Charity in Georgia: Lack of Trust Stymies Giving

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Catharsis, one of Georgia’s oldest charities, started in the final days of the Soviet Union to feed the needy.

A EurasiaNet.org Commentary

It is often said that charity begins at home. But in the tightly woven system of family networks and patronage that marks the tiny South Caucasus country of Georgia, the culture of giving has struggled to move beyond assistance to relatives and friends.

In this society of 4.5 million people, custom dictates that those with the means must help relatives, family friends and neighbors in need, whether to pay for a funeral or to help make ends meet.

That generosity, however, extends less to charities that help the wider, unknown public. Despite Georgia’s time-honored tradition of giving, Georgian charities and non-governmental organizations rely heavily on funds from foreign donors; not on assistance from ordinary citizens or local businesses.

Official records about charitable donations do not exist, but a 2012 report on Georgian NGOs by the United States Agency for International Development found that 95 percent of the country’s 17,217 registered non-profits depend on foreign grant money for their operations.

Poverty comes first to mind as the explanation for that trend.

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Molly Corso is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi. She also volunteers for the American Friends of Georgia, a charitable organization, and serves on the board of the Salvation Army in Georgia.

Charity in Georgia: Lack of Trust Stymies Giving

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