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Volume 10, No. 1SPRING 2007

Education and Innovation: Projects Promise Renewal in Georgia

Georgian school children in the village of Bia receive World Atlases, part of IOCC’s project to provide books and school supplies to underserved children. Vasil, a welder in western Georgia, realized the dream of having his own business through a micro-credit loan provided by IOCC Georgia. IOCC has provided loans to more than 1,700 borrowers in Georgia since 1999. Photos by Zaza Macharashvili/IOCC

TBILISI, GEORGIA — A country with a renowned Christian heritage and singular culture, Georgia struggled economically and socially from the effects of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In 1994, IOCC began its operations in Georgia at the invitation of ILIA II, Patriarch-Catholicos of Georgia. At that time, more than a quarter of a million people were also displaced due to separatist fighting. Winters were an especially difficult time as people had to do without heat for their homes and work places that had once been provided free of charge by the central government. IOCC Georgia, in association with the Georgian Orthodox Church and Church World Service, launched an emergency program in 1995 to provide tens of thousands of blankets and food parcels to the most vulnerable families.

Today, IOCC Georgia is focusing on long term development programs such as school infrastructure rehabilitation. “We used to not have windows or doors, but now we don’t have anything to say except a big thank you to IOCC,” says Tekla, a student in the Black Sea town of Poti where IOCC Georgia has renovated the local school. Before IOCC’s outreach to public schools in Georgia, there were very few resources in the country to fund public education. School buildings were often crumbling, teachers and administrators were paid little to nothing, textbooks and school supplies were out of reach. Most Georgian schools had not received major repairs, or even routine maintenance, for a decade or more. With funding from USDA and Hellenic Aid of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IOCC has repaired broken windows and doors, leaking roofs, renovated bathrooms, and provided shipments of books in 30 public schools.

IOCC Georgia is also aiding deprived populations in the southern and western regions of the country with a micro-finance and credit program.

IOCC has provided loans to more than 1,700 borrowers in Georgia since 1999, including people like Vasil, a welder in western Georgia. Vasil wanted his own business but did not have enough for the start-up capital, nor was he able to qualify for a bank loan. In 2002, he received his first loan from IOCC, which he used to purchase an iron cutting machine. Over the next three years, Vasil received other loans from IOCC to purchase additional machinery and equipment and to employ other welders.

One of the most rewarding aspects, says Vasil, of running his own business has been to provide employment for others.

LOOKING BACK: IOCC Georgia in 1995
IOCC, in association with the Georgian Orthodox Church, is launching a “Blanket Project”, which will provide 10,400 blankets for additional warmth to vulnerable individuals residing in institutions for children, the elderly, and the sick. As a result of civil wars and the disintegration of its economy, the Republic of Georgia counts today more than a quarter million of displaced persons and a host of other vulnerable groups. The situation is particularly severe this winter with extreme shortages of electricity, natural gas and water. The project’s estimated cost is valued at $100,000 and will be funded by Church World Service. — Taken from the February 1995 issue of News & Needs.
IOCC’s first efforts in Georgia focused on a program which involved the distribution in Tbilisi and Southern Georgia of 3,550 food parcels donated by the United Nations World Food Program. The program, which was valued at $91,235, took place from July to October 1994.

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