Georgia

Village members in Georgia rebuild bridges, hope

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Residents in Tsira come together to improve their village
Tsira is an Armenian village located in the Akhaltsikhe district in eastern Georgia. It has around 500 people including several Georgian and Greek families living together in peace. Long-time residents take pride in the fact that the village has always had a high level of community participation - trying to solve problems such as fixing the roads and undertaking construction on its own.

The village first heard about Mercy Corps' East Georgia Community Mobilization Initiative from neighboring villages. Even before it met with Mercy Corps staff, the whole community was mobilized to improve their village. Community members held a village meeting where several priorities were identified. The most important problem was the rehabilitation of the drinking water system - the village had an insufficient water supply that was polluted and was a threat for the health of the people.

Members of the village studied the problem thoroughly and looked at different ways to solve it. Only then did they go to the regional Mercy Corps office in Akhaltsikhe to see if they could get funding for the project. After that it took them a very short time to write the whole project and its budget. After the approval of the project, everyone, including women and children, became involved in its implementation. Even though most of the men were away on seasonal work, with a big communal effort the village still managed to repair two kilometers of pipes in a couple days and set up a internal water network that now provides clean drinking water to every neighborhood of the three villages - Tsira, Eliatsminda and Miketsminda.

After the successful implementation of the first phase, the village was planning to rehabilitate a school building. However, priorities had to be changed, when the river flooded and destroyed the bridge. This left the population of four villages, more than 4,000 people, without a road to Akhaltsikhe where most of the population worked and studied. The damage to the bridge also caused many accidents.

Many people got involved in project implementation with their usual dedication. The tasks were divided; excavators and tractors swung into action. The chairman of the Community Initiative Group (CIG), Mr. Vagan Serofian, said that the project created a real happiness and gratitude among people. Apart from restoring the bridge and protecting it against the threat of future floods, people have shown their capabilities and regained their hope.

As a result of this successful project, community members have begun to believe further in their own strength and try to solve local problems in close cooperation with the local government.

Launched in September 2000, the East Georgia Community Mobilization Initiative is a four-year umbrella grant program funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). With community mobilization as its primary goal, Mercy Corps awards grants to local groups and non-governmental organizations for projects such as winterization of homes, health care, education, local economic development, environmental protection, human rights advocacy, and activities that support the role of women and build bridges among diverse communities.

Mercy Corps exists to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. Since 1979, Mercy Corps has provided over $640 million in assistance to 74 nations. The agency's programs currently reach 5 million people in more than 30 countries, including the United States. For more information, see www.mercycorps.org.