Life at Mkurnali’s homeless shelter – Tbilisi

Planting potatoes at Mkurnali

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.

One of my acquaintances who owns a grocery store in Gldani (one of Tbilisi’s suburbs) asked me to come and check his in-store camera recordings. He showed me that a former Mkurnali resident has been stealing sausages and bread for his family from the store. The owner told me that they think the boy does this every day because he is not aware of the cameras. He suggested talking to the boy and telling him that rather than stealing he can ask the owner directly for food. The owner had noticed that the boy had only taken essential food. “He did not take one packet of sweets” he added. It was a big relief that the owner didn’t press charges and understood that the boy’s family must have been in such a dire situation that he had no other option but to steal food. The owner helped this family on a few occasions after that. This is how tough the whole situation is in some regions of Georgia.

Our young people at Mkurnali who are currently jobless, decided to grow a small vegetable garden rather than sit still and do nothing. They planted potatoes and corn. They also bought chickens and rabbits to start a small scale farm. It is inspiring that they took the decision and organised this all by themselves. Remarkably one of the inspirers of this idea and work was Achiko, our new resident recently released from prison. Together with Jemal and others he worked hard in the garden – it was a particular joy for me to see that he treats Mkurnali as his home.

Apart from the gardening this summer we urgently need to repair the roof of Mkurnali’s house as there were a lot of leaks and other damage last winter. We are very grateful to St Gregory’s for support with part funding. We also applied for a grant to the Mayor’s office in Tbilisi and we are waiting for a re-ply. In the meantime we also approached the Inter-national Women’s Association and the founder Nana Dvali offered us part of the required amount. We are very hopeful that we will be able to get the roof repaired this summer and we’ll keep you posted. Thank you everyone who us to overcome this crisis.  

Nino Chubabria, Mkurnali’s director