Building camaraderie amongst youth from Georgia and other countries

International youth group visits Illia Chavchavadze’s home; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Story and photos by Susanna Melo

Tamuna Gogatishvili, IWA member, recently organized a day tour to Saguramo (near Mtskheta). The purpose of the tour was two-fold: 1) to integrate her Georgian students, who are studying English, with young people of different nationalities in order to build camaraderie and 2) to offer an educational experience by visiting one of Georgia’s well known sites: Ilia Chachavadze’s home, which is now a museum. Adults were also present during the outing. Four lovely Georgian mothers, along with Tamuna, worked until the wee hours of the morning to prepare a table full of tasty Georgian dishes for the hungry crowd!

The day began with beautiful weather (despite the forecast for rain). After a 40-minute bus ride, the fun began. In the lush vegetation surrounding the museum, IWA member Kirstin Muller conducted several ice-breaking exercises. Through multiple group dynamic activities, we quickly learned everyone’s name and from then on relating to each other became easier.

As part of the learning experience, the large group was divided into smaller units; each received a list of questions about Ilia Chavchavadze’s life. The answers could be obtained if you listened carefully during the guided tour of the museum, or if you were observant, or if you asked the right questions. At the end of the day, a selected group of participants judged which group had the best responses.

If you’re not already familiar with Ilia’s life, then here are a few important facts. He was born in 1837 and 50 years later was canonized as Saint Ilia the Righteous by the Georgian Orthodox Church due to his role as writer, poet, journalist and lawyer who spearheaded the revival of the Georgian national movement in the second half of the 19th century during the Russian rule of Georgia. Today he is recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern Georgia.

By late afternoon, a torrential rain fell upon us, but the group didn’t mind being crowded on the small porch of Ilia’s house, which offered us protection. By that time, the initial feeling of unease, when you don’t know members of group that come together for the first time, had been well washed away.

Tamuna’s tour was a success as her objectives were met: getting to know one another breaks down barriers and creates communion, and what better way of doing this than through an educational experience. I, at least, got to visit a new place in Georgia and learn about a prominent Georgian figure I knew nothing about. Thank you, Tamuna!

Kirstin Muller (left) and Tamuna Gogatishvili were group leaders; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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