Lali Santeladze

This text presents two community learning centres and their work in refugee settlements in Georgia. The aim is to integrate these people and improve their situation through the acquisition of professional or other skills and to encourage them to participate in community life. Lali Santeladze describes the work and allows some of those affected to tell their story as well. Since early 2010, the author has been project director of DVV International in Georgia.

Promotion of Integration through Community Based Non-formal Education


After the collapse of the USSR and reattainment of independence in 1991, two ethnic conflicts, Georgian – Ossetian and Georgian – Abkhaz erupted in Georgia from 1991 to 1993. As a result, 240,000 IDPs fled from the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia to the territory of Georgia proper. Most of them were from Abkhazia, where virtually the entire ethnic Georgian population fled, primarily to the region on the Georgian side of the administrative border with Abkhazia and to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The conflict in South Ossetia caused the displacement of 60,000 people, mainly ethnic Ossetians from both the breakaway territory and other parts of Georgia; the vast majority of them found refuge in North Ossetia in the Russian Federation. About 10,000 ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia were also displaced within Georgia.

In August 2008, conflict broke out between Georgia and the Russian Federation over South Ossetia. Hundreds of people were killed and at least 158,000 ethnic Georgians and Ossetians fled their homes in South Ossetia, Georgia proper and Abkhazia. 128,000 of the people displaced were ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia, from areas in Georgia proper neighbouring South Ossetia and from the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia.

The vast majority of Georgians displaced in August 2008 were first accommodated in Tbilisi in public buildings such as schools and kindergartens. A minority were temporarily housed in tented camps. In the months following the conflict, part of the displaced people were able to return to their homes in areas adjacent to the administrative border with South Ossetia. However, 37,600 people displaced in August 2008 still cannot return to their homes in the foreseeable future.

European Commission (EC) assistance to Georgia Aiming to Create Adequate Life Conditions for IDPs

The 2008 war with the Russian Federation and the global financial crisis seriously undermined Georgia’s economy, and declines in growth are likely to affect the most vulnerable groups, such as IDPs (internally displaced persons). Since they continue to be seen as outsiders, the reports are that IDPs struggle to find work, and many inhabitants of collective centres remain extremely poor and depend on external assistance. There seem to be insufficient opportunities for income generation for IDPs or information among IDPs of existing opportunities. Different international organisations responded quickly to the needs of Georgia.

Following the open conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, the EC remains committed to continue to support the people who are affected by conflict in Georgia. This includes the needs of “new” IDPs as well as “old” IDPs and, where possible, the local population living inside the areas affected by conflict. The EC provides assistance to the resettlement of internally displaced persons as well as the economic rehabilitation and recovery of the regions where IDPs reside.

Under the ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument) budget, € 31 million of the intended additional € 50 million are currently being processed for a decision in support of IDPs (including the old case load) for livelihood, social and economic assistance, and further accommodation. A request for a reinforce ment of the ENPI budget line by € 19 million (equally intended to further IDP support) is currently ongoing. In addition to the regular ENPI 2009, a bilateral programme worth € 30.4 million was adopted in the autumn of 2009. It includes, among other things, a sector budget support programme for Vocational Education & Training area of € 19 million.

Additionally, the EC funded other projects that aim to assist people affected by conflict. The following partner organisations and projects have been selected to implement different projects that aim to support socio-economic integration of IDPs in new communities:

  • Danish Refugee Council: Community Stabilisation for IDPs, host communities and returnees (€ 1 mil., 18 months, start Sept. 2009);
  • DVV International in partnership with ACH: Supporting socio-economic inte gration of IDPs in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Region (€ 1 mil., 18 months, start Sept. 2009);
  • Fundación Acción contra el Hambre (ACH) in partnership with DVV Interna tional and Georgian CiDA: Supporting the Integration of IDPs in Kvemo Kartli Region (€ 1 mil., 18 months, start Aug. 2009);
  • Oxfam: Supporting the socio-economic integration of IDPs and their host communities through engagement in active dialogue and decision-making (€1 mil., 18 months, start Sept. 2009);
  • People in Need: Support to socio-economic integration of internally dis placed population in the Zugdidi district (€ 500,000, 18 months, start Sept. 2009);
  • Save the Children: Community Centres for Conflict Affected Communities in Georgia (€ 1 mil., 18 months, start Sept. 2009).

