Nine Wake Forest University students will travel to Eastern Europe to work at a refugee youth house in the country of Georgia.
From May 15-May 30, the students will volunteer at the Tbilisi Youth House for Internally Displaced Persons.
Called “The Tie That Binds,” the Wake Forest program seeks to cross bridges of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status to promote cultural awareness and respect.
While in Tbilisi, the students will teach English and computer skills. They will also lead discussions of American culture, history and politics, and will teach health-related classes.
“The trip is founded on personal relationships between Wake Forest students and the children (of Tbilisi),” said Greg Pollock, a Wake Forest junior who went on the trip last year and is this year’s student leader.
Started by another Wake Forest student during the 1999-2000 academic year, the program was formed in partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Tbilisi, a city of about 1 million people, is the capital of Georgia. Georgia has been plagued by ethnic conflict since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Wake Forest Political Science Professor Kathy Smith is the faculty advisor for the group and will accompany the students on the trip.
“The trip’s primary mission is educational,” said Smith, “but this is also a social service mission.”
The volunteers have met weekly since January to learn about Georgian culture and plan the lessons they will teach when they arrive at the Youth House.
The Youth House provides a safe environment for youth between the ages of 10 and 16 to participate in extracurricular and academic activities. The house promotes community relations and offers classes in foreign language, computers, art, drama, music, video production, journalism and dance.
To raise money for the trip, the Wake Forest students held a benefit concert featuring campus groups and sponsored a Valentine’s Day computer matchmaking project.
The participants in the program were chosen from more than 20 applicants based on essays explaining why they wanted to go. The Wake Forest students will take books, clothing, games and other items to share with the children of Tbilisi.
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