"For the first time we are tired because of having fun and it’s such a good feeling "

Photos and text by: Mariam Khotcholava

At World Vision Georgia’s initiative, 30 children who live and work on the street, visited a local arcade and the National Zoo Park to celebrate the International Day for Street Children on April 12, 2014; the day serves to raise awareness about the issue of street children around the world.

Children gathered near the city’s centre, ready for their journey.

The children were excited as the bus arrived. Everyone found their places for the journey. “I have never been to an arcade, but I have the feeling it’s going to be fun,” said a 5-year-old girl on the bus.

She was right. The first destination was children’s arcade, where the children enjoyed playing the small assortment of video and table hockey games, riding different stuffed animals, dancing with the Disney princesses and singing “happy birthday” to one of their friends who had just turned 11.

After having dinner and Birthday cake, they started to move towards their next stop, the National Zoo.

Some of the kids had already been to the zoo before, but there were many children who had not and were surprised by the size of the elephant and the beauty of the Peacock tail.

It was a challenge for the mobile project team to keep an eye on everyone as they started wondering around observing animals, guessing their names, and mimicking their sounds.

They seemed amused as they discovered that the zoo was not only for animals, that they could enjoy other attractions as well.  “I had never thought I would get scared of driving the children’s car, it was fun,” said a 4-years-old-girl.

Their day ended by sharing their impressions and discovering toys inside the McDonald’s Happy Meal package. It was a beautiful day, full of laughter and positive emotions.

“For the first time we are tired because of having fun and it’s such a good feeling” said a 5-year-old girl.

“Every event held for the street children, by World Vision or any other organization, is crucially important for them. We are working towards not only to raising awareness, but also to help children feel that they are valuable members of our community… at least for one day.  I wish this initiative was not a one-off and that every day was just as beautiful for them as today was,” said Maya Mgeliashvili, Child Protection, Services and Advocacy Manager at World Vision Georgia.

About the World Vision Project:
In 2012, World Vision launched a project that aims to assist and support children and youth living or working on the street. This initiative is funded by the European Union, led by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs with UNICEF, and implemented in cooperation with partners: Caritas and Child and Environment. The project, through state/NGO partnerships, will see the establishment of pilot services and mechanisms to address the complex needs of highly vulnerable children, with a focus on children living or working on the street. The project uses a comprehensive approach to meeting these needs and includes the involvement of a wide range of state agencies and ministries. World Vision, as part of this initiative, will lead the development of service provision conceptual frameworks and capacity building packages for frontline service and state personnel, as well as support the outreach activities of mobile teams and establish Day Care/Crisis Intervention Centres.

 **The names of the children were omitted from this piece to protect their identities.