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Where once there was no school

March 31, 2010

On March 22, Michael Kuhne left for Tblisi, Georgia, and Ganja, Azerbaijan, to train Public Achievement coaches. The Azeri coaches are teachers doing PA in schools, and the Georgian coaches are working in communities of  internally displaced persons — refugees of the violence in South Ossetia. Michael, who teaches English at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and has been the PA site coordinator and trainer there for many years, went to Georgia on behalf of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and at the request of the Education Society for Malopolska, which has brought Public Achievement to many schools and communities across Eastern Europe and parts of the  former Soviet Union. Below is an excerpt from MCTC’s Center for Civic Engagment blog, where Michael has been posting daily.

“We visited a Public Achievement project [in Gori, Georgia] that was fascinating.  Manana is a woman who is the leader of the local IDP  community.  After going to Poland for Public Achievement training in 2007, she returned and organized the different IDP settlements using the Public Achievement process, and the results have been really encouraging.  Where once there was no running water, now there s running water; where once children had no schools, they have schools (with computers and Internet connection).  The list is long.  It is almost as if the settlements were waiting for a tool.  They had the skill, the intelligence, the wherewithal, but they didn’t know how to act on this.  PA provided an avenue for their talents to travel. 

“We visited Manana at her headquarters (she had three cellphones – all of them ringing at one time or another during our 15 minute stay – and two computer screens shining brightly), and then we visited a settlement on the edge of Gori.  This settlement used to be a very informal wayside rest with some two-story dwellings.  Since 1993, 25 families from South Ossetia have lived there.  There is no municipal garbage removal, so they have had to figure out what to do with their waste.  There is one running water spigot for all 25 families.  They allow the water to run, this in a country where everyone is predicting a water shortage. 

“Public Achievement has been an organizing tool for the people of the settlement.  One family’s steps–the dwellings are two-story–were so rickety that they had to stop living on the second floor, so they all agreed to fix the steps.  The government supplied the materials, but the people had to provide the L-shaped design, pour the concrete slabs, and build the stairs.  The families wanted a kindergarten, so they used PA to organize the work and how it would be done by the community.  The families wanted a computer classroom, complete with Internet connection, and so they worked with Manana to gather new computers.  How they created their network, I don’t know, but it is an impressive room.  The women, after attending a PA training about social entrepreneurship, gathered some money, purchased a loom, and have been weaving wool.  They create beautiful tapestries which they paint and sell.  They used PA as an organizing tool to plan and implement a room in which the women can do their weaving and sewing.  It’s very, very impressive.”

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