From Orphans to Community Builders

Two Georgian orphans are using their education to help future generations of children.

Fate brought Misho and Davit together as friends, and fate brought them to Bediani.

When the two were children, they were both sent to a state-run orphanage in Dzegvi, a village in eastern Georgia. Then they were selected among the children who were resettled in an experimental housing program for orphans in Bediani, a village in southern Georgia.

The program, named after the village, included vulnerable families and orphans. It was initiated by the Georgian Orthodox Church. Today it is funded by the church and receives some assistance from charities, like the American Friends of Georgia.

The settlement was a radical change from the institutionalized system the children experienced in Dzegvi. In Bediani, children lived in houses and were encouraged to make the settlement their home.

While Bediani was an improvement over the state-run orphanage, life there was still difficult. Georgia is a poor country and villages often lack basic necessities, like running water and natural gas. Homes are heated with wood and people struggle to find employment outside their small farm plots.

The children who came to the village as orphans only receive state assistance until the age of 18. Once they graduate out of state care, they are largely on their own.

Misha and Davit were among the lucky ones who were able to secure scholarships to study at a university in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. But instead of staying in the capital to pursue their careers, the two men returned to Bediani. Today, Misha and Davit are developing a center for the village youth and are teaching the children English and other skills they will need to make a life for themselves after they turn 18 and graduate out of state care.

Millennials, February/March 2019