I need your help. Seriously.

You’d think that after working in fundraising for seven years, I’d be more comfortable with asking for money. But I’m not. I know that people have their own priorities, needs, and desires when it comes to spending their cash. And I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with trying to persuade people why they should give their money to this or that cause.

But this time it feels a little different. While my organization is raising money for a very specific, important project (which is described below), we are also trying to achieve a very challenging goal. Our goal is to raise $5000 from at least 40 donors in the month of December. Really, we need to raise $5760. But $5000 will help us achieve at least one part of our goal. Either way, it is a tall order. But if we succeed, my organization will be able to fundraise through the globalgiving.org site on an ongoing basis which would be a huge benefit for us. I’m the second volunteer in a row that they have had. I leave in June. The chances of them getting another volunteer for next year are pretty slim. If they can successfully complete this challenge, it will be okay that they don’t have a Peace Corps volunteer to help them fundraise because they will be able to do it themselves. Georgian organizations largely depend on international donor organizations for their funding. But my organization has been very forward thinking in trying to diversify their support base. Ongoing access to the globalgiving.org community would be a huge opportunity for them.

So, today, I’m asking you to help my organization realize this opportunity. Honestly, I know that most of my friends and family don’t have the ability to make the big gifts. The one’s that will get us to our total dollar goal. But you all have the ability to give $10 or more to help us reach our goal of at least 40 donors. Please consider doing so. It would mean a lot to me and it would make a big difference for the future of my organization.

So, I know I haven’t talked about what exactly we are raising money for. It isn’t because it isn’t important. It is very important. But for me, as I see my time here winding up, I want to be able to help ensure that they are able to find support in the future. Thus my focus on the big picture challenge portion. But rest assured, my organization is actually focused on the benefits of the project which will have an impact on 52 children with disabilities in my region of Georgia. So here are the details.

The Project:

KEDEC, my organization, administers three day care centers in the Imereti region of Georgia. The day care centers support the individual development of children with various types of disabilities (ages 6-18) and promotes their participation in public life. The children are involved in educational and cognitive activities, which help improve their social, communication, functional and life skills.

Through these daycare centers, KEDEC serves a total of 52 children with disabilities, who come from low-income families and/or live in rural regions of the country. The children’s lack of learning and physical abilities has a direct effect on their socialization skills. Special education teachers are tackling this problem by providing integrated and inclusive programs for the children. However, the day care centers lack an adaptive infrastructure and environment that could help children develop essential sensory integration skills.

Thus, through this campaign, we are raising $5760 to purchase a portable sensory room that will provide a multi-sensory environment which can provide this interactive stimulation. The sensory room is designed to develop children’s senses, through special lighting, music, and objects. Purchasing a portable sensory room will allow us to provide this type of therapy to all 52 children at our day care centers, further developing their sensory and communication skills and helping them better integrate into society. The portable sensory room will be used in active programs, where cause and effect understanding, concentration and memory abilities can be developed in a fun, focused environment.

The goal of raising $5760 is a high one for us. And raising it in only one month is even more challenging. The project is worth it and will have a huge impact on the lives of the children at our day care centers. In addition, you will be helping KEDEC tap into a resource that will help maintain and develop the day care centers for years to come.

Help us make this happen. Give what you can anytime from December 1-31. We really need your help. And if you are so inclined, please share the link with your friends and family. Every gift counts.


Where Does the Time Go?

It has been quite a while since I have written (again). This time it is mostly because life has slipped into a routine and, frankly, blogging isn’t really a part of that routine right now. I hope to change that if only for posterity’s sake. Hopefully, weekend afternoons at the Foe Foe teahouse, my new favorite place in all of Georgia, will help. In general, Georgian businesses don’t pay a great deal of attention to atmosphere or ambiance. The teahouse is, therefore, an anomaly. It is an architecturally dramatic space, which they have done an incredible job of decorating with mix and match tables and chairs, rugs, and artwork. In addition, for the price of a 4 GEL ($2.50) pot of tea, I can sit for hours, soaking in this ambience, while I read or work. It has quickly become a highlight of my week. It took coming to a developing country for me to realize (admit?) that I have indeed developed an affinity for the finer things in life. Beautiful things make me immensely happy. Atmosphere is everything.

