Do not abandon your children - A story about Mother and Infant's Shelter
Twenty three year old Tamara from the war torn Abkhazia in the North-West Georgia left her children in the orphanage twice in the past. At the age of seventeen, she was kidnapped and forced to get married. She soon divorced and moved to Tbilisi hoping for the better life for her four year old daughter Maya. However, the life didn’t become any better: poverty forced to leave her daughter in the orphanage. She also had to leave her second baby in the orphanage when her second husband abandoned them. Today she is living with her children at the Mother and Infant Centre in Tbilisi where she as well as other eight single mothers and their children can find shelter and support. But for this shelter, her children, Maya, 7 years old, and Georgi, 1 year old, might have been among 5,000 institutionalized children in Georgia.
As you enter the Centre you can see four babies sleeping peacefully and two older girls happily playing. Social workers from orphanages and maternity hospitals direct to the Centre those at risk of abandoning their children. The shelter was opened in 2003 and since then helped more than 200 children to stay with their biological parents, and some sixty to stay with foster parents. Young mothers share the household duties in the shelter and help each other with children. They also receive certain skills that will help them to earn their living in future. The shelter looks plain but it is a haven for women and children. The project is about empowerment of women, but even more important is keeping the children with their mothers.
The first of it kind in Georgia, the Centre was founded with the assistance of the government, UNICEF, World Vision International, and the Every Child. Mothers can stay in the Centre up to three months while bonding with their children and developing job skills and child care skills including breastfeeding. The shelter can accommodate up to 35 mothers each year and the future plan is to develop a day care for children of those mothers who will find a job. Recently two additional shelters have opened in other regions of Georgia.
Tamara has received the training as a hairdresser and the government has found a home for her. However, she can not move to that place due to medical conditions of her son Georgi. “I am satisfied with what I have here at the shelter”, says Tamara. She will leave the place soon and she hopes that with the skills and her children she will be able to start a new phase in life. Tamara, as one of many single mothers rejected by families and society, does not want to abandon her own children.
Despite her unfortunate past she has not lost hope and urges “all women to cope with their problems and keep children with them, because the children are the greatest wealth that the person can ever have”.