Projects of DVV International – figures and estimates

DVV International is one of the reliable partners from the EC that is currently imple menting two analogous projects in Georgia “Supporting socio-economic integra tion of IDPs in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Region” and “Supporting socio-economic integration of IDPs in Kvemo Kartli Region”. Total cost of both projects is € 2 million. The duration of both projects is 18 months. The main goal of the projects is to contribute to increased social cohesion and integration of IDPs in the Kvemo Kartli and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti regions of Georgia. This exalted aim will be achieved through integrated programmes of community development, capacity building initiatives (for local authorities and community members) and socio-economic as sistance. All the activities within the programme imply the creation of a conducive environment where IDPs and host communities have the opportunity to participate jointly. This approach contributes to the removal of the invisible – but nevertheless real – barriers between the community groups.

It is anticipated that due to the realisation of these projects the following results will be attained:

In Kvemo Kartli region (East Georgia):

  • Socio-economic conditions will be improved and greater involvement of IDPs in community life will be achieved;
  • Dialogue and communication between local authorities and IDPs will be improved;
  • Knowledge/skills and self-esteem of IDPs and interaction between IDPs and the host communities will be increased through non-formal education and training activities.

In Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region (West Georgia):

  • Integration and social cohesion within the target communities will be improved and IDPs and representatives of host communities will be empowered to play an active role in the public, economic, social and cultural life of the region and the country;
  • Policy dialogue and communication between IDP-related stakeholders and authorities on local/regional/national levels will be improved, awareness of IDP-issues will be raised and a contribution to better governance will be made.

In West Georgia the number of people that would directly benefit from the project is estimated to be over 6,000 old IDPs and members of the host communities in 3 settlements and local authorities in two municipalities. The number of indirect beneficiaries will be at least 4,000.

In the Kvemo Kartli region, the number of beneficiaries would be up to 3,000 resettled IDPs and members of the host community in 5 resettlement sites and lo cal authorities in 4 municipalities of Kvemo Kartli. About 17,000 people may be reached indirectly through the programme’s activities.

Establishment of Community Education Centres

In order to assist IDPs and local dwellers in the Kvemo Kartli and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region in obtaining new skills and knowledge that would support their development and participation in the life of the society, DVV International, in partnership with ACH (and in the case of Kvemo Kartli with CiDA), established multi-functional Community Education Centres. These centres have been founded in the IDP settlements of Jvari and Senaki in West Georgia and Koda and Shaumiani in East Georgia.

After consultation with local governments and target communities, DVV Interna tional rehabilitated and equipped partially damaged, existing community build ings. In the case of Senaki and Shaumiani, new buildings were built.

The established centres are staffed by local people and provide employment opportunities for IDPs. Most of the Directors/Administrators, Education & Training programmes’ and Youth & Citizenship programmes’ coordinators, cleaners and guards reside in the respective locations.

Lyrical deviation No. 1 – “How did it start?”

Everything started with two dilapidated structures and two concrete yards, with no buildings on them. If any observer without imagination looked at these ruins the impression would be that nothing could either be renovated or built on this site. It was thought that refurbishing those buildings, especially in a short time, was an impossible mission. Only the people who had an opportunity to witness how construction commenced and what it finally evolved into are able to understand the value these pictures.

Jvari Community Education Centre
…before                         and after…

Source: Lali Santeladze

Programmes and Activities

Community Education Centres (CECs) in the Kvemo Kartli and Samegrelo regions established themselves as a vibrant and unique neighbourhood resource that is strategically important as a meeting place to create common ground and nurture a sense of shared community among people of differing social and geographical backgrounds. They serve as an important anchor to the civic, educational, business, artistic and other energies growing in the communities. They address the needs of area residents by providing access to free educational, cultural and youth/family activities, as well as public space that is used for civic meetings and social events. At the same time they provide space and technical support to team leaders, com munity based organisations, non-organised groups and individuals who often do not have access to affordable office, meeting, rehearsal and performance space.

