Earlier than I am used to, I was out and about on a Tuesday. Ready to do my first interview with someone from an NGO for a blog post with a bit of a difference. I was going to visit an NGO called Mkurnali in Tbilisi. This doesn’t really have much to do with teaching English in Georgia, well, actually, it has nothing to do with teaching English in Georgia, but we feel it is something that deserves a little recognition and perhaps some support from our side.
With the kind help of Guka in the Academic Department, acting as translator, and the wonderful driver George, we found ourselves heading into the hills of Saburtalo to visit the newly purchased house of Mkurnali. We were met by Ms Nino Chubabria who was very welcoming and enthusiastic to tell us about this place which seemed to be very close to her heart.
It seems at this moment the two main groups of people they are supporting are homeless teens and young adults and those who have had trouble with the law. One of the fundamental problems that Nino mentioned, was that once these youngsters turned 18, they were on their own, even if they had previously been in a shelter or orphanage. The result was that they ended up on the street or in prison.
So it was, that in 2000, Mkurnali was founded by Lali Meskhi and Father Giorgi Chachava. At the time, having no one to perform the task of managing this association, Ms Meskhi approached Nino, who was a horse trainer at the Tbilisi hippodrome at the time and asked if perhaps she could be caretaker, just for a couple of months. She agreed, but just for a couple of months… and there she was talking to me, still in the position of caretaker, in October of 2012.
They have recently purchased a lovely house with the help and donations of organisations such as the St Gregory’s Foundation in Saburtalo, where around 15 young adults and their babies are given a safe home environment, as well as space for the workshops they run, to help the youngsters earn an income.
Currently, they are running a workshop in which they repair xerox machines and computers and also refill ink cartridges. The young people who come to them looking for help are trained, under the watchful eye of Dato, to do these things, on the premises and they seem to be running it as quite a successful business. They also have an enamel workshop which is currently not able to run because the xerox machines and computers are covering most of the work surfaces available.
When I was at the house, most of its inhabitants were out for the day already, at their jobs, or looking for jobs. Mkunrali does everything it can to help these youngsters find a place to earn an honest living. I was glad to hear that they have been approached by some local, as well as international companies operating in Georgia, offering positions to the young men and women within their care.
After a brief tour of the house, Guka and I got to sit down and chat to Nino, in her office – a patio chair and table, out on the balcony. She was very willing to share her experiences and her passion for these young people with us.
When the programme first began she told us, they were simply offering workshops, giving street children, who were too old to be in the system anymore, vocational training. Later they added the shelter and food to it when they realised that simple training was not enough. They needed to give these people who had no where to go, a place to stay and feel safe.
While they provide these troubled youths with stability, they also provide legal aid to those who have found themselves in trouble with the law. They have a lawyer who fights for these young souls, to give them a better chance at life than sitting in jail. Not only does she defend them but she also comes three times a week to the house to cook for them.
Some of their main trials include finding sufficient funding, providing for the many many young people who came to them for help and finding jobs for these young adults who have not been through school and are mostly illiterate. Nino mentioned that they would welcome people who wished to volunteer to work with them, doing anything to help, including perhaps some adult education classes or teaching other hobbies and or skills that they could use to improve their futures.
No charity organisation or NGO can function without the help of the community and local business owners, and so I had to ask what their needs were, just incase someone were to read the blog and be able to offer their help. The main things Nino mentioned that because the now have 5 babies living with them, they needed diapers, a pram (as the one they have is broken), cots for the babies, clothes and food. If you wish to provide any of these things, please get in contact with Mkurnali, or send us an e-mail so we can put you in contact with them. It is a very worthy organisation, fighting to give these young people a chance at life.
I came away from this visit feeling extremely thankful for having grown up in a safe and happy home, and feeling like it really wasn’t fair that others, possibly through no fault of their own, had to scratch and claw their way through life, with no one on their side. I think the work that Mkrunali is doing is so important and I hope they can find a way to support more and more young people who find themselves in difficult situations.
Mkrunali, thank you for making a difference.