Children
 Georgia
Project #10666

Care for 20 homeless teenagers in Tbilisi, Georgia

by St Gregory's Foundation
Vetted

This New Year was indeed very happy for Mkurnali, because the Ministry of Penal Correction services of Georgia has released and sent to us a lovely girl. A year and a half ago she was arrested in Batumi and her sentence would have been 6-7 years’ imprisonment had we not intervened. However, we managed to reduce it to 3 years, even better, as a celebration of New Year and with the intervention of the Georgian Patriarchate we have managed to get her pardoned and released.

During her health check, we found that she had Hepatitis C. The prison administration had provided Lana with a free programme that will aid her recovery. However, after she was released, her free medical care came under question. Again, with our intervention and the prison administration’s help, we managed to continue this treatment for Lana. One week ago, during a routine health check, she got some great news: she has been completely cured of the disease! However, the treatment has to go on until the end of the course. I am deliberately not telling the story of what led Lana’s life to drug abuse and to the prison sentence as it is a very tragic story; however, I will tell you that she had given a birth to a child who had hydrocephalus and died within a year.

We have always supported Lana when she asked for help and we tried to get her to join us, but because of her bad habits, she didn’t want to live in Mkurnali. Luckily prison has changed her completely, she has made drug abuse a thing of the past. She came to us and wants to start a new life. In her time in prison, Lana has learned embroidery and we are trying to support her so she can use her embroidery skills to support herself. We would like to raise money and pay her as an instructor so she could teach other girls to embroider, as well as buy her own equipment so she can make items she could sell.

One more proud and happy new thing that happened this New Year: as you know, every New Year we invite our current and past beneficiaries to a party. On 30th December, due to extremely low temperatures our central heating broke down. However, we still managed to have a good time and used our open fireplace to keep warm. We couldn’t fix the heating as every maintenance provider refused to work during holiday time and as we found out, the cost of the repair is very high. One of our guests and a past beneficiary, Kote, who found out about the problem, came the next day with his co-worker and fixed the heating free of charge, which made us happy and was also an amazing example for the other kids. Kote had been in Mkurnali’s care for years and had lived 2 years with us in our shelter. 3 years ago, we helped him to start work in one of the building companies where he currently works and with his honest effort is able to support himself, and now – us too.

Thanks to your continued support to Mkurnali we are able to help more troubled young people like Lana, Kote and others like them, who without your help, would face a bleak future.

In the past two months there have been 8 legal cases, 3 of which have been stopped at the investigation stage, 2 have come to an end, according to the result of the judicial process, with a suspended sentence; 1 has been sentenced for two years’ imprisonment by the Ministry of Penal Correction of Georgia, and 2 are still ongoing investigations.

Jemal is holding a piece of Lana
Jemal is holding a piece of Lana's embroidery
Nino, Inga, the lawyer and a resident of Mkurnali
Nino, Inga, the lawyer and a resident of Mkurnali

Thanks to your support to Mkurnali we are able to provide food, shelter and education to our residents. Today we would like to tell you about the latest developments with our legal programme and what we do to help our young people who have got in trouble with the police.  

In October and November we were able to help resolve 6 legal cases. Two charges were for ‘resistance to police’, which is punished by a 2000 Georgian Lari fine or time in jail. Both cases ended with an absolute discharge. 1 case was ‘hooliganism’, which  receives a sentence of up to three years of jail. We negotiated with the plaintiff and the case was closed without any charges. 2 cases were for theft: 1 case was of part involvement in a theft which can result in 4-7 years in prison. We have reached a plea bargain with the prosecution and the convict has been sentenced with one year in a penal institution and 1 year suspended sentence without any fine. The second theft case was partial involvement in a theft which is sentenced by 1-3 years of jail. The case is under investigation, during which time the suspect is on personal bail outside prison. We are monitoring him and hope he will eventually become involved in Mkurnali programs for rehabilitation.

Mkurnali’s other main focus of activity is on the growth and popularisation of its enamel jewellery production to give work and income to the residents. Lately we took part in many exhibitions. It important to note that the US Embassy organised a folk craft exhibition, where our works successfully competed with our enamel teacher company “Gallery Ornament”. We sold more works than any other participants in the fair. The shop located inside the embassy has offered us a corner for our enamel work. 

