By Nora Peter, IFRC

Graffiti on the wall, trees and old furniture in the courtyard – this is how a youth community centre looks like in the city of Gori. The centre, established by the Georgia Red Cross, was designed and is being run by the young people who actually use it.

More than 1,500 young people between the ages of 15 and 30 settled in Gori after they were forced to leave their homes due to prolonged conflicts in South Ossetia. Many of these internally displaced youth struggle to adapt to their new environment, but a Youth Resilience Programme developed by the Georgia Red Cross is now helping them to integrate and feel at home.

A key component of the programme has been the establishment of a new youth community centre. While kickstarted by the Georgia Red Cross, the youngsters got free rein to design the building from the inside out.

Urban gardening designer Nina Shvangiradze and graffiti artist Miro advised on the decoration, and with their inspiration and support the youth could imagine their very own community space.

Volunteers then set out to implement the plans with tools and materials provided by the Georgia Red Cross. The renovation work lasted for several months, with around 250 people involved.

The community house now hosts several activities each week, such as movie screenings, sports events and art performances. Groups led by a teacher or mentor take turns in using and maintaining the facility.

A home away from home

Programme coordinator Mariam Bekuridze says: “When they left their homes, these young people had to leave everything behind: their city, school, friends, and sometimes their family.

“We want to support them in establishing a new life and making social connections. This youth centre was created not just for them, but by them, exactly how they wanted it to be.”

This experience motivated some of the displaced young people to join the Georgia Red Cross and become volunteers. A three-day Youth Innovation Camp was organized for them, where they received training in leadership, volunteer management and psychosocial support.

“The community club is full of life all year round. Our youth volunteers organize all kinds of events you can image, from photo and video marathon to kite competition,” says Mariam. “We are glad to see both groups get along so well, it can be the start of something great for them together.”