The only center for persons with disabilities (PwDs) in Akhmeta Municipality, called Medina-2015, is located in the village of Duisi, in the Pankisi Gorge. The two-room buinding has works of the center’s beneficiaries hanging all over the walls, and the most important one is a Christmas tree with written wishes of the beneficiaries and the center’s visitors.
Mamuka Margoshvili, 31, is an active member of the Daycare Center. Mamuka made a wish to visit Tbilisi, and his wish soon came true. He still gets emotional when recalling the tour.
‘I enjoyed seeing elephants and monkeys in the zoo most, also the rides in the amusement park. We toured Tbilisi on a double-decker bus. At the Daycare Center, I like singing, dancing, writing, making things with felt, and going to picnics.’ Mamuka said, sharing his impressions.
Mamuka also showed us some things that he made himself: accessories and souvenirs made of felt – khinkali, apples and necklaces. The center sells the works at exhibitions.
The population of the Pankisi Gorge are mainly Kists, and the center welcomes PwD from five local villages, currently hosting twenty beneficiaries. The idea of opening the center came to Natela Aldamova and Medea Borchashvili several years ago, when the two teachers wrote their first project proposal in 2015, and received funding.
Medea Borchashvili, teacher at the Daycare Center and a philologist, says: ‘Stigma, stereotypes, isolation, concealment of PwDs were serious problems in the Gorge, that’s why we decided to create the center. The goal was to bring integration process closer to the public. Today, our beneficiaries no longer want to go home. Previously, they stayed at home all the time and never went outside.’
‘Our beneficiaries come to the center three times a week and stay from 1 to 5 pm. These are people aged 18 to 40. At the center, they have meals, engage in occupational therapy, music, sports, make things with felt, beadwork, accessories. As a non-formal educational center, we also teach them how to read, write, and count, and most of them have mastered the skills. They love excursions and picnics, and we probably have had eleven trips in the 5 years that the center has existed,” says Natela Aldamova from Medina-2015.
Currently, the center is a sub-grantee of the grant competition announced by “Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities”. The project is implemented by ASB Georgia with EU’s financial support, and its main goal is to protect PwDs’ rights and promote their integration into society. In 2019, the project funded eight organizations from five regions of Georgia: Kakheti, Guria, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Kvemo Kartli, and Imereti.
According to Teona Julukhadze, ASB-Georgia Program Coordinator, their main goal was to develop services for PwDs in the regions, including Pankisi, Marneuli and Khobi, where there this was lacking.
“It is important to spot those who are not covered by any services and are stigmatized. Within the projects, PwDs and children receive different types of services. In particular, there are daycare centers for PwDs, there are services for early childhood development, also rehabilitation centers for children with hearing impairments and cochlear implants in Marneuli and Telavi. Under this project, beneficiaries could receive the services in the Azerbaijani language in Marneuli,” Teona Julukhadze says.
Another important part of the project is the involvement and support of local self-government. For example, the 100-square-meter building where the Daycare Center is now located in the Pankisi Gorge was handed over to Medina-2015 by the local authorities. Using different sources of funding, the building was rebuilt and renovated.
Natela Aldamova hopes that in the future their center would comply and receive voucher funding from the Ministry of Health, so as to fulfill one of the wishes the beneficiaries have put on the Christmas tree: for the center to exist for a long time.
Four project grantees from Telavi, Guria, Marneuli and Mestia have already been registered with the Ministry of Health, and will soon receive to voucher funding so that these organizations would operate independently in the future.
Through various projects, including “Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities”, the EU enhances PwDs’ rights and makes efforts to improve the difficult situation for this group of people. It also facilitates the development of independent living skills, training and professional competencies for relevant groups to find a job, start a business or safe employment.
‘Our desire is for persons with disabilities to be full members of the society in Georgia and to be involved in daily life like the rest of the population, which is a big challenge at this stage. We also help to create decent living conditions for them, to eradicate poverty and eliminate social exclusion and discrimination. It is also one of our priorities to employ these people, which is a big problem throughout Georgia. We strive to develop their independent living habits, help them get education and professional skills so that they can find a job or be self-employed in the future, or start their own business. That is why we promote inclusive and continuing education and training for PwDs’, said Dominica Skubida, EU Program Manager.
Through its partners, the EU provides necessary care services to PwDs. Partner organizations, i.e. project implementers, play a big role in managing the process properly as they work intensively to identify PwDs’ needs and problems and to make appropriate decisions and develop successful policies. The ultimate goal for Georgia as a whole is not only to provide short-term assistance, but most importantly, to establish a long-term national system that would address PwDs’ needs and interests in the terms of health, education, economic rights, entrepreneurial opportunities and more.
For more information about “Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities” please visit: https://bit.ly/31ULyBb