A place to call home

dsc022042Tiko Piranishvili sits up for the entrance exam at Tbilisi State University and has little time to read the books of her favorite writer, Stefan Zweig. She lives in a flat in Pavlov street #53 with her six brothers and four sisters. Tiko misses her home village, 12 red houses in green trees, SOS Children’s Village.

She found herself at SOS Children’s Village when she was eight. Tiko is 18 now and is on the second phase of the SOS Children’s Village program.

SOS Kinderdorf International is an independent non-governmental social development organization. The first SOS Children’s Village was founded by Hermann Gmeiner in 1949 in Imst, Austria. He was committed to helping orphan children who lost their families in the Second World War.

Nowadays SOS Children’s Village exists in 132 countries, works in the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and promotes these rights around the world.

In Georgia SOS Kinderdorf International started to promote the children’s rights in 1996, two years after Georgia joined UN Convention of Children’s Rights. They built traditional Austrian village, 12 two story-houses with 78 inhabitants and 12 SOS mothers. Another SOS Children’s Village was constructed in Kutaisi eight years ago.

Every such Village is based on four principles: each child needs a mother, brothers and sisters, house and a supportive village environment. Each house belongs to one family. The family and village build ties that last lifelong. SOS mother is trained for two years to build a close relationship with every child entrusted to her.

dsc022321In the process of acceptance, priority is given to the orphaned and abandoned children, then to those whose families are unable to care for them. Age of accepted is from one to ten years. Boys and girls of different ages live together, and the siblings are never parted. Either all of them are admitted to the village or none of them. 

Meri Maglaperidze, Head of Child’s Rights Centre at Public Defender’s Office, thinks that brothers and sisters are sometimes only relatives to each other, so parting them would not be fair. 

Disabled children are not admitted to the village. “Our goal is to integrate child in the society,” – says Ia Metreveli, Senior Teacher at SOS Children’s Village, – “We don’t take disabled children as far as we don’t have facilities for their rehabilitation. What we should do with them when the program ends, they get 23, drop them in the street?”

Andro Dadiani, Country Director of Every Child admits that caring for the disabled child needs many resources and facilities. Georgia is far from having facilities for disabled children yet and it is very problematic in Georgia nowadays.
SOS Kinderdorf International has recently developed a policy of disability, especially to overcome all challenges related to accommodation of the disabled children needing very specialized type of care. Countries, which developed more advanced programs for children with disabilities, are India, Mexico, Malawi, Germany, Kosovo, Nepal.
“We are not a specialized organization. In these situations we believe that children with disabilities can be cared in their best interest in specialized organizations,”- says Raluca Verweijen-Slamnescu, Adviser at SOS Kinderdorf International in Vienna.
dsc02225SOS Kinderdorf Children go to the public school #170. As the study is the priority for SOS Kinderdorf International, teachers at school are trained in order to handle with the children.
When children turn 15, they move to the second phase. They go to the SOS Youth Facilities, in flats rented in the centre of the city. They live with SOS sisters and brothers (8-10 in each flat) and teachers. Different from SOS Children’s Village, where the head of the family is SOS mother, in Youth Facilities teachers are men as well as women.

As Raluca Verweijen-Slamnescu, Adviser at SOS Kinderdorf International in Vienna, declares SOS Kinderdorf International has already started creating family based care including SOS fathers. Family based care of this kind already exists in several developed countries, for example in Austria, France, Norway.

Zviad Berdzenishvili, Director of the National Coordination Organization of SOS Kinderdorf in Georgia declares that SOS Kinderdorf in Georgia plans to start the practice of SOS fathers too.

At Youth Facility children have to study. If they could not study, they have to find a job. They study to manage their own money and get used to independent life with the help of SOS teachers.

Tiko Piranishvili studies all day long, as she wants to become a student and live independently after leaving Youth Facility.

“I hope to receive grant from the government for my studies, but in case of refusal SOS Children’s Village will finance my studies, so I have to study,” – says Tiko Piranishvili.

After four years, at the age of 18 they have to leave the flat and move to the third and last phase of the Village life. The last phase is called Leaving care. They rent a flat independently with sister or brother, without any teachers. SOS Children’s Village assists to pay the part of the rent and utility costs, until they turn 23. If he/she is a student they will be paid all costs for living, but if they are working they will be paid only half of the costs.

