This is the view from a home that has been helped by the SOS Family Support programme, Tbilisi, Georgia…
I've been reading a story about the family support offered in Tbilisi:
This is the view from a home that has been helped by the SOS Family Support Tbilisi, Georgia
I've been reading a story about the family support offered in Tbilisi:
At the far end of Tbilisi, on the fifth floor of an old building with no elevator, with broken windows and dirty hallways, lives grandma Maria and her two little grandsons.
Reaching Maria's one-room flat is a challenge even for the fit. Yet this 71-year-old grandma of two boys makes it up and down every day. She has to, she has no choice.
Four years ago, Maria had a house in the centre of Tbilisi. Widowed, she lived with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons. She spent her days quietly spoiling her grandchildren like only grandmothers know.
Then one day it all crashed to pieces. Maria's daughter-in-law abandoned her husband and two sons without ever looking back. Desperate and angry, Maria's son turned to alcohol. He would often come back home drunk and violent picking fights with his mother, the neighbours or just anybody.
Because of his alcohol problem, Maria's son lost his job and developed psychosomatic problems. When he was finally hospitalized, Maria had to take mortgage on the house to pay his medical bill. Unable to make payments, less than a year later the bank possessed the house leaving grandma and the little boys homeless.
Struggle to survive
Maria applied for shelter with the social services and was granted a one-room flat in the suburbs. She still lives there in awful conditions. Dirty toilets and showers are shared with the other tenants on the floor. Inside her flat, Maria has only three small chairs, a small wobbly table, an old lumpy double bed, a stove and two cabinets. Out of this, one bag of clothes and linens and a few family photos, grandma made a home.
To run a household, one needs income. Maria's pension and social welfare combined sum up to 70 US dollars. Most of it is spent for her son's medications, who, after being discharged, moved in the same shelter. What's left is spent for the basic needs of the grandsons. The boys don't have any toys. Instead they play with plastic bottles and lids.
Strength comes her way
Maria was identified and immediately became beneficiary of the family strengthening programme of SOS Children's Villages Georgia at the beginning of 2007. The urgency became far greater as she was already considering options for institutionalizing her grandsons.
Maria was sure the children would be better off in the greyness of an orphanage than with their old grandma who can't feed them. "What did I have to offer them?" says grandma with tears in her eyes. "Sleeping hungry in a dirty damp room with fleas? Children shouldn't grow up like that." The support from SOS Children's Villages eased the situation and convinced Maria to change her mind.
Once a month Darejan, the social worker of the programme, brings packages of food and cleaning supplies. She also comes once a week for individual counselling. With Darejan's help, Maria chose a school for her older grandson who will be a first-grader this fall. SOS Children's Villages will also provide school stationery and, if needed, tutoring.
"The school has a nice playground," Maria looks at the dark corridor where the blue-eyed five-year-old and his seven-year-old brother play with a neighbouring boy. "They don't have many places to play. Inside it's dangerous," Maria talks about the broken windows next to the stairways on the upper floors. "Outside is no better," she looks at the old playground cramped with garbage and construction debris.
Still, Maria makes the tough journey up and down those stairs every day so her grandsons can play football. "It takes me about thirty minutes to make it down the stairs," she says. "Going up is far longer. But, until my legs carry me I'll be walking. I'll do anything for my grandsons."
Struggling with high blood pressure herself, Maria already made plans for the inevitable. "When I die, my grandsons will go to live with my daughter. Her husband is disabled and they live poorly too, but SOS Children's Villages gave us all new hope for the future. My family has to stay together. I wish for nothing more."
Beneficiaries of FS programme, Tbilisi, Georgia
Have you ever felt like prey in the cruel business world? Lost in the office wilderness among envious corporate predators who feast on every mistake you make? Sound scary? Well, it certainly is, especially when you're 20 and it's your first job. A young Georgian girl starting out her career shares her experience of how to survive work in an office.
Maka makes it
20-year-old Maka was one of the first children to be admitted to SOS Children's Village Tbilisi. Ever since her first day at the village, Maka was known for her diligence and hard work. She was always ready to help her younger SOS siblings with homework or her SOS mother with the household chores. "I like having responsibilities," says Maka. "It makes me willing, gives me patience and energy to perform any given task."
After finishing compulsory education, Maka enrolled at a teaching college in Tbilisi. Immediately after she had finished studying, she began to look for a job at a state pre-school facility. Here she faced the first obstacle. "Employers were saying that at 18 I was a child myself. No one would give me the chance to prove that I wanted to work and could work," says Maka.
Courage + hard work = success
Maka did not lose faith and decided to improve her skills even more. She completed a computer course in record time, adding another skill to her CV. Then, by chance, she met an old friend who had heard that she had finished studying and was looking for a job. He offered to recommend her to a medical organisation that was looking for an assistant to the chief accountant.
Maka was delighted. She started to work, showing great enthusiasm, and did everything to the best of her ability. Though accounting was not her field, she put in extra hours to learn all about it. Her managers noticed how committed she was and decided to award her by promoting her and giving her a raise. This meant problems for Maka.
How much is enough?
"My colleagues said that I was getting preferential treatment because of my age," says Maka. "They thought I didn't deserve promotion and took every opportunity to mock me." The envy that Maka experienced plunged her into despair. She tried very hard to win her colleagues over and to prove that she really had earned her promotion. Unfortunately, her attempts failed.
After less than a year and just before Christmas 2006, Maka decided to leave. In her resignation letter she openly and honestly stated her reasons for leaving. Normally such letters would not go to the head of the organisation, but, because of Maka's reputation, the letter was sent straight from human resources to the director. He called her in to hear what she had to say and told her that he would call an all-hands meeting to discuss her resignation.
All it takes is a little trust
Maka says she will always remember the meeting: "The director said that he could not let go of a hard-working employee so easily. He said he thought they were lucky to have found me. He stressed that I had been successful because of pure hard work. He then took a little Christmas present out of his desk and gave it to me to put in my office. 'It's tradition to decorate the office,' he told me."
For a moment, the meeting room was silent, then everyone broke into applause. "I finally felt accepted. So I stayed," says Maka. "Inside, I felt small and undervalued because of how my colleagues treated me. I was shaking like a little bird," says Maka, smiling. "But, this experience taught me to be stronger, tougher and to trust and be positive towards new colleagues, especially those who are young and inexperienced. The only way to make it work is to believe in ourselves and in each other."