Temo becomes better student & budding artist through Child Friendly Space

Temo’s real home sits in Achabeti, a village situated two kilometres away from Tskhinvali, the major city in South Ossetia. But for now, home for his four-member family is a collective centre for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) on the outskirts of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Temo is barely an adolescent, but has already collected a lifetime of war stories and heartbreaking memories that no one should ever experience.

When I come here I never wanted to go back home, to the room where I live “My village was in the centre of the war,” said Temo. “I could hear the sounds of bombs and jets. My family and I left our house on the second day the war started. We escaped to Tbilisi and since then we have been living in this shelter.”

Temo and his family live in poverty. His father is unemployed and his mother earns a small living from packing food at a factory. Her small salary is not enough to support the family.

Sadly, Temo’s story is common among the tens of thousands of children and families who remain displaced since the outbreak of the conflict. Financial difficulties, unemployment and harsh living conditions continue to cause high degrees of stress among these people, and as a result many have been severely impacted psychologically, including children and youth.

Recognising the need to address children’s psychosocial wellbeing, World Vision Georgia set up Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) – safe and comfortable places where children and youth meet and interact with new friends, play sports, participate in formal and informal learning in a structured environment with the help of educators, and receive the tools they need to deal with the risks they face. Children also receive a daily hot meal, which in some cases is their one and only full meal for the day.

The shelter where Temo lives is also ‘home’ to a CFS and Temo is a keen member. Every day, after school, Temo would immediately go to the CFS and spend the rest of his free time there. When his CFS teacher, Nano Goginashvili, first began teaching him, she described him as one of the most playful and sometimes mischievous children; however his attitude has considerably changed compared to the first few months after the project started in October 2008.

“Temo is one of the most evident of CFS’s success,” said Goginashvili. “He was in obvious need of psychosocial support apparently due to last year’s war. He started out with an aggressive attitude towards other children, but now he is a completely different child.”

The teacher comments that Temo’s behaviour change and inspiration to build friendlier relationships with others was also partly due to the many activities carried out by World Vision staff. These recreational activities included summer camps, excursions to the zoo and city parks, visiting theatres and cinemas, and celebrating birthdays as a group, all of which helped reintroduce aspects of a ‘normal’ childhood to Temo and his peers.

“When I come here I never wanted to go back home, to the room where I live” said Temo. “We participate in different competitions held between other CFS centres. We all had a very good time when our teachers arranged sport competitions. It was very entertaining.”

Not only had Temo’s involvement in the CFS helped his psychosocial wellbeing, but he also discovered his art skills and abilities. He was chosen to be part of a troupe of young performers at the Nodar Dumbadze Children’s Theatre in Tbilisi. Now, Temo is considering becoming an artist when he grows up and says that his participation in the troupe has continued to make his life happier.

“The theatre directors came to our centre and held a casting,” said Temo. “They asked me to recite poems, dance, and sing. In the end, they named me as a new member of their children’s theatre group where I will be enrolled in different art activities.”

Now Temo finds the study process more entertaining and easy...before, it used to be very difficult for him to pay attention to his school books and assignments... Temo’s academic achievements at school have also improved and he has become more motivated to study. The CFS curricula, intellectual competitions among other CFS participants and the dedication of his educators have all encouraged the positive change.

“Now Temo finds the study process more entertaining and easy,” said Goginashvili. “Before, it used to be very difficult for him to pay attention to his school books and assignments and handle them with diligence.”

World Vision’s CFS have been integral to Temo’s development and that of his peers - often representing their one calm space in a tumultuous ocean of unfortunate circumstance, or as Goginashvili calls these spaces, “[the children’s] sole peaceful area to stay away from the heavy circumstances they face in their own families.”

The CFSs have supported about 360 internally displaced children, including 90 participants in the village of Sakasheti. The CFS project began in September 2008 and ended in December 2009. World Vision is now conducting negotiations with the Ministry of Education of Georgia to transfer the Sakasheti CFS to the Georgian government.