Society Biliki is a non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Gori, a small city (population 6,500) in Shida Kartli, Georgia, the home to over 3000 internally displaced people from the August 2008 war. These IDPs are living near Gori, in collective centers and in cottages built for them by the government.
Founded in 1997, Biliki helps troubled and vulnerable youth by providing a safe and secure environment for them to develop and improve their lives and fully realize their potential, regardless of their social, ethnic and religious background. These children are from low-income families including street children, from IDP families and from Gori region public schools. Biliki’s website is www.biliki.ge
The organization was founded by Mari Mgebrishvili and a few friends who were dedicated to helping street children receive staples like food and clothing to survive, and necessities, like nurture and security, to flourish. The name, Biliki, means “narrow path” in Georgian – a testimony to the challenges gaining acceptance and friendship from the vulnerable children Mgebrishvili wanted to help.
AFG has been providing support for Society Biliki since 1997, when Marusya Chavchavadze met Mgebrishvili—the dedicated founder and young director of this NGO.
“Mari impressed me with her determination to help these children she saw trading and pilfering in the streets, who were not learning to read or write,” Marusya Chavchavadze, AFG’s executive director/US Office, said.
Today Society Biliki has two centers – Biliki and Skhivi. The centers provide a supportive and stable environment for 6-16-year-old at-risk — and street — children, as well as IDPs in Gori and Gori region. Through the centers, Society Biliki is able to help the children receive the support and education they require for their physical, cognitive, emotional and psychological well-being.
Currently, Day Center Biliki serves 54 children (28 girls and 26 boys) and Day Center Skhivi serves 36 children (16 girls and 20 boys). Day Center services include an Education Department, a Vocational Studio, a Psychological Department, a Social Department and a Parents’ Club.
In order to reach children at risk, Biliki created a mobile team of specialists to find and assist street children and their peers at risk due to poverty or other extreme situations. The mobile team – a social worker, psychologist and teacher from the center — began bringing children to Skhivi center in 2005.
To date, 37 children — like Aliona, 15, and Kristine, 12 — have been assisted by the mobile team.
Over the past seven years, Biliki has created a wide range of programs that encourage and educate vulnerable children, helping them to form stronger bonds with society and improve their quality of life.
Educational and rehabilitation programs include different activities:
Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) is a rehabilitation program started in September 2008 — completed in March 2010– in two IDP settlements in Gori – Kombinati and Karaleti. A total of 344 children – 185 girls and 160 boys – were served at the two centers and 112 parents participated in trainings and informative meetings to help them assist their children as they adjusted to their post-war lives. Save the Children administered the program with funds from ECHO.
A resource center for IDP children living in Gori was created in May 2009 for IDP children living near Gori. The aim of the program is to support 14 – 16 year-old children from families affected by the conflict. Activities at the center are designed to improve their civic education and help them integrate into the local community. The center was established in one of the cottages at the Karaleti IDP settlement and is being used as a library, Internet club, debate club, activity center and training center for children and their parents. To date, nearly 80 children (46 girls and 32 boys) have used the center.
Since 2003, an integration program has supported children’s civic, informal and vocational education. The program revolves around special interest clubs, like the leader’s network and the debate society. Every year 240 children, ages 13-17, take part in the club program.
Biliki offers small grants for children studying at public schools around Gori region. The grant competition program was created in 2008 and is currently funding eight projects submitted by the public schools participating in the program.
The society also created a vocational studio, which includes computer classes, journalist training, filmmaking courses, an enamel workshop, national applied art classes and a monthly newspaper. Approximately 140 children participate in the courses offered at the studio every year.
In addition, Biliki offers training courses for teachers, parents and children. Every year 80 parents/teachers and 100 children take part in the trainings offered at our center.
The Family Support Program, created in 2009, helps eligible families by supporting their business initiatives with small grants. During the first stage of the program, eight families were supported including one IDP family ($4500 in total grants distributed). Currently, 10 families have received small business grants worth a total of $4700.
