News from Mkurnali’s shelter

We are very much looking forward to meeting Mkurnali’s residents during the supporters’ trip to Tbilisi this summer. We will meet some longstanding members of the commuity, like Jemal (once a beneficiary and now Nino’s right hand man). We will also meet some new residents, like Luisa, whose story we tell today.

Luisa is an Azerbaijani Kurd and she came to Georgia with her mother and her brothers and sisters when she was a child. The family earned their living by begging and petty theft, but Luisa ran away. She appealed for help so she could study and lead a normal life. First she lived in an orphanage and then in foster care in a town some 200km from Tbilisi.

Continue reading News from Mkurnali’s shelter

Memorial Tea and Nino’s visit

In recent years, coffee mornings in Ruislip organised by the late George and Shirley Guest, have raised thousands of pounds for Mkurnali to help with the rehabilitation and employment of homeless teenagers and young offenders in Tbilisi. Trips to Georgia organised by George inspired many people to support Mkurnali even more. This helped refurbish and equip Mkurnali’s house.

In memory of these two remarkable supporters, a group of volunteers: Liz Parry, Cicely Draper and St Gregory’s Director, Vivian Wright organised the Memorial Tea for George and Shirley on 15th October in Ruislip. The event was a great success and reunited more than 75 people, including George and Shirley’s daughter Rebecca, and Sam their grandson. A very special guest, Nino Chubabria, Director of Mkurnali came from Tbilisi to pay tribute to George and Shirley on behalf of Mkurnali’s young people.
Continue reading Memorial Tea and Nino’s visit

Mkurnali finds Dima – twice

Dima (right) with Jemal, support worker from Mkurnali

Our partner charity, Mkurnali found Dima on Tik Tok. A video journalist had filmed him living on the streets in Tbilisi. Our colleagues somehow recongised him you’d hardly believe he is only 29, found him and brought him back to the Mkurnali shelter.

Read more: Mkurnali finds Dima – twice

This was not the first time Mkurnali had been there for Dima. In 2004 Mkurnali had found Dima living on the streets with his brother, Alex. They were 9 and 11 years old and had already been on the streets for two years since they were orphaned. Their relatives had appropriated their flat, and they had run away because of the beatings they were given at home by their uncle.

Read more: Mkurnali finds Dima – twice

After a long legal battle, Mkurnali managed to return the flat to them. Once grown up, the brothers moved back in and lost touch with Mkurnali.

Dima was working as a shepherd, living away from Tbilisi for weeks at a time. When Alex stopped answering Dima’s calls, Dima went back to the city to find out what had happened. When he got to the flat the door was locked and bolted. The police were called and broke down the door, to find Alex dead.

After his brother’s funeral, Dima sold the flat and bought cattle and a small house in the countryside. He took up farming. All was going well until the uncle’s son appeared. He forced Dima to sign a deed gifting the house to his cousin and then threw him out on the street. At first Dima was sheltered by a monastery. However, after an emergency stay in hospital, he started sleeping rough.

Dima is now living at Mkurnali and is readjusting to life. Looking forward, he will train in Mkurnali’s enamel workshop and they will return his house to him.

Fedya’s became a homeless orphan aged 6

St Gregory’s Foundation works with a remarkable charity, called Mkurnali, in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Mkurnali provides sheleter, vocational training and employment, and a legal service to homeless young people in their city.

Nino, Mkurnali’s director, met Fedya and his brother Artur in 2002. They were sleeping near Dighomi market along with other “street children”.  He was always cheerful and friendly despite all the difficulties. After the death of his father, Fedya, his mother and brother were thrown out of the house by their uncle and had no other place to go. They had to live on the street and sleep in cellars or wherever they could find a shelter. 

Continue reading Fedya’s became a homeless orphan aged 6

George and Shirley Guest – RIP

We are very sorry to announce that George Guest and his wife, Shirley, for many, many years a mainstay of St Gregory’s Foundation, have both died earlier this month. Before she died, his wife, Shirley, suggested that those who would like to remember George give a donation to the Foundation in his memory.

Continue reading George and Shirley Guest – RIP

A warm home for homeless families in Tbilisi – our Christmas appeal

This year our Christmas appeal is on behalf of our partner charity, Mkurnali. Global events have led to significant rent rises in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Mkurnali are on the front line, providing accommodation to families and young people who would otherwise have nowhere to go.

Grigol’s* family are one of two new families at Mkurnali’s shelter. In 2020 we reported how he was taken in by Mkurnali after he lost his job and attempted suicide. He had since moved out, found work and married. Now a new baby and rent rises mean that he can no longer provide for his family.

The charity have created a loft extension so they can offer more housing. They have more renovations to complete and a bathroom to install before they are able to welcome two more families from their waiting list. We know that this is a difficult year for many, but if you can spare a little, together we can help them house more desperate families.

*Not his real name

Suicidal young man finds haven at Mkurnali

New resident with Jamal, who helps run the shelter.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.”

Roma’s first home post-orphanage

Orphanage-leaver Roma smiling as he goes into his new flatSunflower, our partners in St Petersburg, help orphanage-leavers adjust to independent living.  Much of their work is done through support groups, but an individual home visit can work wonders when there is a particular crisis.  By donating to St Gregory’s you make this service happen.

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.

A new start for a homeless family in Georgia

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.

Jamal and Giorgi explain how they went from street children to outreach workers for Mkurnali

Giorgi and the new mopedJemal 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