In October we had a visitor – a director of St. Gregory Foundation - Dr. Tamara Dragadze. On behalf of the Foundation she placed an order of 20 pieces of work which we had already created. Also with the help of the Foundation she bought us an Ultrasound machine for polishing the silver so that the Mkurnali residents should no longer cut their fingers using a wire brush. The International Women’s Association here in Tbilisi has given us a little help and on December 3 we plan to take part in the Christmas fair organised by them.

We were happy that these two months seemed peaceful and productive, but sadly a horrible accident happened – our resident Beso Mnatobishvili was lost. Global Giving had helped us pay for his operation some time ago and he was in excellent health ever since. Beso had found his much older brother who had been raised separately from him. On October 4, he brought him to our shelter in order to show him old furniture that we planned to give him as gift. (The EU’s Georgian office gave us new furniture recently).

Afterwards, Beso accompanied his brother and did not return.  We looked for him but not even his brother knew anything about his whereabouts. Sadly, after 22 days the Mtkvari River, which runs through the city, washed his body ashore. What happened? We still don’t know. The police are investigating the case as murder, having excluded suicide. We plan to investigate this case to the bottom and find out the truth. In the meantime his Mkurnali family will be arranging the best funeral we can and find some way always to remember him.

Please consider making a donation - Global Giving is offering a 50% match on donations made on #GivingTuesday, November 29th up to the first $1 million raised on GlobalGiving.org. They have $500,000 in matching funds made available courtesy of generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This is the largest amount of matching funds GlobalGiving has ever had in one day and a wonderful chance to make your donation even larger.

 

 

 

Beso (on the left) with his friend
Beso (on the left) with his friend

Being young and homeless in Tblisi carries many risks.  One of them is getting in trouble with the police.  This is why we run a special legal service for homeless youngsters to make sure they are properly represented.

Some of you may remember Beso, who we have been helping for some time.  Back in 2014 Global Giving donors helped fund an emergency operation for him, since when he has been back in work and doing well.

This year, Beso and his friend were going home late from a birthday party. He was in a very good mood and he was singing. The boys got thirsty so they started searching for a sink in the Tbilisi yards (old yards usually has sinks in them in Tbilisi). The police who were patrolling that night saw the two boys moving from yard to yard so they thought they were trying to steal something from these yards. The policemen caught Beso and his friend for attempted theft, which means 4-7 years of prison, also rebellious activity (up to 3 years) and resisting the police (3-5 years).

We got into this case just in time. After our lawyer spoke to the investigator he agreed that the boys haven’t stolen anything and that the only thing they did wrong was minor rebellious activity (i.e. making a noise in a public place at night – in this case singing) and so the law-enforcers had to drop the theft case, the rebellious activity and resisting the police. This comes under the administrative code (which is a fine of 500-2000GEL), rather than being a criminal offence. In the court,after our lawyer’s speech the judge didn’t fine the boys and only gave them a warning.

The whole point of this story is that if our lawyer hadn’t got into this case in time, the boys would have been in prison for a minimum of 4 years.

During the last 3 months our legal service has looked after 15 cases.  Thanks to us 6 cases were terminated, 5 finished with non-custodial sentences, 2 finished with custodial sentences, and two are still in process.  In many cases, providing a legal defense is our first contact with a young person.  We are very grateful to all our Global Giving donors for helping us keep our shelter going, so that where needed we can offer food, a home and training to those who have nowhere else to go after their release.  

Your donation will help keep our young people safe.  If you are a UK-based donor, this week your donation could go even further.  Globalgiving.co.uk is offering to match donations up to £50 from 2pm  on Tuesday 25th October  to 2pm on Tuesday 1st November, or while funds last.  Please make your donation early in the bonus week if you'd like to see 50% added to your donation.  Prizes are also available to projects that attract the most donors, so whether you are able to give this time or not, please tell your friends!  Thank you!

Our enamel workshop in action
Our enamel workshop in action

At Mkurnali we don't just give homeless youngsters somewhere to live.  We work hard to help them back into training, education or employment.  We are celebrating at the moment because two of our beneficiaries successfully applied for jobs. One of them is manufacturing glass-packages in window and door factory, while the other works as a consultant in construction materials shop.  We are very proud of them and grateful to you for giving us the time to get them to this point.  We can't do any of this work if we can't feed our young people!

