Just Like Sparrows - street children in Georgia
“I don’t want to live at home, I was so unhappy there, no one hurts me here” said Lika Martynova, 14 years old.Lika is one of the 50 children living in the Sparrow Home for street children where they can spend their days learning, dancing, performing, and drawing. The Centre provides warm housing, food, clothing, education, healthcare, and psychological rehabilitation to its young residents.
The Director of the Sparrow Home, Nana Robakidze, who has run the shelter since it opened in 2000 said, “The children come here for various reasons. There are a lot of children who find themselves in this position in Georgia today, maybe up to six thousand of them. We are providing them the emotional support they need and a place where they feel safe and can build their self esteem.” The run down building which houses the Home is in the old part of Tbilisi, and has been provided by the Government free of charge for the time being. The Home can accommodate 50 children and up to 30 children stay there overnight.
The building is old, but what you soon notice is the singing and the happy noise of children playing in the yard. Thirteen year old Natia Beriashvili comes to us, eager to talk. She was brought to the Home from an institution. She says “I didn’t like it there, they never let us go out into the yard but here I can do anything I want, I can play and sing and I love computers”
The first children who lived in the centre thought up its name. They named it “Sparrow.” “Why?” we asked, “because we feel like sparrows” said Natia. The children had even written a song about the home which they sang for us.
“There is a bird called Sparrow, they don’t have roof over their heads, But they survive because there are kind people to provide them with food in hard times. But Sparrows never lose hope because they are free to come and go and no one can put them into cage.
Despite the sounds of happiness, there is still genuine trauma, this is why the children are here. When asked about her dreams for the future, Lika found it very hard to answer, “No one would be able to make my dream come true,” she says, and just holding in her emotions added, “…maybe…if my sister could join me here.”
UNICEF has supported the centre for three years, especially the home’s education programme to ensure the children receive their basic education. Currently it is partnering with World Vision and Street Kids International to conduct peer education training on life skills for the Sparrow children. UNICEF is also working with the Government to elaborate child welfare reform policies to provide necessary protection to the most vulnerable children including street children.