- Started in 1999
- Location: Kakheti, Eastern Georgia.
- Georgian Project Leader: Lali Khandolishvili
- Currently serving 22 Disabled Adults
This community for disabled adults, who were abandoned, was started in 1999 by Lali Khandolishvili, a conservatory trained pianist and singer, and 4 other founders who purchased land and a small house 4 kilometers from Sighnaghi in Kakheti, Eastern Georgia. Lali decided to build this community after teaching music at a day center for adults with disabilities in Tbilisi, Tbilisi’s Social Therapy House. She discovered the affinity for music that disabled people often have and music became a major part of community life at Qedeli. Later she and her husband built a second house. Now 22 disabled adults live in a dynamic life-sharing community. Qedeli Community works under the auspices of the Union of Therapy of Socially Disabled People and serves as a model organization aiming to promote inclusion of people with disabilities. One resident was found in the woods abandoned with frozen ears after he was left there by people who inherited his mother’s apartment with the understanding that they would care for him. Marusya was moved when she recognized other residents who she had seen as children in 1996 living in filth and cold in the terrible Kaspi Orphanage.
As Aylette Jenness (who visited Georgia with AFG in October 2014) wrote: “Perhaps the most moving AFG project we visited was a brand new one: the Qedeli Community, a group home for disabled adults, led by Lali Khandolishvili. When our van pulled up to this modest frame house at the end of a long unpaved road, the residents came pouring out to greet us. While Lali welcomed us, and spoke about the Community, a young disabled man, Misha, linked his arm through hers, and watched intently. As she spoke she patted his hand, put an arm around him. To me, this ‘visual’ spoke volumes, an impression that was confirmed as we were invited in. Lali had been a music teacher who discovered the affinity for music that disabled people often have, and so music was a major part of the community life. “Come,” she said, “we’ll sing”. She sat down at their piano, and all the residents gathered around, some with crutches, some in wheel chairs, all close together, and SANG. Some of them had seemed to be without speech, many had difficulty in communicating, but when they sang, all were animated and energized. In America, I’ve had some experience with communities which are predicated on the belief that everyone, regardless of ability, has something to contribute to society. Nowhere have I seen a community that exemplified this belief better than at Qedeli. They hope to expand so as to be able to include more than the current residents, and I hope that AFG will be able to continue to support them. This was my first trip to Georgia, my first experience of AFG at work, and as you can see, I was deeply impressed by the quality of AFG work. It was truly an extraordinary trip, and AFG is truly an extraordinary organization.–Aylette Jenness
Click below to see the beautiful singing at Qedeli
Misha is our first resident. He lived with his parents his whole life, but his Father died earlier and his mother and brother passed away at nearly the same time leaving him alone. He is from western Georgia in Tskaltubo. We had only one house with a leaky roof and a shoestring budget and we managed to fix the roof when we were asked to take Misha in. At first I said it was impossible because we had no heating and such bad living conditions and no government support, that support began only in 2006. We had no staff and were only working as a day center, but they told us that he is totally alone with nowhere to go, no food and no shelter, so I agreed to take him in. You can say that we built Qedeli together. He is a foundational element of our community. — Lali Khandolishvili
More Residents At Qedeli Community
Giorgi is 26 years old an he has an illness called “Fenilketonuria’’and he was raised in a family. This illness is diet related and needs a very special expensive diet to prevent the progress of the disease. If he had begun this special diet earlier, he may not have developed the mental and physical disabilities to the extent he now has them. He can’t digest proteins and they settle in the brain and develop psychiatric difficulties. He was brought to Kaspi at a point where he was very near death with severe brain damage. He was taken from Kaspi to First step , where they took very good care of him and his problems have stabilized. He has been with us since the closure of the First Step residential program in 2010.
Borya is our oldest resident at 43 , with Down’s syndrome. In 2011 we were called when the police found him living in a shack in the woods outside Tbilisi. The mother had tried to make arrangements for Boria before her death leaving her Tbilisi flat to a neighbor family in order that they care for him. Instead , the family left him in the woods in November. He was real frozen when he was discovered. We willingly accepted him, but because of difficult bureaucratic issues he could not be listed as an official status as disabled. We never regretted taking him in spite of the difficulties, because his presence is like the sun light it self. He is a good dancer, very active in the community and we are happy to have him in our Qedeli family!
Nino is 20 years old and because she had physical disabilities she was abandoned and found by police on a trash heap. The police took her to Kaspi where she lived until the First Step program took her in. Like Tamuna when the residential program closed at First Step she came to us. She is a good singer and likes to dance as much as her abilities allow. She has taken on a leadership role in community, because of her intellectual capacity and knowledge of reading and writing. She will often read stories to other residents and is generally very helpful and responsible.
Tamuna is 22 years old. She is wheelchair bound and has been from birth. She lived at home with her parents to the age of five. Her father was an alcoholic and drug user and there was a lot of fighting and conflict in a family. One day in a drunken rage, her father killed her mother while Tamuna was at home. She cried through the night and when the father was taken to prison, the family took her to Kaspi. The conditions there were terrible. She spent a few years in the First Step program for children which was much better. When Firs Step closed their residential program in 2010 Tamuna came to us. She never been able to visit her mother’s grave ,but two years ago I was able to find some of her relatives and she was very happy to be able to take flowers to the grave. This is one her first happy memories.
Thank you for reading,