in the previous week.
All three owe their freedom to a government amnesty, but also to the utterly professional and committed work of the Mkurnali lawyer, who is paid by St Gregory's Foundation. The residents at the Mkurnali house laid on a special meal to make the three new arrivals feel welcome. The lawyer continues to work on behalf of eight more young prisoners, who the lawyer has successfully proved have been unjustly imprisoned so that they can benefit from a government amnesty.
We are delighted that Mkurnali is able to offer these boys a home and a new start in life, and we are also grateful to you for your help. Obviously, three more residents means three more mouths to feed. For them release from prison is just the start. They need time to gain vocational training and ultimately a job. In the meantime, with your help, Mkurnali will continue to look after them.
Bakhar's parents passed away when he was very young and he ended up in the streets all alone. He was sheltered by “Street Kids” shelter, where he lived until he reached 14, then he ended up in streets again and he was living in an abandoned buildings basement in the centre of Tbilisi. There was horrible dampness, that’s why he got diseased by Tuberculosis. Bakhar's life changed course when he came across our rehabilitation centre. Now, we'd like to give him, and the other young people we look after, a New Year's feast to remember, with Georgian treats such as chicken in walnut sauce and cheese pies.
In 2005 our organization opened a street children's social rehabilitation centre where it was possible to for Bakhar to have a course of treatment. Sadly he was caught by the police soon afterwards. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, particularly near the Gldani Metro there was a fight where two boys where wounded. Unfortunately Bakhar was standing near the crime scene. The policemen didn’t ask anything and they took him with the fighter boys to the police department. Before we found out about it he wrote a “plea of guilty”. The only thing we could do is give him only one year of jail when the others got seven or eight. Since his release Bakhar has lived at our organization, he is quite a smart lad.
In October he started training at café ReLife with the prospect of having a job; he is learning bartending, cooking and also waiting at table. This café is managed by a German woman, Lela Ekhvaia, who specially started this course for this category of teenagers. The café has a very favorable position, so Bakhar always goes there with big pleasure and when he comes back he happily tells us about his day there. The café management really likes him and they promise that after training they’ll give him a job there.
Bakhar is looking with hope on the future and has optimistic plans. Bakhar is just one of 35-40 young homeless people who are sheltering with us this winter. In October and November we helped four of them find permanent jobs, but before we can start the rehabilitation work, we have to know we can feed everyone. Thank you to everyone who has helped us in 2012.
As winter starts the number of young people staying at our organization increases. That is because it is very difficult for kids to stay in the cold streets at night and also they aren’t able to raise the money they need for food. They say that in bad weather all cars have their windows closed and the drivers are too lazy to open the windows for charity, which decreases their takings. At this time they always come to us for help. We have camp beds that we get out in the winter.
Obviously, with two or three times more teenagers staying with us, the food bill rises.the request for food rises. The utility bills rise as well. In winter the number of kids varies, it is approximately 30-45 people a day.
This year we are also expecting a flow of children from jail. We are waiting for a big amnesty announcement. Our organization put in an application for 11 children to be released from jail.
It costs just over $3 a day to feed a teenager in Tbilisi, but in difficult times we can manage it for $1.75. Fortunately, some local people help by bringing food. Recently, a local supporter brought a whole sack of potatoes for us. As well as feeding everyone who comes to us in need, we also really want to hold a New Year's feast to cheer everyone up. This will cost around $15 for each teenager. We're aiming to invite 45 of our regular residents and the homeless young people who've been coming to us through the winter. Can you help?
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