Volume 12, No. 3
Winter 2009
Small Blessings Provide Big Impact for Georgians Recovering from War
Manana and her mother received IOCC intern Ryan Erickson with a cake made from flour and sugar from IOCC supplies. Even in the aftermath of war, Georgians retain their legendary hospitality. (Photo credit: R. Erickson/IOCC Georgia)
Dirbi, Georgia — It's a pleasant evening in Dirbi. A brief thunder storm has washed away the muggy heat. As the sun sets, Manana, 49, sits in her yard, watching the water buffalo make their way from the pastures into this rural farming village in the Shida Kartli region of Georgia.

Behind its idyllic fa├žade, Dirbi is still struggling to recover from the events of summer 2008. On the evening of August 7, Manana, her husband and two sons, and the nearly 3,000 other residents of Dirbi watched with horror as war broke out in nearby South Ossetia. Three days later, the bombs began to fall on Dirbi. Those that hadn't evacuated – the elderly, men and women without young children – took refuge where they could. One resident still lost his life.

More than a year since the war ended, the residents of Dirbi – now located on the "frontier" of Georgian-controlled territory – still fear for their safety. Every cross-border incident renews fears that war will come again. But the greater worry is how to provide for one's family. Quality pasture is in short supply. Water that once irrigated their crops has now been diverted by the South Ossetians. Cross-border trade is not even dreamed of. Other than the school teachers and medical professionals, no one has a salaried job.

"We're hanging on to thin air," says Manana who is receiving food kits from IOCC through its partnership with the World Food Programme. Dirbi is one of 28 conflict-affected villages where IOCC is distributing food to about 35,000 individuals.

Though dependent on food aid, Dirbi's war survivors still have a certain dignity. During my first visit to Georgia two years ago, I became familiar with the famous Georgian hospitality – food, wine and lots of it. But when I returned to Georgia this summer, I did not think the same generosity would be possible in the war's aftermath.

I was greatly surprised when Manana brought out a simple cake made with the very flour and sugar IOCC had provided. I tried to refuse because I knew how small their flour ration was, but it was no use. For Manana, the simple act of feeding a guest helped to bring some normalcy back to life.

My three-month internship with IOCC marked my third visit to Georgia. With each visit, I gain a deeper appreciation for this warm, generous people and fascinating culture. This summer I was able for the first time to give back in some small way to this country that has given me so much, and I thank IOCC sincerely for having provided me with this opportunity.

by Ryan Erickson
Intern, IOCC Georgia


Ryan Erickson was IOCC's 2009 intern for Georgia. Ryan had the opportunity to see firsthand the operations of a humanitarian aid organization as it implemented both emergency relief and long term development programs. IOCC interns perform a number of tasks including monitoring and evaluating projects, interviewing beneficiaries, conducting needs assessments, and assisting in proposal development. IOCC anticipates offering internships in 2010 in the Middle East, Africa and the Caucuses, however internship locations are subject to change. IOCC internships require a 10 to 12 week full-time commitment. For more information, please submit inquiries to relief@iocc.org, with "IOCC Internship Program" in the subject line.

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In This Issue

After War's Devastation, IOCC Helps Refugees Rebuild Their Lives

Message from the Executive Director

Small Blessings Provide Big Impact for Georgians Recovering from War

IOCC and Orthodox Church Reach Uganda's Youth

IOCC Partnering to Give Children in U.S. a Head Start

New Grant Broadens Romanian Orthodox Church's Social Service

IOCC Volunteer Highlight: Anne Pourakis Alexandrou

The Will To Help

Donated Cars Still A Vehicle For Change

Become an IOCC Parish Representative

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