So, life here has settled into a rhythm. I work everyday from approximately 11 to 7 (which really are the perfect hours for me). I’m now teaching a conversational English course on Tuesdays which may split into two, meaning a class on Thursdays as well. I’ve been doing some research on our social enterprise to figure out exactly where we are at with it and what next steps are. My organization sells handmade cards with quilling (like this). We employee socially vulnerable people to craft these cards. So, through this endeavor we are employing those who would otherwise struggle for work. And, once we break even on the venture, the proceeds will go to support our day care centers for disabled children. However, reaching the break even point is going to be a challenge. Turns out, getting them into stores isn’t the difficulty, getting people to buy them is. Georgians are not really a card giving country. Add to that the fact that there is not really a functional postal service here and you are left wondering why would anyone spend 2 GEL on a beautiful handmade card. I’ve got some ideas for finding a market (tourists), but we have to make it happen. So, that’s one project I’m working on. I’ve also joined the committee for GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) which is an international Peace Corps initiative which results in two weeks of leadership and empowerment summer camps for teenage girls. As my organization doesn’t really do any direct work on women’s issues, I was really excited to get involved with this because, in my opinion, this country needs as many empowered women as it can get.

Other things of note since I wrote last: I attended a PC project development and management training with my counterpart Tako. It was particularly great to see her get so excited about planning and executing projects. It was a real professional development opportunity for her and she has a lot of motivation to make the most of it. I followed that with my first weekend in Tbilisi, the capital. Old Tbilisi is really beautiful. Since then, I’ve been enjoying the fall in Kutaisi doing a little local sightseeing. The weather has been warm for the most part which makes me happy. I do worry about how cold I’ll be in the winter. It doesn’t get terribly cold in Kutaisi, but indoor heat is not so great here by American standards. So, I anticipate breaking out the thermal underwear soon and wearing it on a daily basis.

Last weekend, I visited my host family from training in Khashuri. I’ve actually caught myself saying that I went “home” a few times, which says a lot about how I feel about my PST host family. It was really nice to see them. It is a little glimpse of the non-urban Georgian life. My life in Georgia is drastically different than many of my fellow PCVs here. Some live in tiny villages with a couple hundred people, an outhouse, and only a wood stove for heat. My life is quite posh in comparison. I have most of the modern amenities at home and I can walk to a teahouse and stop off for shwarma on the way. There are up sides and down sides to both experiences. Sometimes I do find myself wishing I had a more “real” Peace Corps experience. My language skills would be much better and I would be more integrated into the community, both by necessity. My current experience is a little bit more of an expat experience. But, you know, both would be new for me. And a new experience was one of the big things I was after here. Ann, my site mate and I, have also enjoyed hanging out with our friend Nicola, an Italian international development worker living in the area now. He has a home with a great kitchen. We’ve begun having semi-regular dinner nights at his house which involve cooking great meals and drinking great wine. I’ve really missed cooking. So this has been a really positive addition to my life.

And lastly, I’ve begun the countdown to my first and, likely, only trip to the States during my service. I bit the bullet and bought a ticket home for Christmas. I’ll spend part of the time in Houston visiting my boyfriend and then some as yet undetermined time in Indiana with my family. I leave in 56 days (but who’s counting :-)). On the way to Houston, I will spend 2.5 days in Istanbul which I’m also really excited about.

Between now and then, there are many other things to look forward to. One is a Halloween celebration next weekend which Ann and Lady are planning which will involve a citywide scavenger hunt and assassins game with PCVs, other expats, and Georgians. It should be a ton of fun. Then in late November, we have another conference with all of the PCVs where we will get to celebrate Thanksgiving together. I’ve volunteered for the Thanksgiving committee which means I’ll get to help plan the Thanksgiving meal for over 100 guests including the American Ambassador and his family. And Nicola has offered his house to make Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving. So, I’ll get to celebrate Thanksgiving twice this year which is awesome as it is my favorite holiday.

Earlier this week the G13s celebrated our 6 month anniversary in Georgia. Life is pretty good. The time is flying by. Here are a few photos from the past month and a half.