For Jhana abandoning her baby is no longer an option

Her husband was on ‘military service’ in Afghanistan and her parents wouldn’t allow her to stay in their home because according to Jhana she had gone against their wishes and married a Georgian man instead of a Kurd.

Their future looked bleak and her options were shrinking by the day. The scary but logical option was to place her child in a children’s institution.

“I was not working, did not have an income and my family did not let me go home. I was totally helpless and desperate”, recalls Jhana of that painful period.

I was not working, did not have an income and my family did not let me go home. I was totally helpless and desperateBut an encounter with a social worker at the Maternity House in the capital city Tbilisi, put in motion a very different plan of action. Instead of abandoning her baby and denying her the chance of a loving home, Jhana was invited to move into the Mother and Infant Shelter, run by the Infant Houses Transformation (IHT) project, established by World Vision and now run by the Georgian government.

“It was the best thing I could have heard from anyone,” Jhana says. She desperately wanted to stay at the shelter with her baby girl Nona.

As soon as Jhana moved into the shelter, the IHT employment service staff began working with her. Since Jhana knew how to sew and expressed her interest in using her skills, World Vision provided her with a sewing machine, sewing materials and the support she needed to get started.

Jhana so desperately wanted a secure, independent life that in addition to taking care of her two-week-old child, Jhana also managed to sew bed linen in the shelter.

Not only that, she successfully sold all of the linen she produced - earning about US$80 in two weeks. It was a humble beginning but it motivated Jhana to continue sewing. She sewed every day, and sent all of the finished products to the market.

As Jhana began generating an income on her own, her self confidence also returned. She became calmer and her attitude towards her daughter changed. Instead of fearing motherhood, Jhana is now embracing it and says she can not imagine life without her daughter.

Both mother and child feel warm and calm and as a newborn Nona spends most of her time sleeping, giving her mother time to work.

“Before I did not have hope for a better life, but now I feel more independent and I know I will be able to support my daughter”, she says.

In January Jhana will leave the shelter to make way for other young mothers who need similar support. She is hopeful that her family will allow her to return to the family home, but she is also now prepared to support herself and her child.

Before I did not have hope for a better life, but now I feel more independent and I know I will be able to support my daughterJhana is among 315 mothers who have been helped by the Infant House Transformation project through employment, gate keeping, and counselling services.

World Vision’s Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances programme (CEDC) has been so successful in its advocacy efforts that the project’s major prevention service – Mother and Infant Shelter – will remain a vital government service for the prevention of institutionalisation.

In October 2010, World Vision Georgia launched a new initiative – Day Care Service – which continues to support deinstitutionalisation efforts and the establishment of an alternative family support service for the prevention of infant and child abandonment. The service aims to provide further support to vulnerable mothers, families, and their children through the establishment of free day care, support in employment, counselling services, and support to the government to take over the service by the end of the initiative.

“We hope that through the newly established services during the project implementation at least 60 infants/toddlers will be prevented from abandonment, the number of new admissions to Infant Houses will be reduced,100% of referrals will be assessed and provided with consultancy and supported by the different services within the project, such as Health and Nutrition Counselling, Gatekeeping and Employment services”, says Nutsi Odisharia CEDC programme Manager.