The capital city of Tbilisi was the first location in Georgia where SOS Children's Villages began to support vulnerable children, young people and families. Although we started planning our work in the country in the early 1990s, the unstable economic and political situation in the country meant that we couldn’t begin to support children until 1996.
An area recovering from recent economic and social changes
Having fun on the roundabout (photo: K. Ilievska)
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is located in the east of the country and has about 1.2 million inhabitants, who come from very diverse backgrounds. Tbilisi is an important cultural and economic centre of the country. The main sources of employment include the construction industry, real estate, transport and communications as well as the tourism sector. In many ways, life for the people of Tbilisi is better than for those living in other cities and villages of the country: there has been a greater investment in infrastructure and the poverty rate is lower than in the rest of Georgia. However, many in the city continue to face difficulties: the unemployment rate is one of the highest of the country.
According to official figures, over 32,000 families in Tbilisi are surviving on the edge of poverty, and around 17 per cent of children are living in poverty. Children are more likely to live in poverty if their parents do not have a job or if there are three or more children in the household. Poverty affects all aspects of a child's life; they are more likely to have health problems (including malnutrition), and worse education outcomes. As families struggle to meet the basic physical and emotional needs of children, many end up working as child labourers or being sexually exploited on the streets of the city.
Some of the worst conditions are faced by the children of internally displaced people who have ended up in Tbilisi as a result of the various conflicts. There are an estimated 96,700 internally displaced people in Tbilisi (December 2011 figures); they often live in overcrowded, dilapidated buildings and have no secure housing or way of making a living. In addition, children from these families face social stigma and isolation.
Providing support for families in need and loving homes for children
Although the government is taking measures to help children who have lost parental care, assistance does not always reach the families who are most in need and children who lose parental care often end up living in institutions. In a country which has experienced a fall in the standard of living, the provision of assistance to vulnerable families, supporting young people to live independently and giving a loving home to children who cannot live with their families have formed the core of our organisation's work in the area.
What we do in Tbilisi
Happy to be at school (photo: K. Ilievska)
SOS Children's Village in Tbilisi is situated in the western part of the capital, on the Nuzubidse high plateau, about eight kilometres from the city centre. A central part of the work that SOS Children's Villages carries out here is related to supporting children and families in the neighbouring areas.
Working with local authorities and other service providers, our family strengthening programme provides a comprehensive package of services to enable families to stay together and take good care of their children. We give families the opportunity to access essential services such as education and health care. In order for parents to generate income, we offer them vocational training, career counselling and advice on how to look for a job.
Children whose families can no longer take care of them can find a loving home with an SOS mother in one of the twelve SOS families which can look after up to 84 children. SOS mothers have been professionally trained to create emotionally stable relationships in a nurturing and secure home. The children from the SOS families attend nearby schools together with local children, which helps them become part of the community.
When children are ready to leave their SOS families they can move to the SOS Youth Programme. They live here while they attend further education or training. With the help of qualified staff, the young adults learn to shoulder responsibilities and make their own decisions.