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Since many of the young mothers have never worked, they do not know how to look for a job or write a resume. The team of caregivers at the center teach the women how to do both, and help them obtain training in skills demanded by local employers.

Mary, 28, arrived at the center when she was pregnant with her son, Giorgi. She immediately started thinking of how to prepare for life as a single mother. Looking through job listings, she noticed the majority of the vacancies were for cooks. With Caritas Georgia’s assistance, she has begun to study cooking at a local vocational school.

To date, Caritas Georgia has helped five mothers find employment.

Irina, a Russian émigré who decided to stay in Georgia with her two children, found herself homeless after her divorce. She bounced from shelter to shelter as she sought help for herself and her two boys, the youngest of whom is autistic.

At the St. Barbara Center, Irina said she found a team that wanted to help her so she could survive and thrive. Trained as a gemologist, Irina was afraid she would not find work in Tbilisi that would pay enough to provide for the three of them. After completing courses in massage therapy financed by Caritas Georgia, she was able to find a job and rent an apartment. Today, she earns enough to care for her sons.

Thea is eager to replicate this success for Gabriel and her.

“If a person is not employed, she cannot eat, she cannot sleep safely,” she says simply.

“If she has a job, she can eat, find a place to live, take care of herself and take care of her child.”

In between the flight from abuse, and making a new life, Caritas Georgia’s St. Barbara Center offers a refuge, a safe space where women may begin life anew with their children.

Last June, the police brought Teona and her toddler, Nitsa, to the center after responding to a domestic dispute at her home, where she lived with her father and her brother. Her brother, upset that Teona had a baby outside of marriage, had been bullying and even beating her. Even as the abuse escalated, Teona did not know where to go; she was financially dependent on her family but it was not safe to stay at home.

Now residing at the center, Teona calls St. Barbara’s “paradise.”

“There is a family atmosphere here, which was completely lacking in my own home. It is calm. I feel good here — safe.”

The difference has had an immediate effect on her daughter.

Nitsa was anxious when she first arrived, unwilling to interact with other children. Today, she is calm and happily plays with the six other children living at the center.

Nitsa’s transformation goes to the heart of the program, which is to provide the mothers and their children with the peace, stability and security they need to rebuild their lives.

“St. Barbara’s is really a bridge that can save the lives of these children and their mothers,” noted Nana Kukhalashvili.

“Sometimes, even the most humble of assistance and support can turn around a situation.”

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The writing of Tbilisi-based photojournalist Molly Corso also appears on EurasiaNet.



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