Georgian Refugee Playground
Lydia Project coordinators visited refugee families from Ossetia, living in a town away from Tbilisi in 2013.
The families have no access to work and little contact with local people, living in a former technical college residence.
We have applied for funding for a playground for the refugee children, who hope local children will join them.
Several donors are interested in Canada and Scotland, and we wait for final decisions by November 2014.
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On the edge of the town Sagarejo is a former technological college residence, marked with rusty dribble marks, entered by an unkempt, dark entrance and cold echoing stairway with broken walls and odd bits of metal dumped there.
Three children jump about on the broken pavement which serves as their main play area, where two poles hold up the sorry remains of a volleyball net. Perhaps requests for contributions for a playground, a practical and long-lasting project, might gain support from contributors.
Mother Tamara recounts her escape, while pregnant, from their small Georgian village called Achabeti in south Ossetia’s Samachablo region, when bombing started in August 2008. One of her daughers, just 11 at the time, lost hair in great bunches after the trauma of the experience.
They were warned that Russian bombing was going to destroy their village and they fled at night, through the forest, and lost everything. They didn’t know where to go with their grandmother and five children. First they were put in a fire station, and beds were found to stay until December 2009. Their grandmather died, and now 24 families with 86 people live in these ex-college buildings (10 new additions since they arrived). They are from 9 Georgian villages of that region.
Sagarejo is in a very poor region, with average salaries of 500 lari/month ($260 USD roughly). No-one helped find work and all are unemployed. If private people seek day workers, they might have a little work. When the grape harvest is over there is no work. Social support is 28 lari per person per month (2.1 lari = 1 Euro, 2.7 = 1 pound sterling , so they receive 14 Euros or £12 per month), less than 1 lari a day. Social workers come and check for medical insurance but not to give medicines. They pay normal water and electricity rates. One family of 5 has 2 rooms, which they find difficult.
Asked what she would like for the children (peace and health) Tamara said she was grateful for their chance to escape. The children have grown up in this wartime, with 20 years of conflict, shooting and arbitrary deaths but she hopes this may be a quiet and restoring time for them. One has become a judo expert and won prizes - which meant free courses. There are possibilities to play chess or basketball, which are free, or dancing Georgian national dance. Even break dances are provided by the municipality! There is an art studio and classes are free for refugee children, with support.
The local municipality promised some playground equipment before October elections, and then forgot. Even one swing or any playground equipment would be appreciated.
There is a separate ministry of refugees, and the group do have a ‘leader’ or spokesman. If they had play equipment, other local children might come and join them, for if they play volleyball, others join in.
Asked if any other organisations helped them, Tamara told of one American group that came and trained them to wash their hands and brush their teeth! Some take the children on a Sunday for an excursion to Tbilisi or something similar. Where there are large settlements of refugees, people pay more attention.
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