The idea of the Welfare and Development Center (WDC) arose in 1995, when the organization’s founder Tina Bregvadze went to the Yerevan Rehabilitation Center for rehabilitation. Knocking on many doors, motivation, boundless efforts and civic engagement all resulted in the WDC establishment in Gori 6 years later, when there was only a handful of such centers in Georgia.
Most of WDC’s founders are people with disabilities. The Center’s creation was supported by enthusiasts and the local municipality, and the WDC’s goal is social rehabilitation and employment of people with disabilities, and protection of their rights.
The Center’s first activity was a sports marathon involving wheelchair users from the town who organized a street procession.
As a result of WDC’s efforts, the Gori Municipality became the first in Georgia to employ five people with disabilities, building a ramp was to the municipality building. The people employed years ago still work there, and the number is constantly growing.
In 2013, the Gori WDC opened a social enterprise where people with disabilities could study cloisonné enamel, sewing, and pottery.
“Everyone, and obviously people with disabilities, have different skills and opportunities. Thus, our main goal is involve special needs teachers and educators for developing individual education plans for all children and teaching them the skills that they will need in life.” Our graduates need to have all the necessary skills when they leave the Center”.
“Initially the social enterprise only trained people in sewing, and in 2008 we started sewing warm blankets for IDPs. Later we also added cloisonné enamel and ceramics workshops”.
“In general, the establishment and development of the social enterprise are very important. It was very difficult to find our niche at the market, especially because we are located in a region. We don’t give up and continue working and developing, but this is still a problem in Georgia. The social enterprise mainly targets businesses and tourists. We keep trying to reach organizations with some social responsibility. It has been a hard process, yet try our best to increase civic involvement. I think there is still a lot of work to do for establishing strong contacts and cooperation between businesses and social entrepreneurs,” people at WDC say.
The center has many success stories. One of the social enterprise beneficiaries was employed at the ‘Kula’ factory. For people at WDC, these stories are a boast and motivation.
Apart from supporting beneficiaries’ employment and education, the Center helps them with developing develop personal relationships, communication, independent decision-making and living independently.
Zviad Zviadadze, a cloisonné enamel specialist, shares his knowledge and experience with the social enterprise beneficiaries to employ them in the future. Zviad also works at the Social Welfare Department of the Gori Municipality.
In 2016, ASB supported the Gori Center in setting up a multidisciplinary team of physiotherapists, social workers, psychologists, and neuropathologists that went door to door in ten mountain villages of the Gori district offering various services to the disabled there. After a preliminary needs assessment, they drafted a plan and visited the ten villages twice a week to help the beneficiaries.
“There were cases when a beneficiary was a bedridden person living on their own who needed bedsores care, which was vital for these people. Within the project, we provided food staff and hygiene products to the beneficiaries. With the project’s help, several young people started coming to our day center and working at the social enterprise. That was one of the most interesting and valuable experiences in the Center’s history,” people at WDC say.
“The local municipality funds 25 children attending the day center, and the municipality’s support is priceless. They have supported us since the first day. It is a great example of good cooperation and all we can say is thank you.
We have gained the support of the local municipality through our efforts and involvement, also the trust we have earned through our many years of hard work.
The Center’s activities are always unambiguous, clear, transparent to the community and the municipality. It is important for us to provide information about our activities to the public and the government.
“Civic activism is very important not only for a person with a disability to feel that s/he is a full member of the society, but also for everyone. Civic activism is paramount, it is a living organism that should never stop but should be developed, implemented and constantly supported. The more people, organizations and initiative groups work to develop civic activism, the greater positive impact it would have on the society and democracy,” people at WDC say.