Two of the most pressing needs IDPs had immediately following the conflict were the need for community and the need for income. Working together with our good friend and long time partner Mother Mariam of the Transfiguration Convent in Tbilisi, the Georgian office conceived two important rehabilitation programs in response: employment and child care.
With the remaining $35,000 from the initial War Relief Fund, the office began converting a room in one IDP center (Isani) into a sewing workshop to employ 22 women. In addition, a separate room was renovated to create a kindergarten day care facility for 46 children at the center. A sewing workshop was also created for IDP women at the Bagebi center, outside of Tbilisi.
The program allowed IDPs to work, earn a salary and help other IDP families in need.
The workshops were equipped by AFG’s War Relief Fund while salaries and raw materials were covered by quilt sales purchased by individuals and humanitarian organizations for donation to IDP families. The workshops created over 4,000 quilts which were distributed to IDP families at more than six IDP centers.
According to Rosa Bitarova and Tamara Chipchiuri, two of the 22 women employed by the Isani sewing workshop, the program gave them the chance to recover some of the normalcy robbed from them when they lost their homes during the war. Neither woman can return to their homes because their village is now under the control of the separatist Ossetian government.
“It means we had money in our pockets,” Tamara said. “It means we were not just waiting for a handout.”
For Rosa and her family, her salary from the quilts was the only income the family received.
Thanks in part to a 5000 lari grant AFG received from the International Women’s Organization in Georgia, the sewing workshop was able to operate for nearly one year, creating over 4000 blankets and providing employment and community for 60 women. These women not only formed tight bonds with each other, but they also assisted other IDP families by sewing warm blankets to survive the cold winter.