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November 2017
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Religious Youth Service

Religious Youth Service in Georgia Promotes South Caucasus Peace

Zugdidi, Georgia - The Religious Youth Service project "Peace in South Caucasus: Unity through Actions of Love and Service" was held July 16 to 25 at Zugdidi, a city in the western Georgian historical province of Mingrelia (Samegrelo), the centre of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. Twenty participants and eight staff members from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cote d'Ivoire, Georgia, and Russia represented Armenian, Georgian, and Russian Orthodox Christianity as well as Catholic and Muslim faith traditions; they joined together to live and work together as an interfaith and international community helping at an orphanage.

The main sponsors of the project were the Universal Peace Federation and “Save the Future Generation.”

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On the first day we held an orientation that served to kick-start the project; it helped participants to understand the unique elements of Religious Youth Service and started to generate the spirit of “One Family Under God.”

During these days, we visited a Georgian Orthodox church, a synagogue, and a mosque, where we could hear from religious leaders about the relevance of a religious life and religious traditions as well as the impact that people of all faiths are making as peacebuilders.

The main service was the renovation of classrooms at the Zugdidi Orphanage and cleaning and improving the school environment. Volunteers spent quality time with the children; they held basketball and football training sessions and read books to them.

The local people were inspired to see us enthusiastically working in spite of the hot summer weather. About 50 people participated in a cultural program prepared by volunteers, in which all participants showcased the cultural aspects of their country.

On the last day, the children from the orphanage organized a concert for us; they also actively supported us at the work sites. As a part of educational component we planted the fruit trees together with children. Another major service was offered through environment cleaning on a beach near the village of Anaklia.

To learn through experience about local culture we provided a variety of cultural programs for volunteers, including an outing to the biggest hydroelectric power plant Engurhesi, touring the Dadiani Palace museum, and visiting the cultural city of Batumi.

Through the practical and insightful educational programs and sharing, participants gained insights into their own lives and the lives of others. Through our program, many volunteers have expanded their understanding of themselves and others and made one more step to become true "Youth Ambassadors for Peace." In their commitment letters, they expressed a determination to organize activities that promote peace among diverse people in the future.

After four days of living and working together, we built true bonds of friendship and demonstrated how to live together in peace and promote the common good. International volunteers shared gifts from their countries with the children.

In Zugdidi we were able to plant the seeds to transform the local community into a community of peace and uplift a culture of service. On the last day we invited representatives from the local administration and shared with them the precious memories and experiences from the project and our hopes to continue our service on a larger scale in the future.

NOTE: For a follow-up report about the exchange of letters and hand-made gifts between Russian and Georgian students made possible by the Religious Youth Service project, click here.

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