This certainly implies that Community Education Centres additionally serve as sites for meetings and public hearings on community issues, information campaigns and debates.

The mission of the CECs is to provide educational opportunities, leading to development of basic competencies, important skills and career advancement in an open and supportive environment that encourages a lifelong quest for knowl edge. The institutional goals are to provide quality educational programs that can be completed in a relatively short time period and which give beneficiaries the tools necessary for immediate and productive employment/self-employment and engagement in different social and cultural activities.

DVV International – Georgia has longstanding experience in designing and imple mentation of non-formal education activities which serve as a tool for integration/ reintegration and development of a marginalised/disadvantaged population. In volvement of the target communities in the educational process organised by CECs help them to reclaim their self-esteem, to believe in their own capacities, to over come frustration and to find their place in society. This approach was developed and maintained by DVV International – Georgia in 2006-2008 when implementing the project “Adult Education Centres (AECs) in Samtskhe-Javakheti – Chance for Integration of Minorities”. Two AECs established at that time are successfully op erating even today, after the completion of the project, and serve as an excellent example of long-term and sustainable institutions.

In 2010, the following programmes are being provided (or plan to be provided) to IDP and the local population in all four of the newly established CECs run by DVV International:

  • Vocational Education Programme (trainings/courses in various handicrafts, sewing, woodwork, agriculture, construction);
  • Personal Development programme (computer literacy courses; language training; small business management/entrepreneurship courses; accountancy);
  • Life Skills and Key competences programme (e.g. training in Effective Communication and Presentation, Conflict Management, Job Application, Proposal Writing and Project Management, etc.);
  • Youth programme;
  • Psycho-social rehabilitation programme;
  • Legal information, counselling and assistance.

According to the action plan, the Community Centres will conduct training programmes and provide various services free of charge for at least 12 months.

By the end of the programme (January – February 2011), ownership of the premises and equipment will be transferred to local community based organisations or to the municipalities.

Personal Development Programmes

The range of courses and workshops within this component help beneficiaries to take control of their future, to overcome barriers to their personal and professional achievements, to nurture their potential and to develop understanding about the challenge of diversity and difference. The participants learn how to identify the clear, practical and realistic steps that they want to take and develop the skills and confidence to take them.

Accelerated (2-5 months) training programmes are designed as set of generic skills across different areas of activity demanded in the job market today. Computer courses (different levels, from basic to advanced); English language (A-B-C levels); Georgian language (for citizens with Armenian or Azeri background in the Shau miani, Kvemo Kartli region); the basics of entrepreneurship and accountancy are very popular among the participants, and in some of the CEC demand outpaces supply.

Lyrical deviation No. 2 – “Plans for the future”

The two stories below have to do with the lives of IDP women from South Ossetia. They now live in two different places (one in the village of Koda, another in the borough of Shaumiani). They do not know each other and never met personally. But they have one thing in common – both women faced terrors which other people would shrink from encountering. Both of them were in a psychological and physical state where all hope is abandoned and no prospect for a better life can be seen.

Venera Arbolishvili (73 years old):

“Before the war I lived in Eredvi village and worked as an accountant all my life. I brought up four children. I have 11 grandchildren and 10 great grandsons. During the war in 2008, I witnessed how brutally invaders tortured and killed my husband because he refused to leave his house. I managed to run to Tbilisi with my children and grandchildren and lived there for some time. Later, we settled here in Koda. There are twenty people in our family, not counting children. Only my one grandson works, others are on an allowance that is hardly enough to buy bread. You don’t even know how

thankful I am to those people who opened the centre in our village. I was in such despair, you cannot even imagine. When the centre opened, I came to see what was going on there. I found out that dressmaking courses were offered at the centre and I decided to sign up. My grandchildren used to laugh at me: our grandmother is studying! But when they saw my zeal and commitment, started to respect it and got used to it. The good thing is that I am quite successful with that! We are 10 women who attend this course. Recently we received an order from a non-governmental organisation to sew 200 kits of furnishing. We are paid for that. Now, I am making plans on how I will spend the money. One thing I don’t know is whether or not this amount of money will be sufficient to satisfy the needs of all the members of my household.”

