We envision a Georgia where people with physical and mental disabilities are full and respected members of society. We believe they offer invaluable talents and perspectives that enrich their communities.
The post-Soviet nation of Georgia struggles with poverty and political unrest. Georgian citizens with mental and physical disabilities are especially vulnerable in this environment. Under the communist regime, people with disabilities were institutionalized, separated from their families and community. These institutions provided poor quality care and those living in them suffered stigmatization.
Today, people with disabilities are struggling to “deinstitutionalize.” Despite the efforts of the Georgian government and local non-profits, citizens with special needs continue to live in isolation. Many lack financial and social stability and experience barriers to education. Without social programs, people with with special needs are completely dependent upon the care of relatives, who are often impoverished themselves.
Currently, there are 35 therapeutic day centers in Georgia providing progressive, skill-based therapy and education to those in need. While this is an improvement from years past, less than 1% of Georgians with physical and mental disabilities are being served by these centers. While these day center organizations want to expand and improve their programming, professional development opportunities are lacking. Currently, there are no educational institutions that provide training for people caring for individuals with special needs. Lack of funding and expertise are the greatest obstacles to the expansion of day center programming.
Together with our Georgian partner, The Association for People in Need of Special Care (APNSC), we advocate on behalf of those with special needs at the national and local levels, educating about important political and social reforms that will improve the lives of ALL of Georgia’s citizens.
APNSC is one of the first Georgian non-profit organizations to develop a therapeutic center for adults with mental and physical disabilities. They run day centers and workshops in Tbilisi, the capital. Those who work at APSNC provide individualized care and seek to understand each person’s unique learning style, needs, life dreams and goals. They work to build confidence and empower those they work with through art therapy, woodworking, drama, pottery, and job-skills training. With the help of workshop leaders and assistants, people with special needs are able to contribute their skills and talents to produce and sell artisanal items. Everyone works according to their abilities and preferences and is encouraged to take breaks and rest whenever needed. These day centers are one of the few places, if not the the only place, that participants feel cared for, loved, and respected.
In addition to therapeutic workshops, APNSC works with families of the disabled and with social workers. By teaching advocacy skills to families, they help to ensure that those with special needs are protected from societal and structural injustices. In addition, because the day centers offer consistent care, parents and other caregivers are able to seek employment to improve their family’s economic status. APSNC also provides training to current and future social workers, a much needed service in the country.
We work with APNSC to build their capacity and provide them with financial resources that allow them to further expand their services.