Once approved for Biliki’s business grants, families also participate in a training course on small business development.
Mari Mgebrishvili described one of the children in the Family Support Program: “Ani, 10, was living with her mother in terrible conditions, with no essentials like a bathroom. Ani’s mother makes 3 GEL ($1.20) a day in the market place. Biliki’s mobile group took Ani to the center. She was given school supplies, educational and psychological services, handicraft classes, dancing and singing group studios. Her family was given washing facilities, blankets and pillows… The Family Support Program gave the mother funds to develop and improve her recent business activity. Now she is able to purchase school supplies, clothes, shoes and also some toys.”
The volunteer internship program was started in 2006. Two cycles of volunteers are held every year and the number of volunteers has grown from 12 in 2006 to 70 in 2010. The volunteers gain experience in different departments at Biliki, including education, psychological, social, integration, and resource centre.
- Rebuilding Lives Project (Save the Children/USAID)
- Youth and Society (Global Fund for Children)
- Youth and their Future Life (Open Society Institute)
- Unity – Youth Resource Center (project SIIMS Funded by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign affairs, Project implementing partners are Care Norway, Care International in Caucasus, Local partner CiDA)
- Child Care State Program of Day Care Centers Subprograms (Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs)
- “New Generation of Citizens: Public Council on Promotion of Youth Participation” (Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
- With AFG’s recommendations, Society Biliki has received considerable support from Mercy Corps, World Vision, Global Fund for Children and Save the Children. AFG has helped Biliki to set up an ongoing social safety net in Gori.
- Over the years, AFG has sent funds to Biliki to help them purchase a vehicle for the home visiting program. AFG supported Biliki’s educational and rehabilitation programs with funds for school supplies and teacher salaries. Funds helped Biliki purchase a piano to teach the children music. AFG sent computers to Biliki in 2003 and 2008 for their computer classes. Funds sent to Biliki purcahsed clothes, shoes, toys and art supplies in 2003. AFG provided funds in 2004 for the purchase of a building in Gori for Biliki’s education programs. British friends and a private enterprise in Gori also assisted with funds toward the purchase. Save the Children provided funds for the renovation of the building.
- In March 2010, Society Biliki finished renovations for a new location for their Day Center Skhivi. Society Biliki’s two day centers – Biliki and Skhivi – serve children whose families are involved in the State Poverty Reduction Program. The old Skhivi day center had only 2 small rooms serving 30 children. AFG sent $9,500 so Biliki could move this center into the cultural center of the Kombinati Settlement. This new space for the Day Center Skhivi allowed Biliki to increase the number of children from 30 to 45 a day. Rooms were renovated and a heating system installed. Also, more children can be helped at Skhivi who are from poor families or displaced families living in 2 IDP collective centers in Kombinati. Mari Mgebrishvili wrote, «I am very glad and proud that Biliki has so great friends as American Friends of Georgia».
- In 2009, Biliki cooperated with AFG by assisting AFG’s Skills for Life project with courses on computers, English, craft and cloisonne making for IDP children from the 2008 war. AFG organized two exhibitions in Georgia — on Shardeni Street and at Gori University – where cloisonne made by IDP children at the Biliki studio was sold.
Biliki needs funds and other types of support to provide outreach and education to the vulnerable youth in the IDP settlements and urban communities in and around Gori.
In particular, funds are needed to create a small children’s center in the Karaleti IDP settlement. Today, there is a huge effort from NGOs and international donors to help IDPs create businesses and return to work. But women currently lack a safe and secure place to send their children during the work day.
Biliki would like to open a small kindergarten at the IDP settlement, based in one of the cottages. The facility would cater to the needs of approximately 30 children, all under the age of six.
In addition, Biliki needs books and educational games – particularly building blocks and construction kits – for its centers. Trained psychologists work with the children but lack the necessary toys and games to help them develop skills and problem solving techniques.
Finally, additional financing for Biliki’s core programs will allow it to continue to provide vocational, rehabilitation and education services for children.