Elizaveta Manjikashvili (47 years old):

“My husband was Ossetian. We got divorced before the war that started in 1991. When the war began, armed people burst into my house and ordered me: ‘Leave your son here – he is Ossetian and you go away from here otherwise we will kill you’. I barely escaped and had to take shelter in my mother’s village that was controlled by the Georgian side. During the second war we were driven out of that place too. That Georgian village was razed to the ground, it does not exist any more, so I was displaced twice in my life. My son grew up, married and now he has a beautiful daughter. It is difficult for us to live here in Shaumiani. Only my daughter-in-law works, life conditions are unbearable. I never dreamt that I would ever have a chance to more or less rearrange my miserable life. My neighbour told me that a centre was opened in our borough, where we can study how to work on a computer and foreign languages free of charge. I decided to sign up! It is difficult to be at home alone all day long. These courses suddenly awoke interest in me. I would like to return to my profession again, I used to work as a tradeswoman before (I worked at store; I even had a small own business before the war). When I finish computer and English courses, I am going to sign up for the business and accounting courses. Now there is a tiny hope that life could become better.”

Vocational Education Programme

Vocational Education represents an essential part of the programmes provided by the Community Education Centres. Within the VE Programme the participants are trained in skills and competences and obtain the knowledge required for the labour market. The emphasis is on the courses which are much in demand and which enable the beneficiaries to get jobs or generate income through self-employment.

Woodworking courses, courses for distributors (basics of marketing, accountancy, culture of communication with clients, along with driving courses); training in agri culture (vegetable growing; grain growing; growing of seasonal crop); sewing, knit ting, beading, tapestry courses and others are provided for IDP and local population without age limitations. Many other courses are planned and will start operating in the near future. The average duration of the courses offered is 2-5 months depending on participants’ qualification and the peculiarities of the programme.

Special vocational training equipment for the workshops is supplied within the community centres and State Vocational Centres (in cases when the vocational courses are delivered there). After the completion of the programme, this equipment could be provided to beneficiaries for income-generating activities.

Life Skills and Key Competences Programme

This component of the educational activities at the CECs is aimed at training the beneficiaries in skills and attitudes which represent added value for the labour market, social cohesion and active citizenship. Trainings in conflict and stress man agement, effective communication, problem solving, cooperation and tolerance, are designed as a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the context. They are particularly necessary for personal fulfilment and development, social inclusion, active citizenship and employment.

By organising these types of training activities, CECs try to get young people, equipping them for adult life, particularly for working life, and adults on board – in order for them to make the process of facing changing demands of modern life and the job market easier.

Lyrical deviation No. 3 – “The only chance”

Koba Khvedeliani (19 years old, IDP from Shida Kartli) currently residing in the borough of Shaumiani:

“I grew up in a place where no school was available. There fore, from time to time I had to go to town to get an education, while the rest of the time I stayed home to help my parents. I couldn’t finish school, 9 grades is all I was able to do. I didn’t have a normal childhood; I didn’t have an opportunity to communicate with my peers. We lived in constant fear and agitation. After August 2008, I didn’t have time for study at all. My father died. Now I live in exile in the borough of Shaumiani with my mother, grandmother, my brother and my brother’s wife. Nobody works. I consider the centre that was recently opened in Shaumiani as the only chance in my life. Here I can get an education and will be able to interact with other young people like my self. I feel that now I am more open and able to take part in discussions and freely express my opinion. The people that I met here at the Youth Club are young like me. They also experienced lots of negative things, they also have to overcome hardships every day, but they believe, as I do, that it is possible to change life for the better!”

Youth and Citizenship Programme

The high poverty rate among IDP families limits many young IDPs’ access to educa tion and job opportunities. Low motivation for work, low levels of responsibility and initiative, lack of problem-solving capacities and poor communication skills are ad ditional limitations to their development opportunities. Assessment in IDP collective centres showed that a majority of IDPs report low self-esteem and lack of essential skills for self-promotion and employment, such as searching for job-relevant infor mation, how to apply for jobs, planning a career, identifying own recourses, etc. (Rapid Assessment of Protection and Livelihood of IDP Youth and Children, Living in Collective Centres in Georgia. UNICEF/NRC Report, 2006).

