Youth Bank launches in Abkhazia
Gali is a place not many people have heard of. It lies just over the administrative line in Abkhazia, on the border of Georgia and is the very latest region to embrace the YouthBank concept.
Once one of the most economically important areas of the Soviet era, it now offers a bleak existence for the Mingrelian Georgians.
The region, with it’s scattering of remote villages, is unloved and undeveloped. Many of its citizens grind out an existence for meagre resources with few means to transform their circumstances.
Despite this, two YouthBanks are now in place in the region and a further three further north in the Abkhaz settled regions. 35 young ethnic Abkhaz and Mingrelain Georgians came together in Pitsunda in late April 2012 to learn how to set up their own YouthBanks.
In whatever cultural setting, the purpose of Youth Bank is to support young people’s decision-making in the allocation of funding to youth-led projects.
There was great interest in what was happening beyond their own borders; how young people learned non-traditional skills in Slovakia, the construction of children’s community playgrounds in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or the art of decision-making in the villages of Svaneti, Georgia.
One of the most provocative and illuminating workshops was on the issue of fairness and justice.
In a series of questions designed to seek personal opinions, YouthBank participants were confronted by scenarios exposing their fragile comfort zones when dealing with each other.
The outcomes were interesting and an exacting reminder of the importance to preview, review and provide the bigger picture to all participants before introducing more steps of the YouthBank process.
Participants learned everything you do and say even when translated sends a message about what you want, what you care about, and whether supporting you will be worthwhile.
When thinking about leadership, the participants talked about their heroes and the main characteristics of leadership.
Vernon Ringland, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s YouthBank Co-Ordinator, said: “We are really excited to see YouthBank expand and grown into areas that are traditionally forgotten about.
“Despite, and perhaps because of, their precarious diplomatic status, regions such as Abkhazia have a real need for programmes such as YouthBank as it gives young people structure and avenues to learn new skills.
“We have seen YouthBank work in culturally divided areas all across the world and there is every reason to believe Abkhazia will be the latest success story.
“The local partner, Alert and The Eurasia Partnership Foundation have very real challenges ahead to embed the YouthBank approach and we will provide mentoring support to the local Coordinator, based in Gali, to translate the ideas into action”.