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Step by Step – towards a Better Future
The global aim of this funding was to promote restorative justice in Georgia through implementation of meaningful rehabilitation and re-socialization programmes by Civil Society actors. The target region of this project was Shida Kartli where most of the population has been suffering from the Georgian-Russian war in August 2008. The project “Step by Step – towards a Better Future” was the first of its kind that introduced an integrated approach for rehabilitation of probationers, former prisoners and other risk groups in Shida Kartli at one contact point.
The project “Step by Step” is being implemented by, HILFSWERK Austria International, together with its partner organization, IDP Women Association “Consent”, in close cooperation with the, National Probation Agency, the Probation Bureau of Shida Kartli and with the Center for Crime Prevention.
1. Vocational training courses: In the framework of the project the building of the Integration and Training Center in Gori was refurbished and equipped with new tools and furniture to fully satisfy the training needs of the various professions. In June 2014 the first courses for the three different specializations—furniture assembler, electric welder and business (office) management - started. The curricula were developed by a multi-disciplinary trainer team in close cooperation with Hilfswerk Austria International, the National Probation Agency and the Crime Prevention Center. Each course lasted for two months and during the studying process participants were provided with medical insurance, transportation and dinner free of charge. In total 6 training cycles were offered over the period of one year.
2. Trainings on vital skills: Each training participant, along with studying his/her chosen specialization, obligatorily had to attend computer classes and trainings on the following topics: effective written and oral communication, elementary mathematics, teamwork, life and social skills, job finding techniques. Abovementioned trainings on vital skills were helping participants to obtain required knowledge and skills to make them more competitive on the labor market. The participants also had an opportunity to visit different public or private institutions located in Gori and attend English language classes.
3. Social, psychological and legal counseling individually and in groups. Next to professional and life skills training, each participant obligatorily attended consultation sessions with a psychologist and a social worker. The complementary involvement of these specialists was one of the success factors of the project that significantly contributed to a comprehensive reintegration of the beneficiaries.
The complementary involvement of these specialists was one of the success factors of the project that significantly contributed to a comprehensive reintegration of the beneficiaries.
The project social workers and the psychologist assessed the risks and needs of each beneficiary, which means revealing circumstances relating to the person’s criminal career, economic condition, educational background, values, social situation, etc by means of interviewing (special forms and questionnaires were provided by Austrian experts). Based on the revealed information a support plan for each specific beneficiary was developed where concrete steps and interventions for the work with the beneficiary were planned (individually and in groups). Upon need, consultation with a lawyer was also organized for the beneficiaries. In the framework of the project, social workers and the psychologist regularly were arranging meetings with the social workers and psychologists of the National Probation Agency’s bureau of Shida Kartli, for joint discussion about the cases of probationers involved in the project and joint definition of future steps for working with the beneficiaries
4. Support in job hunting: Finding a job and making a living on one’s own is crucial for the successful and sustainable reintegration and resocialization of risk groups, probationers, former prisoners, their family members and people who suffered from conflicts. For this reason, beneficiaries were trained in job searching techniques: where to obtain relevant information from, how and where to find a job, how to prepare a resume and a motivation letter, how to act during the job interview, etc. After the trainings, social workers supported beneficiaries in searching for vacancies and preparing their applications. Beneficiaries were also registered on worknet.gov.ge, a platform offered by the Employment Agency for unemployed and job-seekers. Thanks to these measures, 71 beneficiaries found a job during the project and 55 of them are still working upon project closure. The project participants are employed both in private institutions or are running their own businesses. Some of them are working in the field of specialization they learned during the project.
5. Mentorship program by trained volunteers: A mentor is a person who supports and helps another person to develop one’s personal skills and potential to lead a balanced and meaningful life. Inspired by the example of Austria, where voluntary mentors, ordinary citizens, have been working effectively with probationers and former inmates for years, the mentorship concept has been introduced for the first time in Shida Kartli – and achieved unexpected success. During his/her activates a mentor was establishing an informal (friendly) relationship with the mentee and keeping regular contact with him/her: He/she supported the mentee in looking for a job, preparing documents, discussing with the beneficiary his/her interests and hobbies, also fears and expectations, and was motivating this person to participate in different activities and programmes offered by various institutions. Each mentor received a small allowance per month to be used for meetings and communication with his/her mentee and common leisure activities. Furthermore, monthly team meeting with the project social works, the psychologist and other mentors was organized to allow for mutual exchange. All mentors were awarded a certificate upon project closure.
6. Small Grants Programme: Another component of the project to help beneficiaries improve their socio-economic situation and contribute to their self-realizations and reintegration into society was the award of small grants to selected applicants, i.e. means by which they could start their own small business or extend and improve an existing small enterprise.
All graduates from the vocational training program were invited to apply for this programme. Out of 57 applications received, 33 persons were selected to participate in a preparatory course on “Business Plan Development” and subsequent counselling on their individual business ideas. Finally, an independent Evaluation Committee selected 23 grant applications. Out of those, two group projects and 21 individual projects were funded.
The total budget of the Small Grants Programme amounted to 16.000 EUR, the amount of each grant varied between 300 -2.000 EUR. Contribution from each candidate to the planned business project (in cash or in kind) was encouraged.
Project results: During the 27 months of project implementation, 149 persons used our service; 122 persons (81% male, 19% female) completed the training programs and were awarded certificates ather successfully passing final examination. This indicates a very low drop-out rate – 82% who started the training courses also successfully finished it. Among the graduates 49 persons were probationers, 9 persons were former inmates and 65 were from the so-called risk group. The later refers to persons who live near the administrative border line and those who are family members of former prisoners.
All graduates from the vocational training program were invited to apply for this programe. Out of 57 applications received, 33 persons were selected to participate in a preparatory course on “Business Plan Development” and subsequent counselling on their individual business ideas. Finally, an independent Evaluation Commitee selected 23 grant applications. Out of those, two group projects and 21 individual projects were funded.
Beneficiaries of the project:
Socially vulnerable groups of Shida Qartli, e.g. former inmates, probationers, their family members, IDPs, and young delinquents
HILFSWERK Austria International and IDP Women Association “Consent” (იძულებით გადაადგილებულ ქალთა ასოციაცია “თანხმობა”)
Shida Kartli region
What people say
"The importance of the project was that persons were given a chance to restore their dignity. Our team of project staff and volunteers-mentors showed to the beneficiaries that there are people whocare about them out of good will. This way, trust-relationships could be established that positively influenced participants" motivation and openness for the offered integrated services. In addition ,the mentorship program that matched ordinary Georgian citizens with people at risk demonstrated that reintegration is possible, if vulnerable groups are offered a helping hand by society."
Nicole Maria bauer, Project manager