St Gregory’s supports Mkurnali, a charity on the front-line, helping take street children and young people off the streets and giving them a future. This is a story of how their outreach workers stepped in to help Luka and his family in their hour of need. It is told by Nino Chubabria, the very hands-on director of Mkurnali.
“Meet Luka”, Jemal said to me, and turned on the lights. It was getting dark outside and I was sitting in the dimly lit room with a computer. I looked towards the door, the guys entered the room and sat on the sofa. I was watching them silently, because I couldn’t understand who Luka was: he was dressed in clean clothes and looked beautiful. He was about 11-12 years old, not really ‘’a child working on the street’’ type. Jemal broke the silence again, “I met him on the street. You know, nothing can escape my eyes… It seemed he wanted to find work there. It was obvious that the streets are no place for him. I walked straight up to him, introduced myself, told him that I was aware he was new there and asked him to tell me what forced him to come out in the streets”. Jemal is our assistant and besides caring for the shelter he goes out in the evening to give assistance when needed to young people in the street.
He continued: “Luka told me that he had 5 siblings, that his father died six months ago. His mother was sick and unable to work, that his elder sister and brother were studying well and they couldn’t afford to work, since they had a lot to study. As for him, he 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. I promised to help him. Luka then asked me imploringly: “Do you promise to help me?”
Other Mkurnali residents were also in the room. One of them said, whose name is also Jemal: “Luka, look. Streets are bad, not only will you make no money out there, but a lot of bad things happen on the streets. Do you know how many bad people we have seen there?” He then added: “And we’ve seen beating, fights, humiliation, even imprisonment,” – he continued. “We feel sorry that you have had to do this. Do not quit studying, we will help you. If “Mkurnali” does not have the funds, we will save some from our salaries and provide you with products every month. You can’t get more than that by yourself”.
Everyone looked to me for approval.
I got the phone number of Luka’s mother and called her. I told her everything and offered her to come with us to buy the products for her family. She happily agreed. We sat in my car and went to ‘’Carrefour’’ supermarket where we bought products for 2 weeks and then we drove her home. We promised to help them as long as we could. Luka also promised us to study well and that he would never work on the streets.
Every day Mkurnali feeds around 27 children and teenagers who are still on the streets of Tbilisi, as well as the 14 young people who live at their shelter. It costs just £1.50 or $2.00 to feed a street child for a day and the number they can feed sadly depends most on their income, not on the numbers needing their help.