Along with these concerns, and in a way as a result of them, many young IDPs are exposed to alcohol abuse, drug addiction and violent behaviour (Rapid Assess ment of Protection and Livelihood of IDP Youth and Children, Living in Collective Centres in Georgia. UNICEF/NRC Report, 2006; Life Stories/IDP Voices Project in Georgia, NRC Tbilisi/NRC Geneva, 2007) and are marginalised both socially and economically.

Different educational and development projects are designed for young people (17-25 years old) in Community Education Centres. These programmes contribute to personality development of young people, support interaction between youth in host and IDP communities, promote active citizenship and engage youth in meaningful activities.

Four Youth Clubs have been established within the CECs. Members of the Clubs are involved in Life Skills Training Project (the topics are: Presentation/Communica tion Skills, Healthy Life Style, Prevention of HIV/AIDS and Drug Addiction, Gender, Anti-Violence, Tolerance and others); Art Project, Photo Project and Sport Project. Special attention is paid to civic education activities. To ensure active participa tion of young beneficiaries, public lectures and debates will be organised and individuals from the field of politics, culture or sport will be invited to participate. Besides this, young people will participate in excursions, meetings with interesting people, etc.

All the trainings and activities within the Youth Programme are conducted by young trainers and facilitators. Forum Theatre, Drama-in-Education, Art methods and Peer Education are used as key methods and approaches in the work with young people.

Lyrical deviation No. 4 – “Two stories”

Tamuna and Veronica live in Jvari, but they met each other first at the Jvari Com munity Education Centre when attending one of the gatherings of the Youth Club of JCEC. At their very first encounter, they understood that they had so many things in common: interests, dreams, lots of energy and thoughts, which they could not bring to fruition before.

Tamuna Nadaraya (25 years old) local resident:

“Young people in Jvari always dreamt about a club like this. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a place where we could meet each other and take part in various activities. Frankly speak ing, we used to loaf around all day long, not knowing what to do and therefore feeling guilty. When I heard the news that a Youth Club would be established in Jvari, I was elated. Youth Club enables me to realise the potential that I have. Do you know how many ideas we young people have?! We need support! Soon you won’t recognise this place. We will certainly be able to change it for the better! We’ll refresh it and help others to get revitalised too”.

Veronica Tsaava, (18 years old, IDP from Abkhazia) currently residing in Jvari (Samegrelo):

“When I attend meetings of the Youth Club, I have an op portunity to express my opinions freely. To be honest, only here at the Youth Club were people interested in hearing my opinion about a certain topics. That was the first time in my life. When I saw that, I became more active, especially during the discussions. I am so glad to be able to come here! We have just started our activities, but we have already managed to learn many things that I can use in my life! We, the young people at the Youth Club, concluded, after many discussions, that if we want to have an interesting life, we ought to change things ourselves. We cannot just wait and expect to get assistance from someone else!”

Consultancy on Psycho-social and Legal Issues

Many IDPs complain about a lack of information and limited awareness about their own rights. That is why it is vital to deliver consultation services on social issues and legal rights. These consultations are provided by highly professional lawyers who have a rich experience in implementing information and counselling projects for IDPs.

Because of the atmosphere in the post-war period and all the negative events that IDPs had to experience due to displacement, all the CECs provide post-conflict therapy and psycho-social support to people affected by the conflicts.

In the Kvemo Kartli region, Koda and Shaumiani CECs (where there are mostly “new IDPs”), educators and psychologists are also working with the groups of children who have different psychological problems: learning disorders, communi cation problems, night fears, etc. Special workshops – “Trauma and Stress: How to deal with traumatised children” – will be organised for parents and teachers in or der to equip them with special tools and methods of work with children in stress.

In Samegrelo region both individual and group consultations are provided to “old IDPs”. The issues of concern there are related to exclusion from social life, domestic violence, gender inequality, lack of understanding between parents and children.

Lyrical deviation – “Last but not least”

This is a photo of a classroom in one of our centres. We have seen these cosy and beautiful classrooms empty only once, just before the centres’ opening ceremony.





Source: Lali Santeladze

Now centres remind us of a buzzing beehive, …






… where every corner is …

… occupied and busy.




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