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“Warm C.O.A.T.S, Warmed Hearts”

Tuesday, October 8
Contributors: Nick Chkonia, Grade 12 and Camila Gil Ramirez, Grade11 Quality Schools International (QSI) Tbilisi

The community outreach project C.O.A.T.S (Clothing Others Against The Snow), has returned to help for another cold winter. The event was held on Saturday, September 28th, in the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel. Founded by Michele Dunn in 2010, “the goal and aims of the project have never changed; uniting Tbilisi youth in service to others with respect and compassion”, the project brought a day full of smiles and joy to all of the kids who attended. Each year, local schools and corporations have donated many articles of clothing; everything from warm winter coats to scarves, socks, and shoes. With more and more children being helped each year, this year boosted the largest number of guest shoppers - 281 children ages 6-18 years – and more than 300 children in need will be delivered a bit of winter warmth before the snow arrives.

“How you managed to get ~ 300 young people through the whole distribution process so smoothly is always a bit of a mystery!” states Tony Martin, Upper School Principal New School. “I got the impression that there was more student involvement this year. This must be an indication of more student awareness of the plight of the young people they were assisting. I think it is a perfect example of what we want our (DP) students to become involved in, raising awareness, displaying compassion and service and taking action in connection with this. Watching them work with children often much younger than themselves in a caring way was a delight to see.”

Participating in the winter clothing collection period from September 16-27 were New School International School of Georgia, Quality Schools International Tbilisi, and the Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy in Tbilisi, Ecole Francais du Caucase, Robert Schuman European School, and the British-Georgian Academy. The schools and students were of invaluable benefit to the project. They not only donated clothes, but ensured COATS Closet’s success with an abundance of volunteers to help with the preparation for the grand finale as well as assist the guest shoppers (children) throughout the day. 2013 COATS artwork for informational flyers and posters was a group effort of New School students: Emily (11), Sophie (8) and Sean (5) Jacobi, Davina Bedwell (8) and Mariam Svanidze (11).

The Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel generously hosted the event for the 3rd consecutive year as well as conducted a COATS collection among its employees. Also, the U.S. Embassy, British Embassy, BP Georgia, Nina Anianishvile and the Georgian State Ballet, UGT, IWAG, Baan Thai, and Sun Yoga actively participated in helping make the whole event successful. They held clothing collections, helped with the transportation, the organization, and the execution of the event. “The beauty of this project is”, explained Michele Dunn, “there is no money involved. Every item donated, goes directly to the beneficiary …surplus clothing goes out to children in all regions of Georgian through the EUMM, UNHCR, Save the Children, Caritas Georgia, and McLain Association for Children (MAC).”

Michele Dunn expressed the aim of the project as “to educate, engage and empower area students to help others in need; to give back to the community by providing a little bit of warmth to many children all over Georgia.” Children from 6 to 18 years from many areas of Georgia were provided transportation to enjoy a fun-filled day. Among those attending were children from the Tbilisi Children’s Crisis Center Gldani, the Mkurnali House for Homeless Teenagers, Centre Jejili

Chiatura, Lagodekhi Corps, Rustavi Corps, Norio Small Group Home, Rustavi Small Group Home, Center Sapovnela Rustavi, Bediani Village Children’s Centre, Nikozi Village Centre, and the Dzegvi Shelter.

As they neared the COATS Closet area in the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel Surface Bar section, beneficiaries were welcomed by banners, balloons, and an army of volunteers. The massive turnout of the school volunteers was invariably fundamental in helping those in need. Students were assigned a multitude of tasks. They took positions as receptionists, tasked with registering each beneficiary and assigning personal shoppers to them. Playing a central role in this endeavor, these personal shoppers helped direct the beneficiaries to different articles of clothing, helping them choose apparel from the amazing plethora of coats, sweaters, pants, and shirts as well as keeping each guest shopper smiling with face painting, coloring, pizza, beverages and cake.

The COATS project gave a helping hand to all of the children. The lack of family stability and financial security associated with these needy children becomes increasingly significant as winter approaches. They are truly in need of warm clothing. “I really appreciate helping those who need it because they are just like us and we should help them as we would help our own family” Pasha Lisovyi, a QSI student volunteer, reflected on the day. Children and adolescents left that day with warm clothes and with even warmer hearts.