“SOS Children’s Village has the best experience of assisting adolescence up to 25 years. They are experiencing it in Georgia also,” – says Andro Dadiani, Country Director of Every Child.

After finishing all SOS phases, young people get their money gathered during their life at SOS Children’s Village. Sponsors all around the world receive the pictures of the children and often transfer money to them. Money is the last gift from the organization; though family ties grown at the village lasts the whole life, as SOS Teacher Temur Sikharulidze declares.

“There is the fourth phase,” – says he, SOS teacher at the youth house, “We hug them and say: you are free my son, go ahead”.

SOS Children’s Village recognizes the family as the best place for upbringing of a child and therefore promotes policies and practices supporting biological families and family re-unification, as well as preventing family breakdown and child abandonment. Nowadays they have 200 beneficiaries in Tbilisi and 200 in Kutaisi. They train the parents in order to prevent the child from leaving the family.

“We try to avoid abandonment, but if there is no way out, we try to have good relations with the biological parents of the children,” – says Ia Metreveli, SOS senior teacher.
Half of the 150 young people who grew up at SOS Village during the past 12 years, study at universities (3 entered this year, 4 last year), half of them work in different places. There are only two facts of crime among them.

150 youngsters integrated in the society represent only three percent of 5200 abandoned and vulnerable children of Georgia, earning for their living by begging in the streets.
Andro Dadiani, Country Director of Every Child thinks that the main reason of this way of living is lack of family care. One teacher at the orphanage can’t handle with 15 children. They go to the street and start earning money. He thinks the best cure is attention and warmth. “Children do not have to grow in warehouses,” he says.

State Reform of Deinstitutionalization has launched in Georgia in 2005. Within the frames of the reform 2500 children were taken from the institutions. Some of them are beneficiaries living in their own families, some of them live in foster families and small group homes.

“We are carrying out the State Reform of deinstitutionalization and we have already taken 2500 child from the institutions. I confess that SOS Kindersdorf has high quality, but still it is Institution,” – says Tamar Golubiani, Head of Child Welfare Division at the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.

Tamar Golubiani says that they have good relations with SOS Kinderdof International, but she sees two problems concerning them, first is the problem of integration, as they live as a village, together, and the second is SOS mother, she thinks that if there were fathers it would be better.

In the research about Institutions conducted by the UNICEF, they did not include SOS kinderdorf International.

Nino Partskhavadze, Independent Expert, who participated in the research about SOS Kinderdorf International, states that people who think that SOS Kinderdorf is intstitution, are mistaken. “In 132 countries in the world SOS Kinderdorf’s work is assessed as Family based Care. Among them are developed countries like USA, Canada, Austria,” – says Nino Partskhavadze.  

dsc021911SOS Kinderdorf International in Georgia has serious ambitions. Action plan of SOS Kinderdorf for 2016 is to cover all 5200 abandoned and vulnerable children in Georgia.

18-year-old Tiko Piranishvili respects her liberty as she is about to leave SOS youth facility and start independent life, the third phase – SOS Leaving Care, but she respects that she has a place to call home and wishes every child to have it.

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Theatre at the University of Arts

The place full of sounds, verbal exercises and reciting phrases from the poems coming out from the doors, this is the corridor of the State University of Arts, situated on Rustaveli Avenue. The corridor ends with the hard metal door, followed with the long stairs going down.

Atmosphere is gloomy, walls painted decades ago. The air turns humid, as the stairs are coming down to the cellar. The stairs end facing the door covered with leather.

After opening the door, one long step is enough to be on the stage, four-five meters in length and three meters in depth. There are no curtains on the stage. On the opposite side of the stage, there is the place for audience, 40/50 seats divided into two parts. Seats are covered with brown leather.

The walls are covered with grey velvet, with mirrors fixed on the right wall. The light is weak unless projectors are turned on. But the smell of acrid dust and dampness is strong.

At the right corner stairs are leading to the balcony, creating roof over the seats. Balcony is the wardrobe for stage requisites. The clothes of different colors, suitcases, umbrellas, old shoes and coats, hats and gloves, with the bitter smell of old dusty things are kept in a mess there. But the place is more important than that. The mechanism for lighting and musical assistance to the performance are also fixed at the balcony. But it has more dignities. During the performance the actor can appear unexpectedly, rushing down from the balcony to the stage.

This is the Theatre for students with tiny, but all its components, where students try to make classical and modern plays alive.

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment