Urbex at Space Monkeys Institute

Interesting visit in abandoned laboratory complex situated somewhere in the disputed territory and partially recognized state of Abkhazia located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus.The Institute is widely believed to have been the the home of a freakish Stalin-era experiment in inseminating female monkeys with human sperm, with the aim of creating a strong-bodied, weak-brained subcaste to help build the glorious Soviet future. The Institute has fallen on hard times but hopes for a revival based on participation in Russia’s Mars-500 project, which is preparing for possible future Mars expeditions. Few quick shots could barely grasp the volume of such a place!

 

Youth Without Borders: Creative writing and photography exhibition at Caucasian House

On 19 July the final exhibition of our project on Creative Writing and Photography, result of the previous workshop sessions given in the Skra and Shaumiani IDP settlements, took place at Caucasian House. All the results of the children’s remarkable efforts were presented.

IMG_4978Youth Without Borders program
What is it?

Youth Without Borders is a project funded by the Ministry of Youth and Sport whose aim is empowering young Internally Displaced People (IDP). The aim of the project is to empower young people of this sector of the Georgian society, by giving them the resources needed to make them feel as an important part of the active citizenship. Active citizenship is the strategy that brings a change in the society through a constructive social action developed by young leaders and those encouraged to keep on playing a big role in the decision making process of their communities.

How it started…

IMG_4941‘’We are Ioanna Sakellaraki from Greece and Alice Cretin from France, EVS volunteers at Youth Association DRONI and we would like to share our story with you. It started with our strong interest to get involved into local community life and our consequent motivation to work with and for local people in the field. The IDP camps of Skra and Shaumiani became our home for two weeks and our project with the children defined a step-by-step learning process and experience sharing from both sides.’’

These series of workshop are part of Youth Without Borders program and took place in two different IDP settlements in Georgia; Skra IDP settlement near Gori and Shaumiani IDP settlement near Marneuli. The workshops focused on creative writing and photography as tools for self- discovery, expression and sharing with others. The main goal of the workshops was to make the connection between speech and image as means of self- representation and self- expression.

IMG_5100The workshops took place in Skra IDP settlement from June2 –June 6 and in Shaumiani IDP settlement from 16 June- 20 June. We had more than 15 participants between 13-19 years old of both genders. Most of the teenagers were also living in the settlement itself as we actually did; we all stayed for five days in one of the settlement houses experiencing the life of the local people. Our team consisted of Ioanna Sakellaraki and Alice Cretin, two EVS volunteers, plus five DRONI local volunteers; Giorgi Kavtaradze, Tamara Ugrekhelidze and Irakli Tirkia in Skra IDP settlement and Eka Abalaki and Mariam Diakonidze in Shaumiani IDP

Having already realized part of our EVS project at Tbilisi Sea School, we were aware of the fact that IDP communities are very diversified between them and we should not consider them as one unified entity but rather look deep inside the differences that identify them and try to establish a common understanding. As we met few challenges on the way, we finally managed to gain the trust of children and collaborate with them in many creative ways whilst learning with and from them. Finally, participants were provided with a great opportunity to unlock their full potential during the workshops and some remarkable results of this effort were presented at the final exhibition at Caucasian House!

IMG_5039As children had been more than motivated full of positive energy and creativity, it had been great to spend these two weeks at Skra and Shaumiani and we are very thankful for the collaboration of students and volunteers for the results of these workshops sessions and the exhibition! We would like to thank all the participants of this project as well as the volunteers who assisted us throughout the whole process and the Youth in Action Program which gives every day the opportunity to young people to work with local communities and bridge up their knowledge and understanding of the world around them while collaborating with young people!

Stalin’s Rope Roads in Chiatura

Even if the cable cars of the Georgian mining town of Chiatura date back to 1954 and the Soviet era, they are still used today and are considered the quickest way to get around. With more 25 cable cars lines named as “Kanatnaya Doroga,” or “rope road,” these Soviet-era aerial tramways connect almost every corner of the town.  Today, while some of the cars have rusted away, 17 of the aging tramways remain in service. We got to have a cool ride up there!

First workshop session at Skra IDP settlement

IMG_3929 We started on a Monday morning the five of us from Tbilisi on our way to Skra IDP settlement just after Gori.  Our team consisted of Alice and I, two EVS-ers,  plus three DRONI local volunteers; Giorgi, Tamara and Irakli. We were all more than motivated to start with our Photography and Creative Writing Workshops which took place at the Youth Center of the Skra IDP settlement during the five following days.

Our workshop is part of Youth Without Borders program and it takes place in three different IDP settlements in Georgia. It focuses on creative writing and photography as tools for self- discovery, expression and sharing with others. The main goal of this workshop is to make the connection between speech and image as means of self- representation and self- expression.

The first session took place at Skra IDP settlement. We had more than 15 participants between 13-19 years old, mostly girls. Most of the teenagers were also living in the settlement itself as we actually did; the five of us stayed for five days in one of the settlement houses experiencing the life of the local people.

IMG_4040The structure of the workshop was divided in five stages. We tried to go deeper into each stage throughout the five days we stayed at Skra. At the first stage of Day 1 we tried to introduce the concepts of creative writing and photography via educational games such as the Literary phone during which children write a story all together by using keywords given. The second focus point of this day was the Inspiring photos session during which children choose a photo and have to link it to their personality and interests. A last wrap up session about more structured info on photography and creative writing was necessary for making the link between informal and formal ways of learning. An open air cinema activity ended the day with fun.

On Day 2 we went more in depth and action by asking children to write a story about a memory by choosing one of the various objects we had on the table and then go out in the settlement fields and make a photo related to their story. Some very impressive results inspired by the photo prezi presentation we had just given before were showed here. Outdoor sport games helped us finish the day with energy and fun.

IMG_3700On Day 3 children were asked to write about an emotion that was randomly given to them without stating what it is; therefore describe it without saying it. Various emotions and interesting definitions were the result of this writing exercise and the photography exercise that followed made it even better. Children went out in the fields and read their stories to each other in couples. Then the person hearing the story had to guess the feeling and make a facial expression representing it for the other person of the pair to make his/her portrait. A last wrap up session of collecting stories and photos and discussing about them followed. Evening activities included the photography exercise of a person with his/her favourite object and the sharing of the story behind it. In many cases the object became part of the group entertainment as most of them were traditional instruments etc.

On Day 4 we had our last creative writing exercise named This I believe in. Children had to write about a value or belief they have and accompany their story with a photo inspiring for them. Family, religion and friendship were some of the main elements included in stories and photos children made varied a lot. For example god was represented by a windy landscape or a holy symbol etc. Our goodbye party took place by the end of this day.

IMG_3720On Day 5 we had an extensive discussion and evaluation of the whole workshop and a last theatrical play named Raising Voices of the kids making their own characters and presenting them on stage in couples. As children had been more than motivated full of positive energy and creativity, it had been great to spend one week at Skra and tomorrow we have the second round of our workshops for five days at Shaumiani IDP settlement. Looking forward to it!