The silver jubilee of American Friends of Georgia, one of the country’s most prominent charity organizations, provided an opportunity to raise funds for future projects and look back at its work in 2019.
Twenty-five years ago, Georgian-American lawyer, environmentalist and public figure Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff set out to establish a charity organization to help his ancestral homeland during the difficult post-Soviet transitional period – this organization was the American Friends of Georgia (AFG).
Today, AFG has become a catalyst for much-needed innovative programs in Georgia to assist and empower children, the elderly and other socially vulnerable groups.
From 1994 to 2019, AFG has carried out a wide range of projects, including assisting children with leukemia, cancer and TB; opening the ‘Parents House’ – a rehabilitation center for children suffering with leukemia and their parents; launching initiatives for cervical and breast cancer prevention; creating a palliative, hospice and home care program; rehabilitating disabled and homeless children; reconstructing the Dzegvi shelter; developing vocational education programs for IDP children and adults; building a school in Nikozi; establishing day care centers for vulnerable children; launching environmental education programs; providing humanitarian goods and medical equipment and much more.
The 25th anniversary Charity Gala
On December 14, 2019 AFG celebrated the 25th anniversary of its charity work in Georgia with a Christmas Charity Gala – a unique opportunity to connect leading local and international corporations, artists, musicians and embassies to solve social problems.
“I carry on the legacy of my father Constantine, who founded American Friends of Georgia 25 years ago at a time of instability and social upheavel in his owner father’s beloved country of Georgia. It is my great pleasure to celebrate 25 years of AFG’s groundbreaking and innovative programs. We look forward to the years ahead!”, AFG Chairman Simon Sidamon Eristoff noted at the gala.
This year, the Charity Gala raised 235,000 GEL ($80,000) to support two major projects: the Dzegvi Shelter Community and a Hospice and Palliative Home Care Program, which help the most vulnerable children and elderly in Georgia.
The Dzegvi Shelter Community is located near Tbilisi, and started as an orphanage for homeless children in 1995.
The shelter has been one of AFG’s biggest success stories, giving 120 formerly homeless children the opportunity to get off the streets and make a living for themselves.
Since 2010, it has become a shelter for people who cannot live independently or have nowhere to go, such as the mentally ill, disabled, homeless, poor elderly people, and single mothers with young children. Today, Dzegvi shelters more than 80 inhabitants.
Thanks to generous donations and contributions from partners and friends, AFG’s reconstruction of the shelter was completed in the summer of 2019. Now, the new building will change the quality of life for inhabitants of the Dzegvi Community and enable it to shelter an additional 60 vulnerable children and elderly in need.
The Transfiguration Hospice and Home Care Program is the first hospice and the only free hospice nursing school and home-care education program in Georgia. The project benefits more than 100 elderly people in need of palliative home care annually.
Looking back over 2019
Aside from winning several awards for their charity work, 2019 was an important year for American Friends of Georgia, as the organization launched a campaign that should serve as a foundation for many future AFG charity projects.
Dze-Georgian Project, named for the Dzegvi shelter, is the result of an extraordinarily successful partnership between AFG and the creative agency Windfor’s, which saw the debut of a pseudo-fashion brand at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, with pictures of inhabitants from the Dzegvi shelter modeling their everyday attire and posing in their natural environment.
The partnership aims to promote philanthropy through fashion, and to urge society to focus on several social problems that often go unnoticed. The campaign won several important awards, including the grand prize and several gold, silver and bronze awards at AD Black Sea 2019, an international advertising festival, which attracted a lot of attention from corresponding events. They also took the gold at the EPICA awards, which is the only creative prize awarded by journalists working for marketing and communications magazines around the world.
In December, AFG launched the second stage of the project, attracting designers and producers operating in Georgia to the campaign by using the Dze-Georgian logo on their products and giving some of the sales proceeds to American Friends of Georgia to fund their projects.
Everyday, more and more Georgian designers and producers join the campaign, including such brands as Dalood, Zoma, Ezo, 1300 Ceramic Studio, Black Dog, Flying Painter, project ArtBeat, Giovanni Mpra, Rosebud, and Santa Esperanza, leading the Dze-Georgian Project to be one of most successful creative social campaigns ever conducted in Georgia.
Plans for 2020
In 2020, American Friends of Georgia plans to continue expanding its philanthropic work, engaging and empowering youth and future generations by giving them the skills and education necessary to improve the Georgian quality of life in future generations.
AFG will continue working for vulnerable populations in Georgia, in particular, children and the elderly. Other plans include expanding the Dze-Georgian project and starting a new campaign in the US, in conjunction with students from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.