Over the summer we have been actively working on turning our enamel workshop into a sustainable enterprise. We have already organized four exhibitions in large organizations. We also took part in a popular local folk culture festival called Art Gen, where we practically sold out all our work. With the money we received we bought more materials and now we are getting ready for the Folk Crafts Festival held by US Embassy on September 27th.

Our young people who are involved in this project are demonstrating great enthusiasm, even those with jobs outside our organization gladly join us for crafting after work. They all understand that we still need to work very hard in order to gather enough materials to turn our workshop into a profitable entity, and they do everything they can to speed up the process. 

On July 18th we hosted guests from Global Giving. They visited us during the Art Gen festival, and they gladly accepted our invitation to join us and see our work process.  Before that, we took them with us also to EnergoPro Georgia, where our boys provide technical IT support. There we met the head of department who spoke with our guests about our many years of cooperation.  Afterwards we went to “Turtle Lake” where the festival Art Gen was taking place. We invited our guests to our corner. Our Mkurnali beneficiaries were very happy to host these guests.  By giving through Global Giving, you don't just help us feed our residents and reach out to young people still on the streets, you also open doors to us for training and support.  We are very grateful to the whole Global Giving team - you included! 

Our enamel workshop in action
Our enamel workshop in action

We don't believe in just giving shelter and food to homeless young people.  We also provide training or help them to get into education or work, so that they will be able to stand on their own two feet as adults.  This year, we re-opened our enamel workshop, where we train our young people to make jewellery.  Our first exhibition and sale will be held on July 10th. All money from sales will be spent on materials, so we can expand production.

The workshop is managed by Jemal and Vanya.  

We met Vanya in 2000 when he was living in an orphanage.  He is the youngest of four brothers.  When the oldest brother was 8 years-old, and Vanya only eight months, their parents left for Russia leaving them behind with elderly grandmother. The children have not heard from them since.  The grandmother became bedridden soon after so she could no longer care for the children. They started to wander the streets and got involved in glue-sniffing and all sorts as they struggled to survive.

One of their neighbours took the children to an orphanage, but they only took the younger brothers – Kolya and Vanya.  The older brothers were still left to wander the streets.  Fortunately, a new orphanage opened up and Pavlik and Borya found shelter there. Soon afterwards the grandmother passed away. 

When we met Pavlik and Borya at their orphanage we offered to teach them enamel craft.  From the very beginning the children were very keen to learn and they quickly became successful. Their products were purchased and exhibited by the Museum of Modern Enamel Arts and at various exhibitions. They grew professionally and were taken on as teachers.  Their products were sold in Georgia, Germany, Italy and United States. The magazine of the American Association of Enamel Artists wrote an article about them.

In 2003 Kolya and Vanya moved to join their brothers so they were together in one orphanage, and three years' later they also joined our enamel workshop. When Pavlik and Borya had to leave the orphanage, they moved to our newly established shelter. 

We searched for their parents, so that their apartment could be officially registered in the children’s name. After contacting their parents, the brothers decided to move to Russia to live with them. Only the youngest brother (who was underage by that time and still lived at the orphanage) remained in Georgia.  When the boys arrived in Moscow they faced with a situation quite unlike what their parents had described – they had to start a new life with absolutely nothing. Fortunately, they were able to earn a living with their enamel work.

Vanya was taken in by his aunt after his orphanage was closed. Unfortunately, she passed away a year ago and Vanya was kicked out by his uncle.  He started working in an enamel workshop where the management exploited and underpaid him. 3 months ago Vanya asked us to take him in. At that time, we were planning to develop our enamel workshop and Vanya now lives with us and started to manage it along with Jemal. We are very pleased with his performance and have high hopes for his future.

Thank you very much for helping us give Vanya a home and the opportunity to develop his skills.  If you would like to contribute again, then June 15th is a good day to make a donation because Global Giving will be adding 50% to donations to our project.   This bonus day starts at 9am EDT and runs until midnight.  Please note that if you give through the UK Global Giving site, the UK bonus day starts at 2pm BST and runs until 5pm the following day.  We recommend that you make your donation early because when matching funds are gone, they're gone.

Thank you again for all you have done for our young people. 

Examples of our residents
Examples of our residents' work
 

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Organization Information

St Gregory's Foundation

Location: Hampton Wick, Surrey - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.stgregorysfoundation.org.uk/​
Project Leader:
Julia Ashmore
Crewe, Cheshire United Kingdom

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