"I was born in a small village in Western Georgia. Orphaned at an early age, I lived with my old grandmother. We shared a yard with my uncle and his family. I didn't go to school and spent my days with my old grandma who was constantly struggling to find food. We were very poor. One day my uncle took me by the hand and we went away on a bus. I had no idea where we were going. He didn't tell me. We arrived in the capital and took another bus towards, I soon found out, the SOS Children's Village. He shook hands with some people, exchanged a few words, hugged me and left. I was ten. I had no idea what he said or where I was. At that time I only spoke Megruli [the language is spoken in the west of Georgia and east Abkhazia, also known as Mingrelian or Iverian] which is pretty much a language in its own right with very few similarities to the Georgian language. I didn't understand what was going on, who these people were or what my uncle said to them.
Then a woman with the kindest face came up to me. She patted me on the head, took me by the hand, hugged me and took me to her home. She was my SOS mother Nino. It was the first moment I felt safe and warm. The house was lovely: warm and cosy and nice. I thought I was dreaming. In those first days I felt most comfortable when no one spoke to me, and at night when everyone was asleep. I didn't understand what anyone said, so I kept nodding whenever someone spoke to me. Years later, my mum told me she thought I was the most obedient boy she had ever seen.
I started to go to school. I never went to school in my own village due to poverty and also because I could not speak the Georgian language. So, at ten, I was put into first grade. I pretty much spent that whole year learning Georgian. The second year it was already much easier. I managed to take the exams of two grades and catch up with my peers. It was about that time that I discovered sports. One day a sports coach visited the village and offered to train several children and I was one of them. I fell in love with the discipline and energy sports gives you and became a dedicated athlete. Soon I discovered my passion - weightlifting. I trained very hard and was eager to be better than the best. At the age of nineteen I won my first senior title when I was crowned city champion in the 62 kilograms category. A year later came an even bigger success, I became state champion. I couldn't have been happier and was already dreaming of Olympic and world championship events when an accident during training crushed my dreams. I tore a meniscus and had to undergo surgery. During the recovery period my coach and doctor told me my injury was too serious for me to continue with weightlifting. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was looking at them, but not seeing them. My ears were ringing and I felt sick in my stomach. My world, my dreams, my goals... everything was gone... just like that.For many months I refused to accept it. I kept seeing different doctors, witch doctors, I tried alternative medicine... you name it, I tried it. Nothing worked and I realized I had to find strength to come to terms with my future without sport.
My pals at the SOS Youth Facility in Tbilisi proved to be champions when it came to cheering me up. They'd play pranks on each other, on me, goofed around, never left my side, did everything to make me laugh and feel better. My mum was very supportive and encouraging. She kept telling me I was young and had my whole life and the whole world in front of me. She said I could do anything I set my mind to so I need not despair and I must keep my chin up. It was hard, but I accepted it."
When I recovered I went back to the place where I had been working part time and became a full time worker. It is a private firm that produces plastic blinds and shades. I still work there. The owner treats me well. He often says he's proud to have a champion at his company. My job isn't very difficult and I have opportunities for advancement. My colleagues are fair. Sometimes I feel like they take extra care of me." I finished my vocational schooling to become a fitness instructor. I rented a small house near work, where I still live. The pay turned out to be enough to cover my living expenses once I worked out how to spend my salary wisely."
I dream of one day owning my own house. I inherited a small house in my native village, which I might sell in the future to invest in a house in or near Tbilisi. My home is Tbilisi now. It has been for the past fourteen years. My SOS mum is here, my family is here. My family is SOS Children's Villages. SOS Children's Villages did more for me than anyone ever did.
Whenever I go back to my mum in the Children's Village, I always tell the little ones to listen to her, to take care of her, to take every opportunity given to them because this is their chance to pave their way towards success and happiness. This is ultimately what I want for myself: to be successful and happy, to have my own family and to teach and guide my children to be successful and happy."Somewhere in the world a child loses a parent every 2.2 seconds. There are 143 million orphaned children living in the world today and as many as 100 million more children abandoned on the streets world wide, living in substandard and dangerous conditions. Generations of children have been left to raise themselves. What future awaits them? What future can be predicted for their countries? World Orphan Week is the time to respond to the World Orphan Crisis. Click here to find out how you can make the difference.