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UNHCR computer centres offer education, jobs and a future in Georgia

Making a Difference, 1 October 2010

© UNHCR/S.Mtskeradze
Two young women working in one of the UNHCR-funded computer centres in Georgia.

TBILISI, Georgia, October 1 (UNHCR) UNHCR-funded computer centres in Georgia are helping thousands of refugees and internally displaced people to improve their knowledge, gain valuable qualifications and find jobs.

Credit is due to the Community Technology Access (CTA) programme, which was launched by UNHCR and its corporate partners, Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers, in 2009 in Bangladesh and Rwanda.

The project came to Georgia last January, when a first UNHCR-funded computer centre was opened at the Karaleti settlement for displaced Georgians in the Shida Kartli area, which borders the breakaway region of South Osettia. Eight more centres have been opened in Shida Kartli as well as two in north-east Georgia's Pankisi Gorge to serve hundreds of Chechen refugees.

The benefits have been quick in coming. Mari Tatishvili, who fled her home in South Ossetia in 2008, took part in the first CTA course, "I was an economist-stroke-accountant, but I was not IT [information technology] literate, and couldn't find a job," she noted. "Thanks to CTA, I can now use a computer and my self-confidence has increased. Now I have a job as a cashier [in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi] and I am really happy."

Others have found the CTA computers to be invaluable education tools. "Having access to the Internet means I can stay up-to-date with new information and pass it on to my students," said primary teacher Sophio Melquoshvili, who also fled from South Ossetia in 2008 and now teaches in a primary school in the town of Rekha, Shida Kartli.

Chechen refugees living in the Pankisi Gorge are also happy with the two UNHCR-funded CTA centres opened earlier this year in the towns of Duisi and Omalo. Run by the Kakheti Regional Development Foundation, the computer centres serve the 800 refugees who live in the Pankisi Gorge and are rebuilding their lives with support from UNHCR and its partners.

Refugee Visuri Margoshvili has used the CTA centre to brush up on the computer skills he learned at university. "The CTA programme helped refresh my knowledge and I also learnt some new things. Now I can even teach others," the secondary school teacher said in Duisi.

The CTA programmes in both the Shida Kartli region, where some 4,200 internally displaced people live, and the Pankisi Gorge has also been warmly welcomed by the local administrative and educational authorities.

Shida Kartli Deputy Governor Giorgi Avaliani thanked UNHCR for its key role in creating the centres and helping the IDPs in his region. "I am sure that new technologies, and access to those technologies, will change their daily lives," he said.

But needy members of the local communities are also happy because they are able to use the computers, a valuable right at a time of economic hardship and high unemployment.

Teacher Iulia Iashova is one local who has benefitted from the programme. She took information technology (IT) courses at the Community Technology Access centre in Shida Kartli's Kaspi district. It proved invaluable, as she explained: "Teachers must give 18 lessons a week to get a full salary, but I didn't know enough subjects. Now I am eligible to teach IT to children and can complete my 18 lessons a week."

Meanwhile, UNHCR earlier this month expanded the CTA programme to neighbouring Azerbaijan, opening a new computer centre in the northern city of Gabala. The centre will be run by the Regional NGOs Resource and Training Centre in Gabala and is expected to train 50 young people a month to become computer literate and thus boost their employment chances. The centre hosts 15 fully equipped workstations available for internally displaced people in the region and their host community.

By Liene Veide in Tbilisi, Georgia




UNHCR country pages

Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

Working with local partners, UNHCR is now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and the refugee agency is monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which numbered some 115,000 on August 14.

Posted on 15 August 2008

Displacement in Georgia

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

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Suad's Story

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2009 Clinton Global Initiative Commitment: CTA Programme Progress Report Play video

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The annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative: a progress report on the Community Technology Access programme.