PH International

Access Program Changes Lives

Georgia | English Access Microscholarship Program | 15 Dec 2014

Salome Abramishvili, 15, joined the English Access Mictroscholarship (Access) Program in Telavi, Kakheti region in September 2012 and has been one of the most hardworking and motivated students ever since.

Funded by the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi and implemented by PH International, Access Program aims to make the study of English accessible to adolescent from an economically disadvantaged background. In addition to working on their language skills, the participants of the program become familiar with various aspects of U.S. and western democratic values and culture, develop leadership qualities and interpersonal skills. Even though the starting level of all the Access students was rather low and it took a lot of work and persistence to keep motivated, progress and improvement in language competences as well as communication and presentation skills came quite fast.

During the Access program enrichment activity on the topic of civic participation carried out at Telavi Civic Engagement Center, Access program students were offered to apply for participation in various thematic small projects that included “Media Café”, “Clean Telavi”, “Healthy Lifestyle”, and “Translator for Local PCV”. Salome together with a couple of her fellow Access students applied for the project of “Translator for Local PCV” and after going through an interview a couple of weeks later she got an unexpected call from Carolyn Ayres, Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Telavi.

“Oh my god, it was such a surprise!! I could not believe she chose me!” shares Salome later with an excited smile and bright eyes. “Thanks to Access, I got my very first volunteer job!” Carolyn and Salome started to work together at the New Life Foundation that serves disabled children and adolescents from economically and socially disadvantaged families and aims at their social integration. They began with teaching English and drawing to children aged 5-6 but soon expanded their activities to include teaching English to teachers of other disciplines.

“I can’t even start thinking of what my life would be, if I did not join the Access!” – admits Salome. “It would certainly be a lot more boring than now!”

“Access is my new family, where we all feel welcome and comfortable. And it is not only about learning English! We’ve learned a lot about American culture and lifestyle as well as of values of western democratic countries. We have all become much more confident, active and motivated than before. Now we are not afraid to take initiative or express our opinions and ideas.” As the program comes to an end and students prepare for their graduation ceremony and final summer school, a lot of them also get ready for National University Exams.

“I know for a fact that none of my fellow Access program students receive any additional tutoring in English. Our families would simply not be able to afford it. If not Access, I do not know how we would be able to even think of passing the National University Entrance Exams.” – admits Salome.

Students are very excited about the graduation ceremony, but they are also sad that the program is about to finish.

“During these two years, Access has become part of our lives. I can’t imagine not looking forward to an Access class” shares Salome. “We cannot help feeling sad about the upcoming wrap-up of the program. But the good thing is we found a way to stay in touch with the Access and each other. We plan to establish an Access Club, though which we’ll hold regular meetings. Also, if the Access Program continues in Telavi and recruits new students, we’ll be happy to participate in the enrichment activities and to share our experience with the new generation of Access students”. “Enrollment in the Access Program changed my whole life” – exclaims Salome when asked to sum up her Access experience. “I never stop feeling grateful for the chance!”


Success Stories

Studying in the US Is Just a Step Away | 30 Nov 2015

Dianne Zhambakhidze was once a shy and silent student, but that was before she enrolled in Access. It took her nearly a year to find her voice, but now she is one of the most helpful and friendly members of the group. Peers admire her diligence and hard work and always pay extra attention to what she has to say in class when she answers questions and gives advice on homework problems.
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Access Students Find Summer Jobs | 1 Sep 2015

Second rotation of the Access program in Adjara region of Georgia started with its own set of challenges. After consultations with PH, “Changes without Borders” the implementing partner of the Access program decided to cast the participatory net wider to the outer and more remote locations of Adjara. The level of education and achievement among youth, in those remote locations, is lower than that in the Batumi public schools. Although over 200 applications were received, general starting level of language competencies among the selected 25 Access students was dramatically low. The majority of students could hardly read in English
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Access Program Student Wins FLEX Scholarship | 19 Oct 2012

Nino Samdonidze, an Access Program student from Akhaltsikhe, became a Future Leaders’ Exchange Program (FLEX) participant. She left for the United States on August 7 to complete her secondary education at a High School in Ohio, living with a local family.
According to her recent communication with the Access Program Teacher in Akhaltsikhe, Shorena Merabishvili, the first couple of months have been positively overwhelming with excitement, information, meeting new people and getting adapted to new environment and culture.

In her e-mail addressed to her Access Program English teacher, Nino wrote: “The Access Program prepared me so well for this experience! All those meetings that we had with the FLEX alumni and all the opportunities to come closer to American culture are helping me now to beat the culture shock and settle in. My family and I will never stop feeling deep gratitude to the Access Program, which played a huge role in enhancing not only my English language skills, but also developing my self-confidence and leadership qualities and prepared me for my present experiences.”
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