06 November 2009

March of the Do-gooders

My expectations were low.  One of the few "institutions" that was carried over from soviet times successfully is that of organizers and bosses to put on shows for outsiders and talk the talk.  My experience on my first brief foray into being one of those do-gooders on the gound was quite mediocre. 

We went to and Internally-Displaced Persons (IDP) camp near Gori this past Thursday.  There we were shown some of the work that a group called Hellenicare does.  This is a travelling clinical service with several sponsors.  This first photo is of IDPs waiting outside one of the houses-converted-into a clinic.  The clinic is composed of three nurses and a doctor, a van + driver, an ultrasound machine, EKG machine, diabetic testing/solvents, simple meds.  The house is one of the many built after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war by the government.  This settlement seemed to be quite well off, with electric and gas hookups.  There was minimal running water in the buildings;  outhouses out back. 

Life seemed to continue as usual in this settlement, with standard domestic crops and animals in the yards separating the perfectly blocked-off settlement.  Here is about half the corn I saw in the yard--the other half not husked.  We saw very few children around since we were there during school, but residents in general did not seem jaded about not knowing whether they could ever go back to their homes.  Even if residents were allowed to go back home, many of their homes no longer exist. 

After visiting the IDP camp we traveled back to Tbilisi to see an orphanage, in part supported by Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption, an organization my family has long been involved with.   The Group supports families who have and who wish to adopt, as well as sponsors direct aid projects which benefit orphans and related infrastructure.  This third photo is one of three siblings who were orphaned.  The oldest was able to speak Russian with me, as he lived in Russia for a time, but in general the children could not understand me nor I them.  

The fourth photo here is some of the kids at the entrance.  Despite the great intentions of such projects, I cannot help but question the utility of giving kids a sack each with some sweets, a set of paints, and some pencils.  It pains me to see a seventeen year-old guy receive a sack with such meaningless things as heart-shaped stickers and a small notebook...and then a large stuffed animal later.  

For the most part, kids were happy, and the sacks were appropriate for the ages of students there.  They were happy with attention and the occassional flash of a photo.  Just being visited goes a long way to putting a smile on a face. A boy helps us with our heavier boxes upon our arrival:

Some of the kids gather around an American nurse drawing hearts for them:

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