I am Beka Umarashvili, first year student of Tbilisi State University, the faculty of biotechnology and biochemistry. Also I am a former student of the Roddy Scott Foundation which is financing by the McLain Association for Children. It is an English teaching center operating in Pankisi Gorge. The center strongly encourages the Pankisi youth to learn modern language. I used to learn English here for couple of years and I still I keep in touch with them. One of the organizations who support RSF is the U.S Embassy in Tbilisi. They fund lots of projects of RSF and helps them for professional development. Therefore, the RSF has a strong relationship with the U.S Embassy. Last year the U.S Embassy offered The RSF to choose the youth for a certain project it was Youth leadership and engagement in the U.S, so I as one of the participants travelled to U.S on the 28th of January. Our program officially started in Washington DC. I will tell you briefly about my trip in the U.S. All of the meetings were strongly timetabled. Of course all the meetings were about the youth and their lives. Some of the meetings concerned the U.S federalism and we met the main structures of the U.S governmental system such as the Center of Peacebuilding and Countering Violent Extremism, Bureau of European and Eurasian Issues. We learned the ways how the U.S government overcomes their vital problems and shared the methods that we use in Georgia. We also discussed our problems in Georgia but especially in Pankisi Valley, what kind of problems do the youth face , and how we can deal with them. We also had meetings with political organizations who encourage the young women to be involved in politics and equalize themselves with other strong men in politics to break the stereotype that women are less strong than men. Some meetings concerned also terrorism in the U.S., what kind of people commit terroristic acts and how the government solves the problems. All of the information was precious for us. Besides this we had spare time to explore the cultural places and attend the cultural festivals. We also had home hospitality to get acquainted with local people’s life in America. In other states the meetings were focused on different issues like youth problems, illegals, homelessness, politics and fundraising organizations. We were able to get familiar with those issues and realize the situation. We met lots of fundraising organizations who help the low-income families and their children to get education, apply for a job, get involved in community. There were different organizations that were trying to help the youth to do what they want, like doing art, music instead of standing in a street and consuming drugs. There were also interfaith community shelters for people to stay for t whole nights, We were allowed to explore such kind of buildings. Also shelters for youth to avoid domestic violence. in that shelter they had facilities to learn and enjoy in free time. In Santa Fe we saw the place surrounded by the mountains. The buildings were in a different style, and life was different here. People were very kind and they were very hospitable. We also met Native Americans, as an ethnic but indigenous American minority like us, we talked with them and heard a lot advice. We also introduced ourselves. Finally, the last days before we left we had some special meetings with prisoners who had set up an organization called LUCK and they help prisoners who recently got out from the prison to get back to society as a member. To find jobs and give an example to others to be successful after the hard period in their life. It was a good experience. My trip in America was quite important for me as a young person
I was able to acquaint with another nation, their culture, social and political life and to use the experience that I received by the project to improve youth civic engagement in Pankisi Valley and also to enrich my professional skills and experience.
Thanks, McLean Association for Children, the U.S embassy, RSF and other people who gave us this amazing opportunity.