The FINANCIAL -- ‘The efforts of individuals can change the world for a better place’ could be one of the best sentences to describe the story of the Believe Foundation. Witnessing the social struggles of their hometown of Poti, several friends gathered together to create a charity foundation that in a few short years would become one of the most prominent philanthropic establishments in the region. To hear the full story, The FINANCIAL reached out to one of its founders, Mariam Nadaraia.
Q. Believe has become one of the most rapidly-growing non-profit organizations. Tell us about its creation and the idea that united various people under the Foundation for the greater good?
A. It all started in 2014 when my friends and I went beyond our enthusiastic initiatives for charity and put our minds towards creating a public case in which more volunteers could get involved.
The high rate of poverty and economic weakness of the community in our hometown of Poti were our main concern. It was a sad sight to witness the important contribution of the city to the national economy, while in return its community received little to no benefits. Believe was founded on the faith of a few that envisioned and trusted in a brighter future. Each member has always believed that helping others sincerely and unconditionally could make an impact.
Today, the Believe Foundation supports charitable, cultural and educational activities in western Georgia and unites over 30 business organisations, 85 volunteers and several philanthropic individuals.
At Believe, we strive to bring about positive changes, improvements and progress to the lives of socially vulnerable children, the elderly and families, individuals with disabilities and youths.
Each charitable case of the foundation is based upon a chain of values combining honesty, collaboration, accountability, compassion, excellence and innovation.
Q. What was the first charity event held by Believe?
A. It began in 2014 when through some analysis we decided to support the essential needs of the community. At that time, Poti’s day care centre for children with disabilities was newly established and in need of support. We fully renovated the day care centre and thus improved the lives of 40 direct beneficiaries, including the teachers and children with special needs. Since then Believe has organised various projects such as:
• A housing campaign for 43 socially vulnerable families;
• Constant care for Poti’s Union of the Deaf with 33 members;
• Creation of Believe Youth and management of educational projects for 155 youths from the region;
• Renovation of classrooms in Poti and Barisakho;
• Establishment of the Parents Club and empowerment of those involved;
• Speech therapy and art therapy classes for 20 children;
• Several food drives for 190 people;
• I Believe in Santa Claus campaign for over 300 children, etc.
Q. How would you estimate the awareness and willingness to act of Georgian businesses? Which companies (and from which sector) are the most active?
A. Businesses contribute when they trust and have visible transparency. It’s important to act as a bridge between business and society, consider not only your needs but listen to their concerns and find the balance where society benefits and gets the most out of it.
The Believe Foundation has been in close collaboration with the private sector since its establishment. This is one of those rare cases where 98% of financial support comes from multiple business organisations. The results have been different based on the support we’ve been getting – for some businesses education is important while others focus on reducing inequalities or eliminating poverty.
We have managed to build successful relations with local and international businesses operating in Georgia. Among our loyal donors and permanent partners are global and local transportation companies, logistic and forwarding agencies, financial institutions, banks, international hotels and philanthropic individuals.
Q. Believe has decided to concentrate on coping with the four major social issues: poverty; hunger; education; inequalities. Can you elaborate on the results from each area?
A. No poverty: over 500 socially vulnerable children and adults benefited from Believe’s initiatives.
Zero hunger: several food drives have been organized for 190 people from low income families.
Quality education: educational projects included 155 youngsters.
Reduced inequalities: major actions have been taken to ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities in Poti. The renovation of Poti day care centre for children with disabilities; advocacy and social inclusion; establishment of the Parents Club and empowerment of those involved; as well as providing speech therapy and art therapy classes are a few examples done over the years. These included over 100 children and adults.
Q. What is the annual Believe Gala event and what does it mean to unite under a mission for the greater good?
A. The Believe Foundation has been organising its annual Charity Gala Dinner for five years. It aims to reduce poverty and inequalities, support education and create an inclusive environment for those less fortunate. With the continuous support of donors and devoted volunteers we raise funds to organise charitable and educational programmes to improve the lives of beneficiaries throughout the year in western Georgia. Up till now the Believe Charity Gala event has been held four times and raised over GEL 400,000 (four hundred thousand).
Believe’s 5th Charity Gala Dinner will take place at 6:00 PM on 7 December in Biltmore Tbilisi Hotel. The event will feature a spectacular musical performance by the famous Georgian musician and composer Dato Evgenidze with Giorgi Makharashvili and Band. Guests are invited to join for dinner, a charity auction, raffle tickets, and music. This year, together with the public and private sectors, we take actions on the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Reduced Inequalities, and Partnership for the goals.
Q. What would be the vision for in 10 years’ time? What would you like to have accomplished by then?
A. We started it in reverse – getting full support from businesses for over 5 years and having limited financial contribution (2%) from international non-profit organisations. We plan to expand the collaboration and find ways to work closer with third sector organisations. We believe that everyone should come together – civil society, government, and the private sector – to make a difference.
Today, we are a voluntarily organization as co-founders and members of the board and team are involved in Believe as volunteers and they all have their full-time jobs. It’s a bit challenging to do something on top of your daily job in the long run. We are open for partnership to develop Believe and transform it into a sustainable organization that addresses the main challenges of the community