Our newsletter is out now with stories from Moscow, St Petersburg, Kondopoga and Tbilisi. To celebrate our 30th anniversary we look back and appreciate how far we’ve come. We take stock of the extraordinary present day and look ahead to future plans. Dive in, and join our efforts to create a brighter future for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our regions.
The pandemic noticeably worsened the working conditions in Georgia, as it did in the whole world. The majority of companies started working from home and now they don’t use many printers – we lost a lot of orders for fixing or changing cartridges. Our other small business – a car repair shop – continues to work, but only with a limited capacity: the prices of fuel have drastically increased and there-fore people are driving less. Many young people lost their jobs. Regular work remained only for those who worked at grocery stores and supermarkets and perhaps as street cleaners.Continue reading Life at Mkurnali’s homeless shelter – Tbilisi
St Gregory’s has a long-standing partnership with Mkurnali, a charity that helps homeless young people in Tbilisi, Georgia. Nino Chubabria, Mkurnali’s director tells a story of an extraordinary coincidence which allowed the charity to save a young man.
“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 that 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 winter newsletter is out now with more in depth stories of the people that we are able to help thanks to our wonderful, generous supporters.
- how Sunflower helped Natasha adjust to life after the children’s home,
- how Mkurnali are supporting Luka’s family so he doesn’t have to put himself at risk working on the streets,
- and how Elya is overcoming disability to feed herself for the first time aged 19, and more.
One young man who desperately needed a home visit is Roma. He grew up in an institution for deaf children and he’s now studying at college. When he lived in an institution he was quite confident. It was only when he left that he began to be afraid.
Roma was given a flat, but it was a long way from the part of the city that he knew, and even after he was given the right to live there he continued living in a hostel.
“I don’t know anything about my flat. After I signed the documents I didn’t even go there. I don’t know how to get there and I can’t remember if it still needs work doing on it. I went to the flat once with a teacher from our children’s home by car, had a look and I can’t remember anything about it. I just have a bit of paper with an address and the keys.”
Like all the others, Roma is very scared of somehow being conned out of his flat by some “dangerous” people, so it is difficult for him to see his new home as secure and stable.
With Sunflower’s social teacher, Roma worked out a convenient route from home using his travel pass. They visited his new flat. They got to know the surrounding area and found out where the doctors’ surgery, the post office and other local services are. They worked out what furniture he would need, made a budget and together made a few purchases, teaching Roma how to do this independently in future. Lastly, the social teacher connected Roma with some local organisations that can help people with his disability, and helped him explore how he could spend his leisure time.
Seeing the smile on Roma’s face visiting his new flat makes it all worth while. Hopefully, he will also be able to join in the group activities and continue to grow in confidence and problem-solving ability.
It costs just £7 to make a home visit to someone like Roma, but you can see what a huge difference it can make to someone’s life.
Earlier this year Artur and Christine and their four children, long-term residents at the homeless shelter we support in Tbilisi, were able to buy a small shack in a village near Tbilisi. It doesn’t look like much, but this shack offers a great opportunity for the family to live independently at last, particularly since it comes with land so they can grow food.
Artur and Christine are trying to bring the shack into shape as a house and have already done a lot of work on it. Now they need to have basic living conditions to move in. Each month they pay towards the cost of the house, but that leaves them with nothing to furnish it. Our assistant, Jemal, posted their story on social media and had a fantastic response. One kind woman gave them money, so that they could buy a water pump to put in their yard. (The water pressure brought to their house is so weak, they would have not have proper water otherwise.) Other people donated furniture, household items and even doors and window. Jemal asked our neighbour, who owns a truck, if he could help us move these items to the village. The neighbour agreed to help and only took the money for petrol.
Christine and Artur now have beds, cupboards, chairs, duvet covers, mattresses, clothes, books and toys for the kids. The whole family is so happy. Now they just have to build on another room and then they will at last be able to move in and live as an independent family for the first time in their lives.
Download our summer newsletter to find out more about the summer camps we will be funding this year. This includes the unique perspective of one of the volunteers helping on the Sunflower summer camp for parents who grew up in orphanages and their children. We also have a full report on the training visit our colleagues from St Petersburg and Moscow made to Krakow to get new ideas on helping children with complex disabilities to communicate. From Georgia, our colleagues at Mkurnali report on the vulnerable young people that they have saved from prison recently.
Download our winter newsletter to find out how our Alternative Technology programme helps find different ways to communicate for young disabled people who cannot speak, how we hosted Father Lev and his helpers from the Kondopoga Parish in the UK and about their plans after their return to Karelia, how Sunflower helps Russian orphans to be independent, and how our legal programme run by Mkurnali helps save young people from prison.
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.
Jemal remembers how Mkurnali first made contact with him:
“The first time I ended up in the streets I got to know some children who lived there and they offered me to spend the night with them. I was hungry and it was quite cold. Continue reading Jamal and Giorgi explain how they went from street children to outreach workers for Mkurnali